Autumn lawn maintenance

A sunny but dewy October morning … autumn lawn maintenance in progress … not a soul in sight … must be socially distancing … or, perhaps, a tea break …

Update on Friday, 16 October: Autumn lawn maintenance – fertilizing, tining, scarifying, over-seeding and top dressing – has been completed but please refrain from playing until the top dressing is fully absorbed.

Update on Saturday, 17 October: Ideally, we need some rain (What, more rain ?) to wash in the top dressing before renewing play. On the other hand, the top dressing is mostly sand which is inert and won’t turn muddy. Preferably defer play until next week commencing Monday, 19 October, when the top dressing should be more fully worked in. For the time being, Lawn 1 appears to be the most ready for play but Lawn 4 should be avoided.

Update on Monday, 19 October: Still waiting for rain to wash in the top dressing. But if you don’t mind sandy top dressing sticking to balls and shoes Lawns 1, 2 and 3 are playable. Continue to avoid Lawn 4 until more of the top dressing is absorbed.



Autumn is here

Dear Members

Well autumn is certainly with us now.  But whilst the weather has become cooler and damper ( ok that’s a bit of an understatement) the lawns remain open for play unless the ground is too wet.  Just make sure you take your waterproofs and layer up!

Your committee met last week, so I thought an update email was appropriate … though the summary of the meeting will be published on the website shortly.

Those of you who have looked at the website recently will have spotted the picture of Derek Bell-Jones escaping from a falling branch whilst enjoying a not so peaceful game of AC on a windy day !  The committee also said farewell to Derek, who has resigned after 10 years service.  The club has benefitted from his wisdom, and humour,  over the years, and we hope he will grace our lawns for many more to come ( though probably not sitting under a  tree !)

The last tournament of the year was played on Friday 2nd October; a one day Open Handicap Short Lawn AC contest, socially distanced of course.  The worthy winner was Helen Brophy.  Thanks to all who played, and particularly thanks to Sally Slater who organised the day with her customary efficiency and good will .  We did manage to fit in two other tournaments this year in spite of virus constraints:  a two day Full Lawn Handicap AC contest organised by Robin Tasker (thank you Robin) won by Sally Slater, and the Christine Long GC Tournament organised by Martyn Seal ( thank you Sam ) won by Edward Baskerville.   The GC Lockdown League continues into the autumn, whilst the lawns are playable.

Normally we would be holding our end of season supper and presentation of awards in November.  This has been a very popular and enjoyable gathering drawing together a high proportion of the club membership.  Sadly, however, in view of the continued restrictions on social gatherings, this will not be possible this year. Indeed, in common with families everywhere, this Christmas will be a very quiet one for the club.  We must hope that the situation improves in 2021 to enable our pre season gatherings to proceed, and that Chester Croquet  can get back to normal at the beginning of April.

It was great to gain access to the clubhouse, and to be able to play on Mondays, but we still have to maintain the restrictions we have been operating under, particularly in view of the recent rise in the virus infection rate and the governments Rule of 6 limitations. So I am afraid  we must continue to social distance, use sanitisers, wash hands frequently, clean the croquet equipment and facilities after use, and limit gathering in the clubhouse accordingly.

The Council have indicated that they will be doing a full programme of maintenance on the lawns during the autumn, winter and early spring.  This is very good news, though unfortunately we do not know when.   Therefore I am afraid that you might find that the lawns are closed at short notice for varying periods of time.  So keep an eye on the booking system, which will be adjusted accordingly, as soon as we know the planned dates – or indeed as soon as we find they have done something without warning us.   You will note, for example, that fertiliser has been applied to the lawns. Please make sure you wash your hands after handling the balls, and this is even more reason for washing the balls (and your mallet heads) before putting them away.

Most of all do look at  the club web site,  which David Guyton keeps up to date very efficiently.  It makes good reading !

I hope you manage to continue to enjoy some croquet during the autumn and early winter,  whilst the lawns remain playable, and that the maintenance work does not cause too much of an interruption.  However the lawns will benefit greatly from a full maintenance programme, and we can look forward to improved playing surfaces next year. Omelettes and eggs come to mind !

Please take care, keep warm and dry, and above all  stay safe.

Jayne Taylor

2020 Short Lawn Competition

Storm Alex granted Chester a welcome favour on Friday, 2 October, by halting its northward progress just south of the city. This enabled the club’s final competition of the season to proceed unhindered under grey skies  with occasional fleeting glimpses of sunshine and only an odd drop or two of rain. Eight players in two separate groups of four with each playing each other took part in an end of season short lawn competition – Helen Brophy, Maureen Corrigan, Robert Jones, Esther Noot, Sally Slater, Robin Tasker, Jayne Taylor and Paul Taylor. Helen Brophy and Jayne Taylor emerged as winners in their groups and faced each other in the final round.  By half time this game was still evenly balanced with Jayne being one hoop ahead of Helen with her leading ball but one hoop behind Helen with her trailing ball. However, in the final half with both players having used their handicap bisques for free shots, Helen managed to edge ahead and peg out to win the competition.

