by Ron Bolton
Did you know that there are many different types and species of worms? Most people only know of only one or two types such as, if you are a fisherman, you will know all about lugworms which can be dug up from the sandy beaches at low tide to be used as bait on their fishing lines. Of course, we all know about the common earthworm which we find in our gardens or compost heaps and everywhere else. Gardeners love them as they aerate the soil to make better conditions for plant growth.
Now, I realise there are some people who are rather squeamish about the subject of worms so I’ll move on and get to the point of this article.
There is another group of people who, like gardeners, just love worms and they are called “worm charmers”! I don’t suppose you have ever heard of them, so let me explain who they are and what they do.
Worm charming is a method by which worms are encouraged to come to the surface of the ground. It is believed to have begun when a farmer was showing a friend how to make dozens and dozens of worms pop out of the ground just by sticking a metal fork into the ground and banging it with another piece of metal. To his friend’s surprise, in the space of 30 minutes, more than 500 worms popped out of the ground around the fork. The friend asked if he could try to do the same and managed to get even more worms out of the ground than the farmer.
The World Worm Charming Championships began in 1980 and takes place in the village of Willaston, near Nantwich in Cheshire every year, attracting competitors from all over the world. There are now similar contests in Blackawton in Devon, in Florida, USA and Ontario, Canada.
Would you believe that, last year, one young competitor aged 14 yrs broke the world record by charming 567 worms out of her patch of ground in the allotted time of 30 minutes. That’s almost one worm every three seconds. How amazing is that?
Don’t confuse worm charming with snake charming because that is when a man plays a flute-like instrument and a snake rises out of a woven basket swaying in time to the music. Worm charming
methods vary from competitor to competitor, but the most preferred method is to stick a garden fork, or something similar, in the ground and bang it with another metal object. This causes vibrations which persuade the worms to come to the surface.
Following the success of the competition in its early years, an organisation called the International Federation of Charming Worms and Allied Pastimes (IFCWAP) was set up to ensure all competitions followed the same rules.
There are strict rules to ensure that all competitions comply to the same rules and so prevent cheating. Let me give you a few of them:
- Each competitor is allotted a three by three metre plot and is given 30 minutes to charm the worms out of the ground.
- Worms cannot be dug from the ground; only vibration methods are allowed. Some competitors have even tried using music to charm the worms out of the ground.
- Anyone stealing worms from other competitors will be disqualified.
One competitor was banned for life because he concealed worms in the leg of his trousers and slowly sprinkled them on to the ground. It was the bicycle clips on his legs that gave the game away.
On another occasion, one competitor was disqualified for sticking needles in the ground. It was claimed that, for health and safety reasons, more worms were being impaled than were charmed. (Cruelty to Worms Act?)
It is important that, before the competition begins, the area is cleared of moles because it is said that they can eat their own weight in worms in a day.
In addition to the main worm charming competition, there are usually other entertainments in the area over the whole weekend. The main prize is a trophy in the shape of a golden rampant worm and there are also prizes for the best dressed competitors in fancy dress.
As with many other events, all proceeds from the event go to a designated charity which, this year was the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.
As this year’s competition was held at Willaston on Sunday 3rd May 2015 it means that you have plenty of time to practise in your own back garden to get ready for next year’s competition.
Of course, if anyone is really interested in worm charming you can always get a “worm charming kit” from the organisers via the Internet which include a set of rules, scorecards and a “worm-o-meter” as well as much more. Happy charming!