A couple of years ago the World Pooh Sticks Championships was voted by Countryfile magazine readers as Britain’s favourite quirky event. Now in its 31st year, it attracts competitors from all over the world and raises several thousand pounds for charity. This year (unlike last) the weather was gorgeous so it seemed the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday.
For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Pooh sticks involves dropping a stick into the water on one side of a bridge, and then rushing to the other side to see which one makes it to the finish line first. The game was invented by A.A. Milne for his son, and made famous by his Winnie the Pooh books.
As the weather was so lovely a lot of people had turned out for the event. After buying our competitor tickets we had to queue for a while before our first round. During this time we chose our sticks, each a different colour but similar in size to the other sticks in the round. We were in a group of six, and when the time came for our heat we were taken to the bridge where we had to line up against the designated colour spot for our stick.
The starter shouts Ready Steady Go, at which point we dropped our sticks into the river. A couple of kids in some of the rounds eagerly threw their sticks in a little too early but fortunately they kept spare sticks on the bridge.
After dropping the sticks you race to the other side of the bridge (if you’re a kid) to see which colour wins. The finishing line was several metres from the bridge so there was plenty of time to cheer your particular stick on. The kids were full of theories as to how to make the sticks go faster but it’s really just a game of chance.
The recovery boat was kept busy picking up the sticks and although a few got away most were recycled for the next heat. The man in the picture below had the job of deciding the winner for each round, which he announced by holding up a card with the winning colour on it.
Amazingly my blue stick won the first round. I was a little surprised as I’d heard (after choosing a colour) that the pink sticks had the best position on the bridge, but it really is down to chance. I was even more amazed to win my 2nd and 3rd rounds and gain a place in the final. I felt slightly guilty that my kids hadn’t got past the first round but hey, it was Mother’s Day, so I decided it was justified.
There was a bit of hanging around before the final as there were a lot of competitors to progress through the rounds. During this time we had a look at some of the stalls and ate lunch whilst I eyed up the competition.
Eventually it was time for the final. It was a tense moment when the finalists headed up to the bridge. Someone was about to be crowned the Pooh sticks world champion.
And sadly, it wasn’t me. However it was a fair battle and I take my hat off to the winner, he’d obviously trained harder. I did get a Runners Up certificate though and had my photograph taken with Pooh and Tigger.
The individual championships were followed by the team event, but we decided to head home at this point. Roll on next year!
- The event is held yearly at Day’s Lock, Long Wittenham on the River Thames in Oxfordshire. It’s usually around the end of March, although last year it was postponed until the autumn due to high river levels.
- Entrance in 2014 cost £2 per stick in the individual championships or £12 per team in the team championships. Teams need to enter in advance, individuals enter on the day.
- For more information pop along to the world Pooh sticks championship website.