STICKS whizzed along with water currents during one of the county's quirkiest sports.

Participants of Witney's much-loved World Pooh Sticks Championships peered into the River Windrush yesterday, willing their twigs to travel farthest in the torrent.

The contest at Langel Common is expected to raise thousands of pounds to fight Polio, and showed unfaltering community spirit in the aftermath of the attack on the capital. 

Lesley Adams, one of the organisers, said: "It is tragic, what's happened in London.

"We are trying to get people to enjoy their day with different activities and to have fun."

The annual competition is inspired by the same game played by beloved children's book character Winnie the Pooh, and is run by the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires with support from neighbouring clubs and sponsors.

In true Pooh Sticks style, Yarnton resident Mrs Adams wore a Winnie the Pooh t-shirt and dangling Piglet earrings, as well as a purple crocus pin to symbolise Rotary's worldwide Purple4Polio campaign.

Competitors assembled on a bridge from midday to drop their different-coloured sticks into the river, rushing to watch as they floated downstream. 

Among scores of spectators was Mayor of Witney Chris Woodward, with his wife and their dog Meg.

He said: "After what happened in London, however harrowing things are, it's at moments like this that we need to find every positive in the community.

"With something like this, particularly for people of a young age, you learn that that world isn't a bad place. 

"I think it's fantastic and novel - throwing sticks off a bridge. It's excellent."

The annual event began in 1984 when a lock keeper noticed walkers throwing sticks from the bridge and running to see whose won. 

In 2015 the championships switched locations from Little Wittenham to Witney, enabling them to host the event in warmer months to avoid bad weather.

Participants this year were spotted with stuffed Winnie the Pooh bears clutched in their hands and even poking out of rucksacks.

Life-size characters from the books bounded along the riverbank including a bright orange Tigger, also known as Abingdon town councillor David Pope. 

Mr Pope, who is district governor elect of Rotary Club in the Thames Valley, said: "I had a ball, it was so much fun. I talked to people about Rotary and all the good we do in the world.

"Everyone had a really terrific time, it was lovely to see the smiles on their faces."

The individual heats were won by six-year-old Daniel Gooding from Oxford, while East Hanney's Kanga Roo Pooh triumphed in the team contest.

Families also enjoyed a bouncy castle, music and activities including a wicker fish craft workshop run by Eynsham Primary School.