Harrogate Petanque group return to action with invitation to new members

With restrictions on life beginning to ease and England moving into a new and freer phase of the pandemic, more people are able to participate again in the activities they were previously denied access too.

Friday, 10th September 2021, 6:26 pm
Updated Friday, 10th September 2021, 6:28 pm
Members of the Harrogate and Montpellier Petanque Club pictured during a club session, have returned to action after Covid lockdown.

The Harrogate and Montpellier Petanque Club has recently reopened after a year-long break due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

In celebration of this, the club held an early Bastille day celebration on Sunday, July 11. With a Melee of matches, members were encouraged to participate in the games, leading to a renewed sense of normality and optimism.

Photographer for the club, Brenda Sutcliffe said members had endured a difficult few months in lockdown and were delighted to be back among their friends.

“Petanque is open to everyone, all ages and regardless of disability,” she said. “You don’t need to arrange anything, all we ask is that you show up and help build great friendships.

“The club is all inclusive, we don’t turn anyone away. It’s not violent exercise so anybody can participate. I have a disabled son who often comes down and joins us.

“Having a break was difficult, nobody wanted to stop playing. We all enjoy it so much.

“However, people were rightly afraid and very cautious of Covid and our numbers dwindled down quite a bit. We went from about seventy people playing regularly to about twenty people a few times a week.

“Before Covid we played up to four times a week, 6pm onwards sometimes staying out quite late. It is such a fantastic way to socialise.”

Many of the members use the club as a way of meeting new friends and socialising.

In times such a these, being able to get out and enjoy the fresh air and company of others has been crucial to their mental well-being.

And they are now hopeful that the wonderful game of petanque will grow in popularity across the town as they open a new playing surface.

“We have an awful lot of people by themselves who need the company and absolutely love it,” said Brenda.

“We have a new Terrain currently being set up in Oatlands. We are hopefull that this will be completed by the end of the year.”

The game, which has origins dating back to 1907 Provence in Southern France, is more commonly known as French boules and has roots that can be traced to Ancient Greece, Rome and the Middle ages. In 1953, the Lord Mayor of Harrogate introduced Petanque to North Yorkshire, having played the sport whilst Fighting in the French resistance.

He was also responsible for saving the lives of thousands of fleeing citizens, as well as setting up the first ever twining across clubs.

Harrogate is twinned closely with Luchon in the French Pyrenees, with both clubs playing each other every year, Covid permitting.

Set in the town centre at ‘The Pierhead’ and opposite both the Cenotaph and Bettys, the facilities are in daily use from March to October as a public facility for all to enjoy.

You can bring your own boules, or they can be hired from the Oxfam Shop, just down Montpellier Hill.

The main objective of the game is to throw small round metallic balls as close to a large wooden ball called a jack.

Each game consists of several rounds known as innings, with each round ending when the team has finished throwing their balls. The team that reaches thirteen points in total first, is considered the winner of the game.

Covid-19 restrictions proved no obstacle for the club, with a Whatsapp group circulating information about socially distanced walks proving to be highly popular.

Member’s were able to play up to four times a week between lockdown restrictions and even though according to Brenda Sutcliffe ‘It wasn’t the social occasion Petanque usually is’, it was highly beneficially in combatting loneliness and acted as a means of exercise.

Club Sessions: Summer (April to October):

* Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6pm onwards (5pm Sept/October);

* Friday lunchtimes from midday onwards;

* Sunday mornings from 11am onwards;

* Members are also welcome to join in the U3A group that runs on Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm.