With the Covid-19 pandemic eating massive chunks into this year’s mainstream sporting calendar, even some of England’s more charming and eccentric events are biting the dust. News reached me this week that the World Worm Charming Championships, held annually in the grounds of Willaston Primary school near Nantwich in Cheshire, have had to be cancelled.
The competition started in 1980 when on July 5th a local farmer’s son, Tom Shufflebotham, charmed 511 worms from the ground in just 30 minutes. Known also as fiddling, charming or grunting, the basic idea is for that the contestants, who are each given a plot of ground 3 metres by 3 metres, encourage as many worms to the earth’s surface as they can in the given time period. The methods deployed vary but boil down to creating vibrations in the ground by sticking a stob, a bit like a pitchfork, into the ground and hitting it with a rod known as a rooping iron.
It’s a serious business with a regulatory body in place who supervise the sport’s 18 rules. The world record is currently held by Miss S Smith and Mr M Smith who, in 2009, charmed 567 worms to the surface.
As this year’s competition is off, at least the worms will get a rest.