Another lockdown

The Government announcement yesterday evening about a further   nationwide lockdown states that all outdoor sports venues must close. New regulations come into effect on Wednesday, 6 January 2021,  and are expected to apply until Monday, 15 February, at the earliest.

The croquet lawns are usually closed from January to March to avoid damage during the winter months and to allow recuperation before the start of the new season. However, after the last lockdown from 5 November to 1 December, we had thought it would be worth allowing play to continue in the new year subject to satisfactory weather conditions. In the event, December turned out to be a period of prolonged wet weather – there was rain on 29 out of 31 days – and the lawns have been unplayable for much of the time. More winter weather is in the offing so, necessary and disappointing as it is, the latest official closure will not detract too much from the situation we normally face at this time of the year.

For the latest Government and Croquet Association information and guidance see:

UK Government – National lockdown
Croquet Association – Latest Information and Advice

Lawns remain open

In previous years the lawns have been closed at the end of December to allow recuperation before the start of the new season. As this year opportunities for play have been limited and the lawns have been relatively lightly used, the Committee has taken the view that play may continue beyond the end of December provided that weather and lawn conditions remain satisfactory. Bookings may therefore continue beyond the end of the month. However, it remains important to avoid damage to the lawns and play should not take place even if bookings have been made in the event that:

      • The lawns become muddy or visibly trampled
      • The lawns are waterlogged or covered by frost or snow

There are several other caveats:

      • The lawns may be closed at short notice if inspections indicate risk of damage
      • Hoops and other equipment may not be available for a particular lawn if they have been withdrawn for repainting and repair
      • It is not expected that the lawns will be cut or white-lined though the corner markings will be renewed from time to time
      • Full closure of the lawns may be implemented in the event of prolonged poor weather or to allow a shorter period of recuperation before the new season

In these cases, the aim is to notify the changes in the lawn booking system so it is always advisable to check shortly before play.

Another aspect is that the area around the wide gate near the car park from the football pitches onto the croquet lawns has, as usual, become very wet and boggy.  It is recommended that players take the longer tarmac path around the croquet lawns to the bowling greens and clubhouse.

Lastly, the wet weather has made the patio area in front of the clubhouse very slippery so do take care.

Thursday, 10 December 2020: The lawns have been cut but avoid playing on Lawn 4 which is now very wet and quite muddy.




Back in business

Chester Croquet Club was back in business on Wednesday morning, 2 December, after the latest lockdown. All four lawns were soon in use as members escaped their domestic confines and sought al fresco Vitamin D to help banish Covid blues – all socially distanced, of course.

The ten o’clock line-up … Jayne Taylor, Brian Walton, Paul Watson, David Boyd, David Guyton and Robin Tasker. Note the Rule of Six … the photographer was so distant he doesn’t count.
Notice the balls observing social distancing as well
… and despite lack of recent practice, even the occasional hoop was run

Last games in town

Wednesday, 4 November … last games of socially distanced croquet before the latest lockdown:

Thursday, 5 November, message to members from Jayne Taylor:

Good morning members, or rather not so good morning.

The CA has officially advised its members that, in spite of lobbying by the CA and other bodies, regulations for the Covid 19 lockdown appear to require croquet clubs in England to close along with other outdoor sports amenities.  Therefore the CA’s Coronavirus Task Force is strongly advising clubs to cease play for the period of the lockdown.

We have consistently followed the advice of the CA on playing croquet during the pandemic so your committee has decided to cease playing at the club for 28 days or until further notice. Hopefully this will enable the Council to progress with the  maintenance of the lawns and surroundings, which might be some consolation.

Let us hope that we can return after 28 days (or before if common sense prevails),  and that December gives us some nice weather to enable us to wrap up warm and have a few games before Xmas.

Meanwhile, stay safe




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.

Update on Wednesday, 21 October: Top dressing still not fully absorbed but all lawns playable including Lawn 4 if you can find the holes.

Update on Wednesday, 28 October: Top dressing now well absorbed and all lawns available for play. Play may continue for the rest of the year providing the lawns are not muddy or waterlogged or covered in frost.




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