The fine art of Spadgering has unfortunately been largely forgotten [apart from some pockets where the sport is still practised in rural areas on the East coast of England (Ar, that’ll be Norfolk then. Lo,TG Ed)] so I thought it would be worth recording the main rules although I played the game only a couple of times when, as a child, I was invited down to Lord Baggengrope’s estate in Hampshire for a Spadgering and Arsolander gathering. I won’t bother with the Arsolander traditions as they have been well documented already.


Obviously the main requirement for Spadgering is a sufficiency of sparrows. These should be caught on the day of the Tourney and inflated using helium. Use a pipette attached to a rubber tube and a bottle of helium and gently insert into the sparrow’s nether regions. The idea is to inflate them enough to make them weightless: it is most important not to increase the pressure too much. The head and beak should point straight ahead and the wings should be in a good position for gliding – even slight over inflation will distort the angle of the beak and alter the aerodynamics of the wings. Of course, I was very unskilled in this part of the procedure and burst two sparrows before my chum Ashley came to the rescue and demonstrated how it should be done.

The pitch is 20 feet long with the King Ring downwind… obviously.

The idea is to launch the Spadger, as it’s known when inflated, rather like throwing a paper dart, and for it’s head to be caught in the hole of a doughnut, the ‘King Ring’ held aloft by the Ring King.
In the early days of the sport quoits were used, either rope or rubber, but when it was discovered that Spadgers had a liking for doughnuts which increased their homing instincts and that they could move their wings just enough to increase accuracy by 3.33%, the doughnut was accepted as official equipment in the early 20th century.

The Ring King is allowed to move the King Ring, which is attached to a to broom handle, using his or her hands and arms but he or she is not allowed to move his or her feet. Lord Baggengrope was very kind to me and gave me his best Ring King, a wiry fellow with arms that were so long they dragged along the ground when he walked. I didn’t win however as I was still slightly over inflating my Spadgers and they rose above tree height.

The sport went into decline after an unfortunate accident. Some enthusiastic teenagers got over confident and tried the technique on their grandparents who were launched after lunch and never seen again. The special doughnuts that had been cooked to receive Grandpapa and Grandmama, who were a tad on the tubby side, were enjoyed by the local villagers, as it was considered very bad form to let them go to waste.