A touch of France in Lancashire - Boules in Croston

PUBLISHED: 00:23 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:52 20 February 2013



Croston is the unlikely stronghold of a favourite French pastime, boules

A French exchange visit for Croston school children 15 years ago set older residents thinking - why should the kids have all the fun?

Since then the fun hasn't been restricted to pupils at the village's Bishop Rawstorne High School and people of all ages now regularly sample Gallic life. And they don't need to cross the Channel, either.

When the school's exchange scheme grew into a project to link Croston with Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley a group of villagers took up the very French pastime of boules in the very English setting of the local pub.

Peter Briggs was part of the village's twinning association and is now a key member of one of Croston's 10 boules teams. He said: 'The twinning happened in 1992 and the association committee would hold boules breakfasts the Black Horse pub on Sunday mornings where we'd have coffee and croissants and a game of boules on the patch of land where the landlord used to have his bonfires.

'People liked to hear what we were doing and more people started to come along. The Midge Hall liked the idea and built a pitch - called a piste - and more pubs have followed suit since then. We started the boules league in 1996 and we now have 10 teams with something like 10 or 15 people per team.'

The season runs from April to September with matches played at pubs in Croston and some surrounding villages on Tuesday nights, Peter added: 'I had no idea it would be as successful as it has been.

'There are other places in the county where they play boules but they tend to be part of the British Petanque Association and play to strict rules. They have a big thick rule book but we're much more relaxed, we only have nine rules.

'It's very easy to play, we have all ages from children to pensioners in the league and we've beaten the French at their own game, too. I organised a trip over there for a boules team from Croston in 1998 and we won several trophies and people come over from Azay-le-Rideau regularly as well. We have a lot of inter-pub rivalry but it's all very friendly.'

It can get a bit tense in the Briggs household, though. Peter plays for the Twinning Association team but his wife Sheila turns out for the Amazons team based at the Black Horse.

'We play each other quite often,' Peter said. 'I always win.'

'He usually wins,' Sheila chipped in. 'I'm working on a plan to make sure I win in future; I'm not going to cook his tea if he beats me. That should sort it.'

Visit www.crostontwinning.co.uk for more information.

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