Things you never knew about Worm Charming!

The Worm Charming event was first devised by Mr John Bailey who was the deputy headmaster of Willaston County Primary School, Nantwich, Cheshire from 1961 to 1983.

It was designed as a fund raising event incorporated into our School Fete in 1980.

The Rules were compiled by John Bailey in 1980 but over the years the size of plots has been increased from three yards square to three metres square to bring us in line with EEC requirements.

We have also increased the number of squares from 100 to 144 to accommodate additional competitors who compete on behalf of various charities.

The first Worm Charming World Record was set in 1980 by Mr Tom Shufflebotham who raised 511 worms from a three yards square plot. This remained unbroken until 2009 when Miss S and Mr M Smith charmed an incredible 567 worms from their plot!

Competitors compete for a trophy in the shape of a golden rampant worm which is awarded to the person charming the most worms from their plot in thirty minutes. The title is held for one year.

The competitor charming the heaviest worm holds the silver worm trophy for one year. The heaviest worm recorded weighed 6.6grams and was charmed by Mr J. Overstall in 1987.

Rules are available in over thirty different languages and the organisers are always interested in adding to this total.

Because of fierce local competition and all year round training by worm charming fanatics, the trophy had never left the village of Willaston until, in 1996, father and son team Phil and David Williams from Wiltshire won the competition with a total of 157 worms. Willaston managed to forgive the Willliams team, however, when it was revealed that they had lived in Willaston for a number of years prior to winning the title and were still Willastonians at heart.

There had not been a tie-break situation at the end of the allotted 30-minute Charming time until 2003 when Richard and Rodney Windsor (Plot 131) and Lea Clark and Robert Oltram (Plot 134) each raised 167 worms from the ground. A further five minutes Charm Off was held in accordance with Rule 17 after which Richard and Rodney Windsor were declared Champions having raised a further 14 worms, beating their rivals by just one worm.

The most succesful method used so far is that of hand vibrating a four tyne garden fork inserted approximately 15cms into the turf, now known locally in South Cheshire as ‘twanging’.

The 18 Rules of Worm Charming

For the Rules in other languages, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

  1. Each competitor to operate in a 3 x 3 metre plot.
  2. Lots to be drawn to allocate plots.
  3. Duration of competition to be 30 minutes, starting at about 2pm.
  4. Worms may not be dug from the ground. Vibrations only to be used.
  5. No drugs to be used! Water is considered to be a drug/stimulant.
  6. Any form of music may be used to charm the worms out of the earth.
  7. A garden fork of normal type may be stuck into the ground and vibrated by any manual means to encourage worms to the surface.
  8. Garden forks to be suitably covered to prevent possible injury when being transported to and from the competition. No accidents please!
  9. Each competitor to leave his/her fork in allocated plot on arrival.
  10. A piece of wood, smooth or notched may be used to strike or ‘fiddle’ the handle of the garden fork to assist vibration.
  11. Competitors who do not wish to handle worms may appoint a second to do so. The second shall be known as a ‘Gillie’.
  12. Each competitor may collect worms from his/her own plot only.
  13. Worms to be handled carefully and collected in damp peat and placed in a suitable, named container provided by the organising committee.
  14. A handbell to be rung about five minutes before the start of the competition.
  15. Competitors to keep clear of competition plots until given the instruction “Get to your Plots”.
  16. The competitor who ‘charms’ the most worms to be the winner.
  17. In the event of a tie, the winner to be decided by a further five minutes charming.
  18. Charmed worms to be released after the birds have gone to roost on the evening of the event.

International competitors: Copies of The Rules are available in 30 languages, including Tibetan. These are currently being added to the site and are available as pdf files via the links below. Alternatively contact Mike Forster for further info.

Welcome to the world of Worm Charming!

Did you say “Worm Charming”?

On Saturday 5th July 1980 local Willaston farmer’s son, Tom Shufflebotham amazed a disbelieving world by charming a total of 511 worms out of the ground in half an hour. True, there had been rather dubious unsubstantiated reports of a similar activity in Florida, USA some 10 years previous, but this was the first time a true competition with strict rules had been held. The village of Willaston, near Nantwich, Cheshire has been the venue for the annual World Championships ever since.

A regulatory body of control was formed to compile and enforce a total of 18 rules governing all aspects of Worm Charming. The International Federation of Charming Worms and Allied Pastimes (IFCWAP) not only exists for Worm Charming, but will look after the interests of other zaney sports such as indoor hand gliding, underwater Ludo and ice tiddly-winks (similar to curling but the tiddles go further).

The International Committee of IFCWAP is formed by Mike Forster, Chief Wormer and Mr Gordon Farr, Former Headmaster of Willaston School, who now enjoys life long Presidency and meets only once a year and at other times of national crisis. For example, when the New Zealand flat worm was discovered a number of years ago in some parts of the country, the threat to the common earthworm was of great public interest in Willaston and volunteers from the village still regularly patrol the site of the Worm Arena for at least 8 weeks prior to the event leaving no stone unturned, for that is where this hideous creature preyed on “Willy Worm”.