(Southport 24-25th June 2023)
What a weekend! The great 28th North West Festival of Croquet came to sunny Southport and did not disappoint. We had everything – heat wave on Saturday, torrential rain on Sunday, then more sunshine, some great Croquet – plus the usual cries of anguish from clanged hoops and muffed shots. Just about every age group was represented, from our youngest player aged eleven to the, well let’s say the veterans, and representatives of just about every decade in between. There were really fit players and the crocked ones, bearing a range of mallets, from the super shiny ones gleaming in the sunshine to the scruffy ones much loved by their owners.
The kaleidoscope spectacular, with players in their distinctive club colours, hats of every description, multi coloured umbrellas, shiny balloons, and some players – over enthusiastic with the flush control in the portable toilets – adding Elsan blue to their uniform!
Southport have invested heavily in their lawns, the South Lawns were superb and the infamous North Lawns, much criticised in the past, are now the envy of many clubs. Southport set out ten full lawns and six half lawns, to accommodate 39 teams playing Association Croquet at Advanced, Handicap and Short Levels, in addition to Golf Croquet at Level and Handicap formats. The packed timetable resulted in 201 games of Croquet – no mean feat of organisation and scheduling. Regular sounding of bells and hooters kept the GC on schedule whilst the AC relied on friendly cajoling and with all games finishing immediately time is called, leading to some frantic running around by players as games neared their finish ……… some players have probably not moved so fast in years!
Even the downpour on Sunday did not dampen spirits, as players had fun paddling in the puddles and even more fun trying to hit balls through them. Amazingly, as the rain stopped the puddles soaked away quickly into the Irish Sea just a few feet below the lawns.
The catering, as always was fantastic, the wonderful clubhouse team serving about 60 meals and afternoon teas each day, whilst the ‘refreshment table’ did a brisk trade throughout.
And the Results Were:
Handicap Golf Croquet Competition – Fylde and Bury both achieved 7 out of 9 wins, but as Fylde had beaten Bury, they were awarded the much coveted GC Handicap Shield.
Level Play Golf Croquet – the Bowdon pairing of Jack Good and Simon Jenkins defeated all before them and took the GC Level shield with nine wins. Llanfairfechan finished 2nd with 6 wins.
Short Association Croquet – a fast moving very close competition with Southport winning 11 games, but Fylde edged it with 12 wins to snatch this tantalising shield.
Handicap Association Croquet – in an extremely close contest, Fylde, Llanfairfechan and Westmorland won 7 out of 12, but Bowdon went one better to grab the AC Handicap Shield with 8 victories.
Advanced Association Croquet – Bury and Llanfairfechan won 3 out of 5 games but could not catch Paul Rigge’s Pendle side, who were undefeated to take away the much prized Advanced AC Shield.
And the Overall Winner Was:
Four Clubs were joint second with 93 Festival Points – Bowdon, Bury, Fylde and Llanfairfechan. The ultimate fanfair though, on achieving 105 Festival Points, congratulations go to the 2023 Festival Champions – Pendle – who were awarded the prestigious Festival Trophy.
Federation Chair, John Haslam thanked everyone for attending this spectacular event and also the inter-club organising committee of David Cornes, Tom Grievson, Rick Harding, Esther Jubb, Sam Seal, Rachel Snowdon, Tony Thomas, Martin Tovey and Liz Wilson. He thanked the Southport Club members for their hard work in setting out everything at early dawn each day and of course the wonderful catering team. He then presented the prestigious Festival Cup to Libby Dixon, captain of Pendle to much applause.
A great weekend of friendship and fun, some wonderful Croquet and memories to treasure. This event is unique to our North West Federation and is simply amazing! See you all again next year.
Report by Tony Thomas