Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club return to action after lockdown rules are relaxed

PUBLISHED: 08:44 23 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:44 23 May 2020

John and Chris O’Gorman playing croquet at Budleigh after the easing of the Coronoavirus pandemic restrictions. Picture: BUDLEIGH SALTERTON CROQUET CLUB

John and Chris O’Gorman playing croquet at Budleigh after the easing of the Coronoavirus pandemic restrictions. Picture: BUDLEIGH SALTERTON CROQUET CLUB


The enforced break in play at Budleigh Salterton Croquet Club, caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, is now over, and last Wednesday (May 20), play resumed, writes John O’Gorman.

The club has made many changes to ensure, as far as possible, that risks have been minimised, with all buildings closed and new procedures fully in place.

We are making progress towards re-opening fully as a croquet club for Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth and environs.

The club, which is 150 years old this year, has previously had play interrupted by two world wars.

During WW1 Belgian refugees were welcomed to the club, and, in WW2 the military, including the Home Guard, took over the dressing rooms and bridge rooms, with some Nissan huts on site. Survival is in our genes.

This year, 2020, our 150th anniversary year, was going to be a year of celebrations, with special activities designed to both highlight our heritage and the variety of sports that have taken place on site, some very special tournaments, and lots of opportunities for members of the public to come and join in. Our place was booked with the Budleigh Gala Week for three sessions, and we even had special Anniversary Ale labelled and bottled for us by Black Tor Brewery!

Regretfully, we took the decision to put all of this on hold for this year, and intend to celebrate with a vengeance in 2021.

The beer, of course, might need drinking at our Christmas event this December.

Sport on the site started in 1865 when archery took place.

In the1870’s, croquet began, soon to be followed by tennis.

The club was then known as The Budleigh Salterton Archery, Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club.

Tennis became the dominant sport with annual tournaments starting for tennis in 1891 and for croquet in 1896.

The club was affiliated to the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) from 1896 until 1973 with regular tournaments that included Davis Cup and Wightman Cup players in action.

Many household names graced the lawns, amongst those who have played here are Sue Barker, Christine Truman Janes, Ann Hayden Jones, Angela Mortimer, Mark Cox and Mike Sangster.

The croquet club is now one of the premier clubs in Europe with 11 full size lawns looking out over Lyme Bay in a truly spectacular setting, hosting International, European, and UK championships.

It is a friendly, informal, but professionally run club, with around 250 members, 165 playing croquet and 85 who enjoy playing bridge.

We are open all year round, weather permitting, but do suspend play on Christmas Day!

Our grounds have featured in Budleigh in Bloom competitions, winning a ‘first’ in two categories, and, as a fringe benefit, members can also make use of our allotments, many of which have sea views!

The very active bridge section came into being in 1914, and currently, three sessions are held weekly.

We play duplicate bridge on two evenings and one afternoon each week.

There is an active social side to the club with events taking place throughout the year, and we also get involved in various charity events. Our clubhouse, with its meeting rooms, bar and kitchen, acts as a venue for various clubs and societies and is available for hire.

Croquet is played on a court, which is twice the size of a tennis court.

It has six hoops and one centre peg, a set of four coloured balls which are played in sequence, used by either two players having a singles match, or four playing doubles.

Each player is equipped with a mallet, and a coin is tossed to set the game in motion.

There are a variety of croquet games that can be played on the lawn, in much the same way that billiards and snooker are played on the same table.

The games have several basic aspects in common, being able to strike your ball so that it goes in a precise direction and stops where you want it, sending your ball to hit and drive other balls to desired positions, and running your ball through hoops only a fraction of an inch wider than the ball.

Each of the games require specific skills and very different strategies. Golf Croquet, and Association Croquet, are the most popular, but Short Croquet, played on a half size lawn is gaining popularity.

Croquet can be played and enjoyed at a huge variety of skill levels, and the club caters for all with coaching provided.

There is a mix of organised sessions, usually finishing with tea and cakes, Internal competitions, and informal matches.

The club competes in the South West Croquet Federation leagues with over eight teams playing during the summer months.

We host a number of tournaments throughout the year catering for all standards of play up to international level.

Charity events are also very popular at both croquet and bridge and in the past few years have Raised funds for such organizations as the Alzheimer’s Society, Children in Need, Down’s Syndrome Association, Devon Air Ambulance and Macmillan Cancer Support. For 2021 out tournament highlights include:

• In May, the European Golf Croquet Individual Championship, where we expect to host 28 entrants from a dozen countries.

• In August, the World Croquet Federation’s Croquet Team Championships, where nine countries will field teams of four.

• In September, the Croquet Association President’s Cup – an invitation event for the eight best players in the country.

We are always keen to attract new members and offer full training to those taking up the game for the first time.

You can expect to be playing within 15 minutes and then develop your croquet by a mix of learning as you play and dedicated sessions of skills training.

Your objectives will be to enjoy the experience, meet new people, and to exercise body and mind in fresh sea air.

The opportunity to learn a new sport and play to your potential with expert coaching can also be addictive.

We hold several Open Day events each year, but can also normally accommodate those who want to get started at other times.

We have special membership rates for those who are still in full time employment and are only able to play at certain times, for those who live some distance from the club, and family membership for those with children over 10.

We are not recruiting new members whilst our operations are restricted due to Covid-19, but we will do so as soon as we feel it is safe for all involved.

Please do contact us if you are interested, and we will keep in touch with you as the situation improves.

You can contact us at www.budleighcroquet.org, or via our answerphone 01395442548

We are based at Westfield Close, Budleigh Salterton, EX9 6ST.

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