County pride at stake in tug o'war battle

Left to right, Marcus Stevens, 23, a Royal Marine; organiser Dan Brownsill, 31, a carpenter; and Simon Hill, 28, a drayman who delivers beer

Left to right, Marcus Stevens, 23, a Royal Marine; organiser Dan Brownsill, 31, a carpenter; and Simon Hill, 28, a drayman who delivers beer Buy this photo

First published in News by

TONIGHT, eight men from Oxfordshire will battle for their pride, reputation and most importantly, their county.

The men from Tiddington, near Thame, will compete in a traditional tug o’war contest which dates back 60 years.

Each summer they compete against their counterparts in nearby Ickford, over the Buckinghamshire border, in a contest across the River Thame.

The two teams line up on opposite banks and try to pull their opponents right through the 30-foot wide river, which is usually about three feet deep.

Although the losing team is the one which ends up in the water, both teams usually jump in to celebrate the end of the competition. Tiddington is currently losing 32 to 27.

The Tiddington men, who have pulled together for the past five years, range in age from 25 to their mid 40s.

Organiser and team member Dan Brownsill, 31, said: “We are feeling good, we have got a very good team together.

“But you never know what can happen across that river. Hopefully it will all be okay.”

At a last practice on Wednesday, Mr Brownsill was joined by fellow Tiddington team members including Marcus Stevens, Simon Hill, Sam Ludgate, Joe Pickett, Darren Golden, Graham Evans and Robert Hubbocks.

All from Tiddington, they grew up with the competition and many, including Mr Brownsill, have been in the team for more than a decade.

They have been training twice a week for the past three months, practising by pulling against a rope attached to a pulley machine.

The youngest competitor is Mr Pickett at 22, while the oldest is MrHubbocks at 45.

The tradition started as a challenge between two farmers across the county border in 1952.

And according to Mr Brownsill, who has been in the team since he was 14, it has never once rained while the competition is in play.

He said: “It has sometimes rained during the day but it has always stopped at least an hour before. Looking at the forecast, that tradition looks set to continue again.”

The event, which starts at 6.45pm, will also feature women’s and youth contests.

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