World Stinging Nettle Eating Championships

Posted on: 23 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Into it's 12th year, the World Stinging Nettle Eating Championships return to Dorset on the 21st June.

The World Stinging Nettle Eating Championships is returning to The Bottle Inn pub in Dorset this weekend.

Nestled at the top of the Marshwood Vale, under the shadow of Lamberts Castle and just eight miles from Lyme Regis, the traditional pub is offering something quite tasty.

Into its 12th year and held every Saturday before the Summer Solstice it has become a fixture in the unusual sports calendar.

It’s probably one of Dorset’s most random events, but competitors come from all over the world to take part in the World Nettle Eating Championships – one hour of eating as many stinging nettles as your stomach can bare.

Held as part of a charity beer festival at the Bottle Inn, the event attracts entrants from around the world.

As the competition’s fame has spread, nettle eaters from as far as New York, Australia, Northern Ireland and Belgium make the trip to West Dorset.

The competitors face one hour of munching their way though the leaves, and the winner is whoever finishes with the most two foot stalks, stripped of their leaves.


Not surprisingly, the rules are tight for this level of competitive nettle eating.

Only nettles provided by the organisers can be eaten, competitors are not allowed to bring their own; no mouth numbing substances are permitted - although a swig of beer in between mouthfuls is always encouraged.

And for spectators, it makes for a bemusing sight. Competitors have described their unusual bar meal as tasting like anything from "rancid salad with no dressing" to "a mixture of spinach and cow-pat".

Crucially, nettles can't be expelled from the body. In previous years, a competitor seemed to have victory in sight, only to see his efforts end up on the ground of the pub car park just minutes from the end of the competition.

A previous winner of the contest is Ed Brooks, a regular at the Bottle Inn.  He won the contest by scoffing 48 feet of nettles and was thrilled with winning the title.

Brooks says "Oh it's tremendous, amazing competition and a privilege to be champion.”

“I’m proud and honoured to have won but I’m a little bit peckish.”

Meanwhile Jo Carter from Weymouth and Liz Gray from Bath once both shared the womens title - they both ate exactly 26 feet of nettles.

Where it began

Nettles first came to the fore at The Bottle Inn around 1986 when two farmers were having an argument as to who had the longest nettles on their land.

NettlesThe Landlady, then Francis Vincent, challenged the farms and the surrounding towns to see who had the longest nettles – from then the Longest Stinging Nettle competition was born.

The competition had been running for three years when local hospital porter and ex-guardsman Alex Williams entered a stinging nettle 15’ 6” long, claiming “if anybody beats that I’ll eat it”.

An American couple on holiday staying in the area came up with a nettle 16” long and Williams true to his word promptly ate the nettle.

Traditionally, if Williams didn’t win the competition, he would then eat the winners nettle.

In 1997, the idea was altered and the competition was named the World Stinging Nettle Eating Challenge.

This year’s event takes place on the 21st June, commencing with a beer festival featuring 21 ales from around the local area as well as live music throughout the day.

For more information, visit the Bottle Inn website.

Have you ever taken part in the competition? If so, share your thoughts in the 50connect forums.

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