Hundreds compete to become World Pooh Sticks Champion


Hundreds of enthusiastic competitors travelled to a small river in the Oxfordshire countryside hoping to win one of the world's most coveted sporting titles -World Pooh Sticks Champion.

The River Windrush, in Witney, played host to the 33rd World Pooh Sticks Championships on Sunday, with more than 500 sportsmen and women of all ages taking to the bridge to drop their twigs.

Tactics varied between players - with some aiming for the sides of the stream, while others propelled their sticks into the middle.

Spectators watched the coloured-twigs float along the five metre course from the bridge, near St Mary's, Cogges, and under the rope finish line.

Winners of the group stage, The Hundred Acre Edwardes, admitted they did get "a bit nervous" before the race.

The family team, comprising Alexander, five, Fleur, 11, and their father Ben, 40, had to draft in a last-minute replacement before the race in the form of Megan Harrison, 11. Despite not having joined the family during training, she helped the team speed to victory.

Mr Edwardes said the family heard about the championships last year and decided to try their luck. "We thought we might win," he said.

However some players were left dejected after getting knocked out of the individual round.

Adam Peart, 35, from Oxford, was competing in his third games and was certain his loss was "a fix" despite 12 months of training. "I think that my stick actually won but the judges just didn't see it," he said.

But his friends, Rhea Draguisky, 32, and first-timer Steph Avis, 27, both from Oxford, believed he was a "loser". Ms Avis, who won the round, said: "A poor workman blames his tools."

Mr Peart later conceded: "I didn't get the stream very well." But he said would be back again next year to fulfil his "lifelong ambition" of winning the World Pooh Sticks Championships.

Pooh Sticks came to life in AA Milne's The House at Pooh Corner, published in 1928. In the book, Winnie the Pooh played the game with his friends - and, once, the group mistook the character Eeyore for a large grey stick.

Luckily, the Pooh Sticks races in Witney went without a hitch.

The event, which was organised by the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, raised around  £3,000 for local charities. Prime Minister David Cameron, who is MP for Witney, was not there.