Boules – saving the U.K.’s pub culture?



by Sarah Juggins,
While public houses in the U.K. are closing at a rapid rate, it might be a french import that comes to the rescue Public houses in the U.K. are taking a battering. According to the Beer and Pub Association, 28 pubs close a week, which is having a huge economic impact upon both the hospitality and brewing industry.
But for your average person, the main impact of pub closure is the loss of yet another bastion of the community.

Along with the post office and the village shop, pub closures mean another community meeting place is being lost.So it is heartening to see that in some pockets of the country the pub scene is thriving, as men and women of all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds are gathering under a common purpose – to play petanque, or boules.Petanque is derived from France and is now played all over the world. The English pub version, usually known as boules, involves teams of six playing in a series of matches over the course of a fixture. The basic aim is to get the boule, a heavy, steel ball weighing between 650-800 grams, as close to the cochonnet as possible. The cochonnet, literally meaning little pig, is much smaller and is thrown by a member of the team who wins the toss, to a random point on the playing area between six and 10 metres from the throwing circle.

The team that threw the cochonnet then follows up by throwing its first boule as close as they can to the target. The opposition then try to get its boules closer. As soon as the opposition have thrown closer than the first throw, the other team makes its attempt to get close to the cochonnet.

This continues until all the boules have been thrown and points are awarded based on proximity to the cochonnet. If one team has two boules closer to the cochonnet its gets two points, for three boules, three points and so on. If one team is closest, followed by a boule from the opposition, then only one point is awarded.

A match is organized over five sets. The teams divide into two teams of three, who play to 13 points. The teams then divide into three teams of two players, again playing until one team reaches 13.

In Cambridgeshire, where the boules weekly summer league is thriving, teams play throughout the evening, fueling their exertions with beer and pub food, and making the most of a great opportunity to socialize and meet up with friends.

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