A quirky highlight of the borough’s sporting calendar has been shortlisted in a national search for churches’ best fund-raising ideas.
The Aspull Worm-Charming Championships is one of six unusual schemes or events which have made the final of the competition organised by the Church Times and church insurer Ecclesiastical.
The organising team will travel to London to attend a glitzy awards ceremony at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church near Trafalgar Square and find out if they have scooped the £10,000 first prize.
The unusual sporting event, which sees competitors use vibrations only to charm as many worms out of their plot of ground in a time limit as they can, has now run for three years and brings in around £1,700 annually for the refurbishment of St Elizabeth of Hungary Church.
Organiser Ruth Atherton, 41, said: “I think we’ve got a good chance of winning because our event is something for the whole community, it’s not just for people who are part of the church. It brings everybody together.
“We’ve already got £2,000 just for getting this far but the win the £10,000 would be amazing. We’ve still got lots of building repairs to do so it would be a great boost.
“I always thought it was a good idea for an event and the feedback we’ve had from families taking part says it’s enjoyable and different. We’re determined now to make it an annual event.”
The worm-charming championship, which takes place each year in the parish field next to St Elizabeth’s Church, beat more than 420 fund-raising ideas submitted by congregations across the country.
Ruth and her organising team will face schemes including a programme to pledge money every day for the 40 days following St Swithin’s Day, a paper aeroplane throwing competition and a trail of hidden knitted mice for the top prize.
Around 60 competitors take part each year, using techniques ranging from disturbing the soil using garden forks to playing music to the worms and dressing up as a giant bird to bring the small, wriggling creatures out of the ground.
Ruth says the award is also well-deserved recognition for the group of parishioners which raises money for St Elizabeth’s Church throughout the year.
She said: “This is the first time they’ve all been recognised and I think they deserve it. I’ve only been involved for a few years but they’ve all been helping most of their adult lives.
“We’re all going down to London together and we don’t mind if we don’t win.”
Selecting the Aspull Worm-Charming Championships the judged praised the involvement of community groups such as the Women’s Institute (WI) and Aspull residents of all ages.
The awards ceremony is at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London on November 25.