“I enjoyed it so much that I joined the club.”
It has been a rocky road for Lincoln Branley Pétanque Club, but the future looks smoother thanks to its tireless volunteers.
Back in 1982, Peter Mann chanced upon a disused long jump area. After taking a brief look at it, the French teacher decided it would be a perfect area for pétanque.
Fast forward 33 years and Peter is President of Lincoln Branley Pétanque Club, and his wife Liz is both member and volunteer of the same organisation.
There have been many struggles in the intervening years. Since the long jump pit days, the club has moved premises four times. They even endured a recent homeless spell after the grounds they rented were sold.
However, things are looking up for the wandering club, which has finally found a permanent home. Soon the members will up boules from their temporary residence in Pyewipe Inn to their new facility by Woodcocks Bar and Restaurant at Burton Waters, Lincoln.
To make prospects even brighter, the owner of the pub adjacent is eager to encourage new participants to the club and promote the sport.
With a new facility secured, Lincoln Branleys’ membership will grow.
So what exactly is pétanque and why have so many people taken to this game? The sport, which originated in France, is similar to boules. The aim of the game is to throw metal boules at a wooden ball (the jack).
The beauty of the sport is that it doesn’t require much equipment and can be played anywhere – in the garden, the local park or on the beach.
Another draw is its accessibility. “It can appeal to all ages,” Liz explained. “It gets you out, it’s fun. You can play it as socially or competitively as you like. I think its inclusiveness is great because anyone can play it.”
Lincoln Branley currently has 18 members, ranging from schoolchildren to a 90-year old player. Despite these healthy playing numbers, they are keen for more participants.
“I don’t regard myself as a volunteer, just a participant in a wonderful sport with a lovely bunch of people” – Sharon Brummitt
To attract new members, they need volunteers for a variety of roles, including coaching, organising fixtures, scoring, lifts to training and matches and, most important of all, help with pitch maintenance.
In that respect, several volunteers have already stepped up. Club member Carole Barloga said, “Volunteers from our club have worked hard to remove an old club shed, wood that formed the edges of the lanes and as much of the surfaces of our old piste as possible, to help form the new area. Being a not-for-profit club, our budget is very small, so we have had to save where we can.”
Without this amazing help, the club wouldn’t survive. For example, the club’s eldest member, who has poor eyesight, wouldn’t be able to play were it not for the volunteers who act as markers so she knows where to aim.
People of all ages and abilities enjoy pétanque.
Different people help out in all sorts of ways. Liz teaches newcomers how to play the game, as well as arranging competitions. Sharon Brummitt provides transport, rakes the pitch and sets out equipment, having joined the club a year ago.
Originally, she just wanted to find a new hobby, so she got in touch with Lincoln Branleys through the Join In website. The club gave her a sense of belonging, friendship and purpose after her parents died.
“I was made to feel very welcome after trying the sport for a couple of weeks,” she said. “I enjoyed it so much that I joined the club. I don’t regard myself as a volunteer, just a participant in a wonderful sport with a lovely bunch of people, though my joining has helped the group continue.”
Thanks to Liz, Peter, Sharon and others, Lincoln Branley will continue; and, with new grounds and more people helping out, the boules will roll for a long time yet.