Petanque In Handcross
by David Leech
This classic French game is great if you’re looking for a fun pastime to do with your friends and family.
Most Sussex Living readers would first encounter the game of Pétanque on a visit across the Channel. Pétanque, or boules, is played in every village in France often in the square or on the beach. But you need travel no further than Handcross to try your hand at this gallic sport. Founded in 1995, Handcross Pétanque and its members have built their own facility – a terrain – consisting of 12 ‘pistes’ large enough for both social gatherings and serious competitions.
David Leech, Chairman, explains, “the modern game consists of rolling or throwing heavy steel balls in order for team members’ boules to get closest to the jack. It’s as simple as that,” or at least that’s what you will be told on joining the friendly club open to all ages and abilities. “Each boule which lies nearer to the jack than its competitors counts as a point and the first to get 13 points is the winner. Of course, like croquet, there are subtleties which add to the interest and enjoyment of the game. The 700-gram boules can be thrown full toss at the opposition’s efforts in order to displace them, literally causing sparks to fly.”
Meetings take place on Sunday and Wednesday mornings with leisurely games accompanied by beverages prepared in the self-built cabin. Members can participate in matches against other clubs in Sussex and beyond. Handcross has risen over four years from 4th to 1st division in the Southern Counties league and were runners up in the North Downs League in 2017. Club Secretary Jane Sibbring comments, “we are proud that some of our members have been very successful representing the southern region in national competitions.”
Usually played as doubles or triples, members can play for prizes at competitions organised by other clubs or in Handcross Opens. The club runs three every year – one devoted entirely to charities such as Macmillans, St Peter and St James Hospice or Chestnut Tree. Club Treasurer Brenda Steptoe commented, “we raise around £500 at each of our Charity Doubles. We also donated the winnings of our 9-aside salver competition to charity.” The club raises cash by participating in fun days of villages such as Lindfield and Balcombe with its ‘Splat the Egg’ competition. “Tossing a steel boule onto a raw egg can be quite addictive,” says Bill Mackrell, who handles publicity.
The club also organises social events for members. For example they have a treasure trail, quiz night, fireworks, impromptu barbecues and a splendid Christmas mêlée and banquet.
Perhaps the highlight of the year is the annual Coquelles-Handcross meeting, alternating between Sussex and the magnificent indoor Boulodrome of La Fanny Coquelloise in Calais. This keenly fought competition tests members’ linguistic and bouling skills interrupted by a traditionally protracted lunch during which Franco-British relations are firmly cemented. If you would like to try your hand at Pétanque, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.handcrosspetanque.org.uk