OXFORDSHIRE has two new sets of world champions in the sport of Pooh Sticks.
Simon Critchley, from Harwell, claimed the solo title today in the World Pooh Sticks Championship at Day’s Lock, near Little Wittenham, and the Blantz family, from Burford, won the team event.
The game, made famous by AA Milne’s classic children’s story Winnie the Pooh, saw six competitors at a time dropping sticks of different colours and sizes from a bridge into the River Thames to see which one crossed the finish line first.
Mr Critchley, 36, an IT programmer, said he only took part so that his three-year-old daughter Sophia could play but ended up winning all four rounds.
Tegan Orsey, seven, from Stonesfield, was the runner-up.
Mr Critchley reclaimed the title for the county after Australian Alex Marshall won last year. He said: “Unfortunately I beat my own daughter in the first round.
“It’s the first time I’ve been world champion for anything and I’m very proud.”
Steven Blantz competed with his children Sam, 10, Eve, eight, and Jess, three, and wife Helen.
He said: “We looked at what other people were doing and went for the best part of the river, and rode our luck.”
Hundreds of people attended the 31st event, organised by the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, with 440 individual competitors and 20 teams of four people.
About £3,000 was raised for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and St Peter’s Church in Little Wittenham.
Some people dressed up as Winnie the Pooh characters and there was a prize for the best dressed mum to celebrate Mother’s Day.
Christine Reardon, from Didcot, who came third in the individual contest competed with her partner Conor Byrne and children Naomi, 11, and Joe, nine.
She said: “There was a bit of a competitive spirit. You wouldn’t think there would be with a stick in the water, but there is.”
Charles Henderson, 11, from Caversham, finished last in the first round after dropping his stick on a ledge. His brother Luke, 10, won the heat.
Flora Jones, from Abingdon, celebrated her third birthday by competing in the team event with her sister Maisie, three, father Carwyn and grandfather David Charlesworth, finishing third.
Mr Charlesworth, who travelled from Surrey, said: “They love the Winnie the Pooh stories and particularly the Pooh Sticks one. They were waiting for Eeyore to float under the bridge.”
Rotary Club membership officer Lesley Adams, who helped to organise the event, said: “It’s mostly a game of chance but it’s a way that people can become a world champion at something that doesn’t involve a lot of arduous training.”
The rules of Pooh Sticks
Select a different coloured stick to the rest of the competitors
Each competitor holds their stick at the same length over the side of the bridge and a designated starter tells them when to begin
Everyone drops – not throws – their stick into the water and turns to look over the other side of the bridge as they flow underneath
The owner of the first stick to cross the finish line at the far side of the bridge is the winner.