Petanque – Sussex-style

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There are many things about the French that, despite our suspicion of all foreigners, the British have taken to their hearts. Fine wines, the Cote d’Azur, even a few footballers with strange haircuts. But surely one of the most surprising imports must be Petanque – bowls without the grass or any serious ability to control the direction of the ball, once it has landed on anything from gravel to mud. But for some reason we seem to love it. Perhaps it is the very basicness of the game that appeals and is making it one of the UK’s fastest-growing sports, with no less than a record 49 teams playing in the local leagues.

The season started this week, with four leagues covering Rye, Romney Marsh and the surrounding district playing on Tuesday evenings and a further two leagues, with teams from Hastings and district, on Wednesdays. Matches start at approximately 7.30 pm.

Teams tend to represent pubs (which might explain the game’s popularity). Rye has teams from the Pipemakers Arms and the Bedford Arms. Rye Harbour has two teams from the William the Conqueror, two from Rye Harbour Social Club and one each from the Inkerman Arms and Rye Harbour Sailing Club. So no point in trying to find anyone at home there on Tuesday evening, then.

Other teams come from the Green Owl, Camber; the Cock Inn, Peasmarsh;  the Queens Head,  Icklesham; the Rose & Crown, Beckley; the Rainbow Trout, Broad Oak; the Royal Oak and the Two Sawyers, Pett and Fairlight Lodge Hotel.

Winchelsea Beach have three teams, two from Rye Bay Caravan Park and one from Pub 31. Ten teams come from Romney Marsh and three from Tenterden. One begins to wonder if there is anyone NOT playing petanque on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

For the uninitiated, the game is played on a piste (pitch) ideally 15 metres by 4 metres, although it can be a little smaller, and comprised of gravel, sand or bare earth – a gravel pub car park (minus cars) is usually ideal.

We look forward to following the progress of our Rye teams in this game of skill and alcohol and which, we are told, anyone can play without fear of humiliation, as the season progresses.

Photo: Dennis Leeds-George

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