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Friday, March 13, 1998 Published at 19:07 GMT


Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and You
image: [ The original Pooh and his friends that inspired A. A. Milne's children's books ]
The original Pooh and his friends that inspired A. A. Milne's children's books

When Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh threw a handful of sticks into the river more than 60 years ago, who would have imagined that their little game of folly would inspire generations of families and bears to come?

The 14th Pooh-sticks World Championships which took place on Sunday is not perhaps the most coveted prize-winner's game in the world of sport, but one which Pooh-sticks players will proudly say "is truly universal".

[ image:
"Have I won?" ©Walt Disney
"It's not the sort of event that will go down in the Guinness Book of Records," said David Griffiths from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. "But everyone loves it. It's something that everybody has played as a joke and it takes people back to childhood."

The competition - which attracted around 1,000 people, many in fancy dress - was held at Days Lock Island near the Wittenham Clumps in South Oxfordshire.

The event, organised by the Rotary Club of Sinodun, is held annually in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Competing families and bears take part in a knock-out style competition, with teams of six dropping different coloured sticks from each of the two bridges at the lock.

It is the brainchild of Lynne David who was one of the lock keepers at Days Lock Island. Mr David, who has since retired, had a passionate interest in the RNLI and organised the event 14 years ago as a way of raising money for the charity.

Mr Griffiths said: "It gets bigger every year. Not everyone who comes takes part of course, it tends to be more of a children's thing, though you'll always see a few adults having a go.

"Pooh-sticks is played everywhere but nothing is done anywhere on the same scale except here. It's by national elimination that ours has become a world status competition."

[ image: A.A.Milne standing on the original Pooh sticks bridge in Ashdown Forest]
A.A.Milne standing on the original Pooh sticks bridge in Ashdown Forest
Days Lock Island is not the original Pooh-sticks bridge where Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin first dropped their sticks into the stream and rushed to the other side to see which came under first. It all started in Ashdown Forest, a mile from Hartfield in East Sussex, where A. A. Milne immortalised the stories of Pooh and Christopher Robin.

Whether Pooh-sticks was a game played by A. A. Milne and his son Christopher is uncertain, but both father and son looked towards each other for inspiration.

In his autobiography, The Enchanted Places (1974), Christopher Milne wrote: "It is difficult to say which came first. Did I do something and did my father then write a story around it? Or was it the other way about, and did the story come first?

[ image:  ]
"But in the end it was all the same: the stories became a part of our lives; we lived them, thought them, spoke them. And so, possibly before, but certainly after that particular story, we used to stand on Pooh-sticks Bridge throwing sticks into the water and watching them float away out of sight until they re-emerged on the other side."

Players get the stick

[ image: And the winner is ...]
And the winner is ...
But in recent times Pooh-stick players have not been so welcome to Ashdown Forest. Two years ago visitors were asked to bring their own sticks to play with because so many trees in the area were being depleted.

However, prospective players did not have to worry at Wittenham on Sunday as sticks were specially supplied in batches.

Sunday's competition was won by the only adult who took part.

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