Croquet is back after a long break and it’s booming. The Swanage club in Days Park starts competitive matches again next week and now has a record number of members.
The team travels to Dowlish Wake, near Ilminster, on Tuesday 29th June 2021. Meanwhile the number of club members has gone up by a fifth in the last year despite, or perhaps even because of, the lockdowns, as people seek out its friendly welcome.
Isobel Green strikes the ball towards the hoop
“Every week we had new members”
Greg Vaughn, membership secretary, said:
“It was a difficult year for everybody but because of the nature of croquet, we were able to be more normal than other sports, and because of that people tried it who wouldn’t have tried it normally and word got around, and every week we had new members. We are still getting people joining.
“A lot of our age profile is at the upper end and for a lot of them it’s their social life as well as their sporting life.
“We have gone up 20 per cent overall. Swanage is one of the largest clubs in the country with nearly a hundred members – most clubs might only have 20. We kept all our members happy, and people came to find out themselves!”
Swanage croquet team before Covid stopped play (from left to right): Bruno Charron; Tim Hughes; Isobel Green; Greg Vaughn; Colin Garner; Sandy Garner; Keith Southern; Sandra Allen
No Covid cases
The club ensured players stayed two metres apart, had a booking system and didn’t use the clubhouse, which is shared with Swanage Cricket Club.
Greg, a retired director of Lloyds Bank, said:
“Luckily, we didn’t have a single case of Covid here. Everyone was careful, making sure everything that was touched, we disinfected.”
Bruno Charron is on target
Membership ‘less than a pound a week’
The club sees itself as a community facility as much as a sports club and ensures that membership costs are affordable for everybody.
Membership costs £25 a year and that includes tea, coffee and biscuits. For £50 a year, which, as Greg says, is less than a pound a week, they become members of the cricket social club too.
There is free coaching and when lockdowns restricted activities, they had online quizzes. Those interested can try out the game for free for a day or pay £2.50 a day three times and reclaim the money off their membership fee when they join.
The club shares facilities with Swanage Cricket Club
The club’s last competitive match was against Budleigh Salterton in 2019. Many are raring to get going again.
“Some are very competitive, and we play matches throughout the southwest of England – we have won that league and come second in the last few years.”
The club plays golf croquet which means they employ handicaps like in golf, to give enthusiastic beginners a chance to play competitively against more experienced players. The idea quite simply is to knock the ball through the hoops on the lawn using your mallet.
Sandra Allen in action before the enforced Covid break
“It’s a thinking game”
“Through the pandemic I think it kept some people much better than they otherwise would have been because they had interaction with real people. This was their social life.
“It’s quite gentle exercise but it can be quite competitive. Players range from 20 to nearly a hundred. And never underestimate the 100-year-olds – they know what they’re doing and it’s a thinking game.”
More about croquet can be found on the Swanage Croquet Club website