Expectations were uncharacteristically high yesterday as Harold’s 51st annual Pooh Stones competition got underway.
The event, which marks the anniversary of the “Great Deluge of ’62” which washed away the allotments and opened a wide gash in the Queen’s Mound, has been contested year after year by teams from the Squirrel Licker’s Arms and the Harold branch of the Women’s Institute.
After an inspirational opening ceremony in which the Reverend Tansy Forster blessed 15 year old Debbie Fowles, this year’s Pooh Queen, the teams gathered for prayers and a warming draught of Old Freckled Badger at the bridge on the River Gluggle.
Teams are divided into pairs and given three stones each of differing sizes. They take it in turns to drop their stones from the upstream side of the bridge and rush hell for leather to the downstream side before their opponent has time to drink a large measure of vodka.
The team with the fewest members to be lost to the swift current or an alcoholically induced coma after 17 rounds is declared the winner.
Since no team member has ever managed to stay upright on the bridge beyond round 14, the Pooh Cup remains unclaimed for another year.
In a speech after the event, Mayor Rufus D. Jackson paid tribute to this years’ casualties, Simon Hostage, Laura Beech and Gavin Frog of the Squirrel Lickers’ Arms and Briony Evans and Edie Bunsen of the WI.
He confirmed that their names would be added to the memorial scroll to be read out before next month’s Pin the Tail on the Homeless contest.