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Sunday, May 2, 1999 Published at 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK


Wormcharmers of the world unite

Teams of three are allotted a portion of grass to charm their worms

It may not be everyone's idea of Bank Holiday weekend fun - but for an international field of wormcharmers, it is a serious business.

More than 100 children and adults in fancy dress gathered in a field in Devon to collect as many worms as possible in a 15-minute race against the clock.

The record of 148 was set 10 years ago - and it remains unbeaten. This year three local teenagers managed to coax 124 worms to the surface. One team, the Worm Wranglers, flew in from America but only managed 18.

The championship has been staged in the South Devon village of Blackawton for the last 15 years, attracting teams from Europe and as far afield as New Zealand.

Proceeds are donated to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation Charity's home in Brixham, south Devon.

Teams consisting of a charmer, a catcher and a counter met at the Normandy Arms for pre-match refreshments.

After a ceremonial toast, competitors marched in procession to a field where sections of grass measuring three feet by four were allocated to each team.

'Worming up'

The five-minute "worming up" session puts to the test the imagination of the teams.

The rules, approved by the British and European Federation of Wormcharmers, allow competitors to dampen the soil with a liquid of their choice. Wormcharmers must drink the fluid to prove it is not harmful to their prey.

They use many methods to charm out the worms. In the past chanting, singing, loud music and pounding the ground with tennis rackets and cricket bats have had varying degrees of success.

Mechanical diggers are definitely a no-no - teams can only use their bare hands to prise out as many of the reluctant worms from the ground.

Once the worms have been counted they must be returned to the ground, as stipulated by the British Association of Worm Length Supporters (BAWLS).

The trophy, a mounted metal replica of a worm rampant, was presented to the winners of this year's 16th championship - Darren Hailey, 19, and 15-year-olds Bradley Gerrard and Sam Gates.

All this is thirsty work and "worming down" took place at the Normandy Arms which offers locally brewed Wiggly X ale.

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