Petanque isn’t just a load of old boules
A SMALL corner of Hampstead Heath will be turned into the south of France this summer. Bruce Rowland from Gospel Oak is bringing the Gallic game petanque back to the Heath and is encouraging other enthusiasts to join him
A SMALL corner of Hampstead Heath will be turned into the south of France this summer.
Bruce Rowland from Gospel Oak is bringing the Gallic game petanque back to the Heath and is encouraging other enthusiasts to join him.
He is hoping to revive the game, known here as boules, on the old gravel pitch beside Hampstead Heath's tennis courts.
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"I don't see why the game shouldn't take off around here but the biggest problem is having an organisation to run the whole thing," said Mr Rowland, from Mansfield Road.
"With all the foreigners we have living here and the size of the population in London there should be more players, but there is no organisation.
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"As long as people know about it I think it has potential. It's an easy game to play, it's terribly cheap, you don't need special clothes and you don't have to be fit and run around."
Petanque is played by 17 million people in France and is more popular in the south and west, where the pitches are often found on village squares.
Thirty years ago Mr Rowland was president of the London branch of the Petanque Association, but it has since been disbanded.
He admits one of the main obstacles to the revival of petanque will be the unpredictable English weather, but hopes Hampstead and Highgate folk will find enjoyment in the game.
"The problem is that in France you could turn up at a pitch and if there was no-one to play you could sit and have a beer and wait for someone to turn up.
"But in England you wouldn't wait around very long - you would just bugger off.
"Quite a lot of English people will play when they are about 14 years old but then they discover booze and girls, and at about 18 they give it up."
Mr Rowland is holding an open day at the pitch on Saturday May 10 at 2pm and, depending on how many players turn up, will try to form a new club.
The Corporation of London, which manages the Heath, has helped out by providing the playing area free of charge for the first three months.
For more information call Mr Rowland on 07880 948 105.