HOLIDAYMAKERS to France will often see groups of men and woman gathered around playing a very different sort of bowls to that played in Mansfield and Ashfield.
The sport of petanque involves players standing inside a starting circle with the aim of throwing hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden jack and is highly popular across the channel.
And, although there are currently just 3,000 registered players in England, one Mansfield club is hoping the sport can take off in a big way.
Mansfield Petanque launched two years ago in the town’s Titchfield Park and now has 15 petanque pitches to their name.
The exanding club will hold an inter-club competition involving up to 20 teams from across the East Midlands on 14th April and hope it will help them continue their development.
Phil Middlemiss, club secretary, said: “I began playing Petanque on Sutton Lawn and it is something I really enjoyed.
“More people travel these days and have seen the sport being played in France and Spain and want to have a go at it for themselves.
“Things are going well for the club at the moment. The sport is really taking off here now and growing fast.
“We have entered competitions before, but this is the first time we will have held a competition at our club.
“It is a landmark day for us and we hope that holding this event will prove to be a springboard for us to take the club further.”
And although Mansfield Petanque have so far suffered heavy defeats in the Thursday Fours League, the club are refusing to get downbeat about their prospects
“We have had excellent support from Mansfield District Council, who have created pitches for us and helped us to expand,” said Phil.
“We have been badly beaten in the competitions that we have entered, but we are not letting that dishearten us.
“We will continue to compete and train hard so that we can improve. We just need a summer of good weather so we can keep playing and continue to improve.”
The club plays on Sundays and Wednesdays during the winter and Sunday, Monday and Wednesday during the summer.
The current form of the game originated in 1907 in southern France, with the casual form of the game played by about 17 million people in France.
It is also widely played in neighboring Spain, with about 375,000 players licensed with the game’s governing body in France.