Prepare to be bouled over on Montpellier Hill

Nigel Clay, from the Harrogate Montpelier Pentanque club, left, is pictured with Peter Bates, from Ellis Bates Financial Solutions Ltd, sponsors of the proposed 'Pier |Head Bouledrome' in Harrogate. picture mike cowling feb 16 2012
Nigel Clay, from the Harrogate Montpelier Pentanque club, left, is pictured with Peter Bates, from Ellis Bates Financial Solutions Ltd, sponsors of the proposed 'Pier |Head Bouledrome' in Harrogate. picture mike cowling feb 16 2012
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A LITTLE piece of France will be coming to Harrogate this year, with the installation of four new petanque courts in the town centre.

And where better for them than the continentally-named Montpellier Hill?

The sport – also known as boules – is being introduced from early May after planning permission was given for the courts on the semi-derelict Pier Head site, at the top of the hill.

The new Pier Head Bouledrome will be run by Harrogate Montpellier Petanque Club, sponsored by Harrogate independent wealth manager and insurance broker Ellis Bates.

Club chairman Nigel Clay said: “It’s fantastic that, after all our efforts and the co-operation of Harrogate Borough Council, everything is coming together.

“Our vision has been to revitalise a derelict area in the heart of the town to provide a recreational and social facility that can be used by the whole community.

“Most people will be familiar with petanque as the French form of bowls, and may have played on holiday or in their back garden. It’s fun and easy to play and, with the courts being low maintenance, it’s inexpensive as well.”

Mr Clay said the new courts would also be accessible for disabled people, particularly significant because boccia – a derivative of petanque – being played at the Paralympics in London this summer.

He added: “We’ve held back on publicity until we were confident that the project was going ahead this summer. From the research we have done we know that petanque will generate a lot of interest, and we’re going to work hard to make sure people know it’s here.

“It’s a very sociable and a fun game to play, or just to sit out and watch. We’ll be making it as accessible as we can whether you want to join the club and play regularly, or for visitors and the occasional players who will be able to hire boules from the Oxfam shop on Montpellier Hill.”

Coun Caroline Bayliss, cabinet member for cultural services at Harrogate Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted with these proposals for the Pier Head and the council has been happy to support the club.

“As residents will remember, there used to be toilets under the Pier Head and we have had to employ specialist engineers to make sure that there were no hazards such as weight bearing. The council will also be making some improvements to the area including painting the railings, providing some street furniture and making good the area around the four courts when they are built.”

The club will also be raising money for charity, both through its links with Oxfam and with a summer-long competitive for teams of three, including community groups, clubs and businesses, in aid of Saint Michael’s Hospice.

Ellis Bates chairman Peter Bates added: “When Nigel first approached us we thought, what a fantastic idea! We’re delighted to be supporting the project and the club, and wish them their deserved success with all the hard work to make it happen.”

For more information, visit www.harrogatempc.org, email info@harrogatempc.org or call 07856 897086.