Express & Star

Nettle eating, stone skimming, toe wrestling and wife carrying – extreme weird sports are alive and well

Competitive nettle eaters – individuals who only sting when they’re winning – are a special breed.

Prickly – The World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship

They possess a resolve you and I do not. They probably possess a pain threshold you and I do not.

I have never gazed at the plant and thought: “Thing I’ll give that a chew – what harm can it do?” I am, therefore, not made of the stuff needed for the nettle eating circuit.

Cheri Bodley, however, was born to munch. She is a nettle eating natural – and didn’t realise it until attending last year’s world championships as a spectator.

Prickly – The World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship

The plucky 40-year-old, at the Dorset Nectar cider farm event with dad Paul Roberts, looked upon bundles of leaves waiting to be devoured and decided she’d give it a go.

I find that strange. I’ve viewed YouTube videos of contests where bare-chested individuals fling themselves into cactus bushes and paprika eating challenges. My “I’ll give it a go” button has not been pressed.

But, then, I do not possess Cheri’s daredevil instincts.

“I’m celebrating my 40th and it’s my dad’s 60th,” she said on the day, “so my mum thought she’d nominate both of us to take part. I’ve never heard of this thing before and when I did I didn’t think it was a real thing. I’m very nervous.”

As a raw, raw nettle eating novice, Cheri, from Bromsgrove, didn’t win: Bethany Hodges chomped through 60 feet of the stinging stuff to be crowned Nettle Queen.

It has not changed her as a person. It may have irrevocably changed her digestive system, but it has not changed Bethany.

In defeat, Cheri displayed the spirit that has spawned a raft of West Midlands champs in a raft of weird and wonderful sports.

If there’s a bog to be snorkled, a cheese to be rolled, a welly to be wanged – I still blush over the terrible typo that crept into my copy on the 2015 event, then men and women from our region will step up to the plate.

And they will perform better than the others. If any of the above three disciplines gained Olympic status, gold medal success would be near guaranteed.

This region is home to a host of forgotten heroes, their achievements snubbed by the national press, their performances swerved by Sky Sports.

How quickly we’ve forgotten Solihull’s Jon “The Sting” Searle whose winning performance in the 2017 World Nettle Eating championships gained the man legendary status.

At the Bottle Inn, Marshwood, Dorset, Searle stunned the 100 strong crowd by swallowing 70 feet at one sitting.

He remains the stalk of the town, yet the event was relegated to a footnote in The Times, which said: “Contestants’ tongues turn black, dyed by the high iron content of the plant. Some come out in a blistering rash. And if the nettles are not chewed properly, they could scrape the throat and affect your breathing.”

The bulging, Popeye sized forearms of retired fireman Ron Long betray his particular prowess. He is the Pele of pebble skimming, a veritable Rocky when it comes to hurling rocks.

Stone skimmer Ron Long in action