COMPETITORS watched wooden sticks cruise along the water currents in a game made famous by Winnie-the-Pooh.

Giant costumed characters including Tigger and Pooh returned to the River Windrush in Witney today for one of Oxfordshire’s most eccentric traditions.

The 35th World Poohsticks Championships saw hundreds of people, including some who had especially travelled from abroad, compete to take the 2018 title.

Poohsticks sees players drop twigs upstream from a bridge and watch the water sweep them away, with the winning stick the first to make it to the other side.

The Rotary Club of Oxford Spires runs the world championships annually to keep the curious game alive and support charitable causes.

Its president Richie Gray said: “There’s nothing like this in the entire world - no-one else has made Poohsticks into an official event.

“The atmosphere is vibrant, cheerful and competitive and it’s good to see families coming together.”

Mr Gray said he expected about 500 competitors to take part today and hoped for about 1,000 spectators.

He said there were two schools of thought about the game - some who feel it is purely luck, and others who believe it is skill.

Dr Rhys Morgan of the Royal Academy of Engineering came up with a formula for the perfect Poohstick circumstances, taking into account the stick’s surface area, density and drag.

Nick Fewtrell-Smith, who was on last year’s winning team, returned with his family and friends in a bid to retain the title.

The 36-year-old brought his six-month old daughter Willow, who wore a Winnie-the-Pooh onesie especially.

East Hanney resident Mr Fewtrell-Smith, author of The Baffled Dad blog, joked: “There’s a lot of skill in the game - you have to pick your position and look for the optimum current.”

He said the event was ‘brilliant’ and a great day out for families.

His team commiserated with a bottle of Buck’s Fizz, having lost out to the winning team Kids 4 Us.

The individual category winner was won by seven-year-old Innes Turnbull, pictured below. 

Oxford Mail:

Kennington seven-year-old Dan Gooding, who won the individual title last year, said he still has his certificate framed on the wall at home.

Asked for tips, he added: “You have to make it so the stick is sideways so more water gets it, and as low as you can get it so it falls down quicker than the rest.”

This year competitors’ entry fee fundraised for the RNLI lifeboat charity and Rotary Club’s hugely successful End Polio Now campaign, which has helped to almost eradicate the disease.

The club is supported by neighbouring Rotary clubs and sponsors to organise the event, which was founded by a lock keeper at Days Lock in Little Wittenham in 1984.

In 2015 the world championships switched locations to Langel Common in Witney, next to Cogges Manor Farm.

Gillian Pearce, district governor elect for the Rotary district covering Thames Valley, enjoyed dressing up as Tigger for the occasion.

She said the event was ‘typically British’ and combined having fun with supporting important causes.

Tim Cowling, district coordinator of End Polio Now, said the Thames Valley area (Rotary District 1090 district) is on track to match its 2016-17 annual fundraising total of $68,000.

He said community spirit was at the heart of the organisation, adding: “Our whole ethos is about fun and fellowship and making a difference around the world.”

Among volunteers at the event were members of the Witney Air Cadets, including Josh Sigsworth.

He said it was a ‘good community event’ and he had even met attendees who had come all the way from Denmark to enjoy the day.