UK: Competitors from across the UK are being invited to make a splash at the World Puddle Jumping Championships, being held at Wicksteed Park, Kettering, the home of children’s play.

But they will have to really “give it some welly” to defeat World Champion Lucy Chapman, seven, from Kettering, who won the inaugural championships last year and is already in training to retain her crown. The event – part of a free PlayDay on Wednesday October 29 – is part of the park’s drive to encourage children – and adults – to get out into the fresh air and have fun.

The park was founded in 1921 by Charles Wicksteed, who invented the modern day slide and swing, as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.

A special series of championship-standard puddles are being created at the park and competitors of all ages will be encouraged to jump in and make a splash, with the competition starting at 11am. Judges will give scores based on things such as height of jump, enthusiasm, distance of splash and stickability (the amount of mud which clings to each competitor).

But the majority of marks will be given for the size of a competitor’s splash!

Lucy still has the inaugural World Championship trophy by the side of her bed and has been practising her puddle jumping technique on the way to and from school and at weekends.

She said: “I loved competing last year and it was amazing to be allowed to jump in puddles and make a massive splash without being told off for getting dirty.

“I couldn’t believe it when they said I’d won but it was a brilliant feeling so I’m going to try even harder to win again this year.”

The PlayDay will also include other free activities such as a petting zoo, mud pits, kite flying, a leaf mountain, a straw bale play area and arts and crafts.

Wicksteed Park Managing Director Alasdair McNee said: “Many children are familiar with puddle jumping through the TV cartoon Peppa Pig but this is their chance to have a go for themselves.

“Charles Wicksteed wanted to give something back to the community by encouraging them to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“That ethos applies just as much today and we think puddle jumping and the Play Day event is a great way to do that. The inaugural championships last year had more than 300 competitors of all ages, which shows that fresh air and exercise can still play a massive part in children’s lives.”

Wicksteed Park has just undergone a £3million lake restoration project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to further encourage people to enjoy its 147 acres of countryside.

In his 1928 book, A Plea for Children’s Recreation after School Hours and after School Age, Charles Wicksteed outline his ethos when he: “I have good reason to believe that the park I have formed has changed the lives for the better, to a greater or lesser extent of thousands of children.

“I have direct evidence from mothers how whining, pale-faced children, complaining of any food they get, have come back with healthy faces and rosy complexions, ready to eat the house out after a good play in the playground.”

The beautiful country park, one of the oldest in the UK, combines a wide range of attractions for all ages with the largest free playground in Europe.

The popular visitor attraction combines rollercoasters, rides and attractions with the tranquility and relaxation of an historic grade II country park and a nature reserve run by the Wildlife Trust.

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