Every year since 1971, Planet Earth’s foremost pea shooters have descended on Witcham, Cambridgeshire for the eagerly anticipated World Pea Shooting Contest.
On the second Saturday of July, for a limited fee, participants can purchase a bag of dried maple peas on the village green and enter an exciting sporting challenge to demonstrate their pea shooting prowess. To avoid cheating with pre-smoothed vegetables, competitors cannot use their own personal peas. They can, however, bring their own shooters—it’s even permitted for them to modify their equipment with laser guidance for extra accuracy.
The peas are shot by mouth through the pea shooter at a putty-covered, one-foot-diameter target from a distance of twelve feet. The target has three concentric rings marked on it. Five points are awarded for hitting the center ring, three points for the intermediate, and one point for the outer ring. Competitors receive a score based on their five best shots. The coveted prize is global kudos and the John Tyson Shield, named after the school headmaster who started the championships as a fundraiser in 1971.
Tyson’s inspiration for the event arose from the peas and shooters he confiscated from schoolchildren. Proceeds from the championship are used to maintain the upkeep of the Village Hall. In 2018, an image of three-times pea-shooting world champion Ian Ashmeade, mounted heroically on horseback brandishing his pea-shooter, was added to the local pub’s sign to honor the village’s global sporting credentials.
Until the International Olympic Committee recognizes the sport, Witcham will remain the epicenter of world pea shooting. People come from all over to partake, from places ranging from Peterborough (which is in Cambridgeshire) to the U.S. Air Force bases at Lakenheath and Mildenhall (which are 20 miles away), giving the good-humored competition a truly international pedigree.