World Worm Charming Championships – Willaston, England - Atlas Obscura

World Worm Charming Championships

Willaston, England

This bizarre English competition answers the important question: how many worms can YOU coax out of the ground? 


Because everything has to be a race, the small English village of Willaston hosts a yearly competition known as the World Worm Charming Championships, where competitors come from far and wide to try and convince as many worms as they can to rise to the surface.

Known alternately as fiddling, charming, or grunting, the practice of coaxing earthworms from the wet dirt can be found all over the world, usually as a method of collecting bait for fishing. While the exact method differs from wormer (as they call themselves) to wormer, the basic idea is to create vibrations in the ground, usually by sticking a rod called a “stob” (like a pitchfork) in the dirt and smacking it with a simple rod known as a “rooping iron.” While it may seem a bit odd, the practice is incredibly effective, and some people practice it as a profession. Enthusiasts formed a regulatory body of control to compile and enforce 18 rules that govern all aspects of Worm Charming.

The World Worm Charming Championships began in 1980 when a local schoolyard in Willaston was sectioned off and contestants furiously tapped at the ground to get at some worms. The contest has taken place every year since, consistently growing in popularity, but changing very little. The worm-charming gathering usually occurs on one Saturday in late June. The wormers are given a 3x3 meter square of land to fiddle, grunt, and charm their way to glory by collecting more worms than anyone else. The current world record for worm charming is held by Miss S Smith & Mr. M Smith, who won the championship in 2009 with 567 worms. 

And should anyone have any moral concerns for the captured crawlies, fear not. The collected worms are released that same day after dark so that they are less likely to be eaten by birds.

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