A Winter Tournament at Hamptworth

On Sunday the 12th of February I found myself at the Hamptworth Croquet Club on the edge of the New Forest as a late replacement for the latest of the club’s monthly winter competitions.  The club is a little under an hour’s drive from Fishbourne and on a grey but still quite pleasant morning I navigated the country lanes to the west of the A36 and drove into the Hamptworth Golf Club headquarters. Soon after I was in their very luxurious club house (although let me say I’m not a golfer, so maybe this is normal) listening to the day’s briefing. The croquet club members were very friendly, and I was soon talking to people about our croquet experience before the competition started.

We walked past tennis courts and the upgraded driving range, and down towards the croquet lawns (five in total) which were on a lower level, with a bank on one side and trees on the other.  Even on a February day the setting was picturesque; I imagine when the trees are in full leaf in the Summer, it must be beautiful.

We started at 9.30, and from then until after 4 when we finished, as most of my 6 matches went the full 50 minutes, I was playing croquet for around 5 hours. It was a handicapped tournament and as a result, the matches were generally close. There were 16 competitors, each playing in a four player round robin group in the morning. As I lost two of my matches and won one, I finished third, and that meant I played in a new group in the afternoon with all the 3rd placed competitors from the other groups. By the afternoon, the wind had got colder, but the play was still enjoyable. As I met my three new opponents in turn, I managed a 100% successful afternoon, meaning that I finished 9th out of the 16 competitors; I was happy with that.

There was a quick presentation, during which organiser of these events, Richard Jenkins, said that after many years and almost 100 events he was stepping down, partly because he wanted an opportunity to play himself. He hoped somebody would take on the events so they could continue.

Final match of the day on one of the five excellent Hamptworth lawns

The competition was £15 to enter, and I would encourage anybody to enter any future winter event if they do carry on, and as for me, after a very enjoyable day I intend to come back during the Summer. I left the venue at about 4.30 and after a good journey home to Chichester I had an early night, and I must say I slept very well.

Words and photograph by Martin Emmett