The annual duel by the river between Ickford and Tiddington took place on Friday August 3, with Ickford successful in the junior and ladies tug-of-war events while Tiddington took the prize in the men’s competition.
Temperatures were particularly high for this year’s contest and it was still in the mid-twenties at 7pm as the action started either side of the River Thame on the Bucks/Oxon border.
Both teams arrived by tractor and trailer while an enthusiastic gathering of spectators arrived by steam lorry.
The first event was the junior pull (featuring both boys and girls) and was won by the team from Ickford for the eighth year in a row.
This contest was more even than recent years and lasted three and a half minutes.
The second event was the ladies pull with Ickford, this year dressed in black tops, maintaining their unbeaten record in quick time as the pull lasted just two minutes.
The final event of the evening was the men’s pull with Tiddington, this year wearing white shirts, victorious in the men’s pull for an eighth consecutive year after a gruelling battle that lasted for nearly 14 minutes.
The overall score in the men’s event is now Tiddington 34 Ickford 32.
Lorna Moles, who was part of the Tiddington women’s team and has participated in the contest on various occasions over the past 20 years said: “It’s certainly the hottest pull I remember however as the pull has been going since 1953 there would have been the hot summer of 1976 to contend with!
“It’s crazy as last year we were warning spectators to go steady on the field due to all the rain we’d had!
“We were fortunate enough to have trained throughout the heatwave so were as prepared as we could be.”
All three contests have been won by the same side for several years in a row and Lorna said the key to teams continued success in each event was down to keeping the line-up as similar as possible.
Lorna said: “The Ickford ladies have had just one or two changes to their team over the years, meaning they pull extremely well together.
“With the Tiddington juniors we have struggled in recent years to get a consistent team together so we have started to run demo pulls at the local village fete in order to spark up some further interest.
“We had a strong team this year through sheer dedication of the training - the junior pull was noticeably more equal than in recent years.
“For the men, they remain largely unchanged but the key is to get the teams together as early on and as often as possible, to train together and build strength/refine techniques.
“This also helps for any new pullers so that they maximise training time as much as possible (all teams train for at least two months), but nothing really prepares you for the pull on the night - it is very different in a live environment.”
After the trophy presentations, teams and fans enjoyed refreshments together at The Rising Sun pub in Ickford and Tiddington Cricket Club.
2018 was the 66th time the friendly rivalry had been renewed - the challenge having started in 1953 as a duel between two farmers - John Bull and Alec Neil.
The contest traditionally takes place on the first Friday evening of August each year.
Photos by Jake McNulty.