Competition organiser Sally Slater presenting the winning award to Helen Brophy and runner’s up award to Jayne Taylor
Jayne Taylor and Helen Brophy demonstrating the art of socially distanced celebration

Lucky escape

Derek Bell Jones had a lucky escape from a falling branch last Friday, 25 September. He was playing against Nigel Worthington on Lawn 2 and was sitting next to the public footpath enjoying the late summer sunshine on a rather windy morning while his opponent had the innings. He heard a creaking, breaking sound and quickly moved away as a branch from a nearby tree came crashing down over the fence. One of the unexpected perils of playing croquet on a windy day. True to form, Derek emerged as unperturbed as ever.

Derek Bell Jones emerging from his seat in the sunshine

2020 Christine Long Tournament

On a beautiful sunny day on Sunday, 13 September, the annual Christine Long golf handicap tournament was held at Chester. 12 players were divided into two teams of six and, during the day, each team member played each other. It was a close run thing. In team A two members had each won four games, with Edward Baskerville winning more hoops and therefore going forward to the final. In team B there were three members who each won four of their games, but with an aggregate score of 33 hoops Sally Slater just made it into the final. The final was a good game, with Edward Baskerville beating Sally Slater and winning the tournament 7-4 to take home the cup and painting. The tournament was organised by last year’s winner Sam Seal.

Edward Baskerville and Sally Slater playing in the final
A socially distanced line-up of the competitors at the end of the tournament
Sam Seal, centre, with the two finalists, Sally Slater, left, and Edward Baskerville, right, and Edward holding the winner’s trophy and painting

Local Derby versus Tattenhall

Inter-club, competitive croquet, along with many other sports this season, has pretty well stalled completely because of  current restrictions. It is not that actually playing croquet contravenes rules about social distancing, even with four players on a 28 yard x 35 yard croquet lawn they can stay well separated (and in croquet it is not usual for players to to converge in a huddle after scoring every point), but it is travelling to play away matches that is the main problem as distances between croquet clubs are such that teams of four usually share transport.

However, having two croquet clubs as close as Chester and Tattenhall allowed members to travel separately and at least gave them the opportunity to arrange a ‘local Derby’. So, on Friday, 11 September,  Chester hosted a friendly handicap golf croquet match when two separate teams of 4 from each club played the two matches under league rules (excluding the doubles games), giving each player 2 singles games in the morning and 2 more in the afternoon. After a pleasant day on the lawns, whilst observing all the current restrictions but at least with no rain, the final reckoning of the two closely fought matches gave Tattenhall the edge in both with two 9 points to 7 wins.

It is hoped that a return match can be arranged at Tattenhall before the end of this season.

2020 Mason Cup

Making up for cancelled matches earlier in the season, the club held an informal full lawn handicap association croquet competition for the Mason Cup over the weekend of 5 – 6 September. Taking part in the competition were David Boyd, John Dawson, Sally Slater, Richard Smith and Robin Tasker. Apart from a short shower on Saturday, playing conditions were good and the players enjoyed the opportunity for some interesting, competitive and socially distanced games following the cancellation of so many earlier matches. Sally Slater made good use of her handicap bisques and emerged as overall winner.

Socially distanced competitors in the 2020 Mason Cup competition, left to right, John Dawson, Robin Tasker, Sally Slater, Richard Smith and David Boyd
Sally Slater with well-earned refreshment after winning this year’s Mason Cup competition

Clubhouse re-opens

The good news is that the Council has now allowed the clubhouse to re-open. This enables access to the toilets, handwashing facilities, water for cleaning and limited use of the kitchen. But Covid-19 has not disappeared and continuing caution and prudence remain essential. So please refrain from visiting the club if you have any coronavirus symptoms or have been in contact with anyone who has and please observe the following:

    • Social distancing at all times inside and outside the clubhouse
    • Using hand sanitiser when entering the clubhouse or storeroom – wall-mounted dispensers have been installed in the kitchen area and storeroom
    • Wearing face coverings in the clubhouse if social distancing of 2 metres is not feasible
    • Using the kitchen only for the preparation of drinks but not food or other catering
    • Ensuring the toilets, kitchen, crockery, croquet equipment and any other shared items are cleaned after use
    • Avoiding all social or informal gatherings in the clubhouse
    • Continuing to use the lawn booking system so there is a record of everyone attending

In accordance with latest government and Croquet Association guidance, we can also relax some of the earlier constraints on play though social distancing remains as important as ever.

    • Doubles and double banked games are now allowed enabling four rather than two players on a lawn
    • Groups of up to six people from different households are now permitted

Enjoy the rest of the season !


Access to clubhouse

Discussions are continuing with Cheshire West and Chester Council about re-opening the clubhouse and access to the toilets and hand washing facilities. They remain closed for the time being. However, the public toilets in the central café block in Westminster Park have re-opened. If lack of facilities has deterred members from coming to enjoy games of croquet, that constraint is now removed.

If members who haven’t played since the lawns were re-opened on 24 May would now like to enjoy some summer games, please remember that it is currently necessary to book a lawn in advance. It is also recommended that members bring their own hand sanitisers or cleaning tissues, any refreshments they may wish to have, and their own mallets and seats if they have them. Check here for more information.