Posts Tagged ‘Poohsticks’

The science of Poohsticks (and the language of Poohlish)

August 26, 2015

I have known all along that “Poohsticks” is no mere game of chance. The choice of stick, the manner of dropping it, the strength of the current, the strength and direction of the wind, the position of the sun, the amount of honey consumed at breakfast,  and even the phase of the moon on the night before are all critical factors that affect the outcome. Of course, all these factors cannot even be described without knowledge of “Poohlish” which still remains a mystery. Just as physics becomes almost indescribable without the language of mathematics, knowledge of Poohlish is necessary to completely discern the science of Poohsticks. For a practitioner just knowing Poohlish needs to be augmented with practical training in Poohmatics and the art of thinking things through:

“Think it over, think it under.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Nevertheless some aspects of the game are beginning to be be quantified and some of the more superficial matters – such as the selection of a winning Poohstick – are beginning to be unravelled.

Cambridge News:

The game, in which competitors drop sticks into a river upstream off a bridge and see which comes out downstream first, is first mentioned in The House At Pooh Corner by AA Milne published in 1928.

The research, commissioned to celebrate the release of The Poohsticks Handbook: A Poohstickopedia – a new book featuring Winnie the Pooh and friends, written by comedy writer Mark Evans and illustrated by Mark Burgess – reveals the secrets to finding the perfect Poohstick according to a top scientist, and names the best places in the country to play. ……

….. The formula disproves the views of more than half of Britons (57%) who believe Poohsticks is a game of sheer luck.

Egmont Publishing joined Dr Rhys Morgan, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, to equip the 39% of people who already take time sourcing the perfect Poohstick with the formula to ensure they pick the speediest stick to sail to victory. …….

…… It turns out that just 11% of Britons naturally pick the right sort of stick, with a third of people (30%) heading straight for a long and thin stick, which according to Dr Morgan is only half right.

The scientist, a father of two and avid Poohsticks player himself, said the main variables that need to be considered when designing the optimum Poohstick include cross sectional area, density/buoyancy, and the drag coefficient.

The perfect Poohstick = tubby and long, fairly heavy (but not so heavy it will sink to the bottom of the river), with quite a lot of bark to catch the flow of the river like paddles – or

PP (Perfect Poohstick) = A x Ï? x Cd.

Cross Sectional Area (= A) is important and the greater the area of an object, the more drag it creates. Normally, a large cross-sectional area decreases speed, but when it comes to Poohsticks, drag is key. If more water is able to influence the trajectory of the stick, it will accelerate more quickly. So when it comes to Poohsticks the tubbier, the better.

The density (= Ï?) of the stick affects its position in the water. The fastest part of the stream is below the surface, so theoretically, a waterlogged stick which sinks into the water a little will go faster than a stick which is floating right on the surface (where it could be slowed down by wind or other external variables).

The drag coefficient (= Cd) describes the shape of stick and roughness of its surface. Generally, a rough stick will create more drag than a smooth stick, so in general, bark is good. However, according to Dr Morgan, a certain roughness can make the stick apparently smoother, similar to the effect created by dimples in golf balls.

Meanwhile, VisitEngland has compiled a list of the best Poohsticks bridges alongside the original Poohsticks Bridge in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex.

The list includes bridges from Cumbria to Cornwall, including Sheepwash Bridge, Ashford in the Water in Derbyshire, Morden Hall Park in London, Heale Gardens in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Packhorse Bridge in Watendlath, Cumbria, and Mottisfont in Romsey, Hampshire.

Merely picking a potentially winning Poohstick is not enough of course. To truly understand the nuances of the game and become a Poohstick Master requires a sound grounding in Poohlish and some practical training in Poohmatics.


Spring delayed – 2013 World Pooh Sticks championship cancelled!

March 23, 2013

That spring is delayed all over Europe and North America is bad enough (the sun is shining here at latitude 58.7057° N but the temperature is all of – 10 °C).

That people will be “celebrating” Earth hour today is even worse.

But that the annual Pooh Sticks competition (world championship) scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled in the UK is beyond the pale.

And those to blame are clearly the CRU of the UEA, the IPCC and the WWF.


We are very sorry to announce that we have to cancel this Sunday’s World Pooh Sticks Championships.
If we had just had a little rain on the day then we would have still played and we would have splashed around in wellington boots and dropped our coloured sticks over the bridges, however we’ve had so much rain over the last few weeks that the river is still too high and fast to have our safety boats on the river and there’s no sign of the rain stopping this weekend.

“I think we all ought to play Poohsticks,” So they did. And Eeyore, who had never played it before, won more times than anybody else; and Roo fell in twice, the first time by accident and the second time on purpose, because he suddenly saw Kanga coming from the Forest, and he knew he’d have to go to bed anyhow. So Rabbit said he’d go with them; and Tigger and Eeyore went off together Because Eeyore wanted to tell Tigger How to Win at Poohsticks.  (from “The House at Pooh Corner”)

‘The official Pooh Corner Rules for Playing Poohsticks’ was written in 1996 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the publication of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’.

pooh sticks

  1. First, you each select a stick and show it to your fellow competitors. You must agree which stick is which – or whose, as it were.
  2. Check which way the stream is flowing. Competitors need to face the stream on the side where it runs in, under the bridge (upstream). Note: If the stream runs out, from under the bridge you are standing on the wrong side! (downstream).
  3. Choose someone to be a Starter. This can be either the oldest or the youngest competitor.
  4. All the competitors stand side by side facing upstream.
  5. Each competitor holds their stick at arms length over the stream. The tall competitors should lower their arms to bring all the sticks to the same height over the stream as the shortest competitor’s stick.
  6. The starter calls, ‘Ready – Steady – Go!” and all the competitors drop their sticks. Note: the stick must not be thrown into the water.
  7. At this point in the game all the players must cross to the downstream side of the bridge. Please take care – young players like to race across. Remember, other people use bridges and some of them have vehicles or horses.
  8. Look over the edge of the bridge for the sticks to emerge. The owner of the first Stick to float from under the bridge, is the winner.

Remember: Falling into the water is SAD (Silly And Daft)!

Saffron Sollitt wins 2011 Poohsticks

March 28, 2011

A.A. Milne

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.  “Pooh!” he whispered.  “Yes, Piglet?”  “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.  “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

BBC reports:

Little Wittenham Bridge with the lock keeper's house beyond: image Wikipedia

A nine-year-old girl from Oxfordshire has won the individual prize in the World Pooh Sticks Championships. Saffron Sollitt, from Wallingford, beat 500 other competitors from around the globe at Days Lock in Little Wittenham, near Abingdon, on the River Thames.

Team Kelly took the top spot in the group competition. Last year’s event was cancelled due to high water levels. The competition attracted entries from New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands.

The championships started in 1983 when the lock keeper noticed walkers recreating Pooh’s pastime on the River Thames.

He thought it would be an excellent way of raising money for his favourite charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The event went from strength to strength until the lock keeper’s retirement when it was passed to the Rotary Clubs of Oxford Spires and Sinodun.

Money raised this year, expected to be excess of £1,500, will go to the RNLI, Little Wittenham Church and other charities supported by the Rotary club.

All about Poohsticks: image theenchanted100acrewoods


Poohsticks is a game first mentioned in The House at Pooh Corner, a Winnie-the-Pooh book by A. A. Milne. It is a simple game which may be played on any bridge over running water; each player drops a stick on the upstream side of a bridge and the one whose stick first appears on the downstream side is the winner. The annual World Poohsticks Championships have been held at Day’s Lock on the River Thames since 1984.

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