Boules rules as sandy contest fills streets of Sherston
There were no French players to compete in a sport the nation had made its own, but joie de vivre was abundant as Sherston was again transformed into a giant ‘boulodrome’.
The village’s ancient and – apart from one weekend each summer – typically English high street became a series of boules courts as 128 teams of three – 384 competitors – took part in this year’s day-long event.
Sherston has been hosting Britain’s largest single-day boules event – scheduled to coincide with France’s Bastille Day celebrations – since 1987.
That was when a vicar, Hugh Thomson Glover, and a village GP, Dr Colin Owen, thought it a jolly good idea to introduce this gentle Gallic pastime. The tournament gained in popularity before merging with Sherston Carnival in 1993.
This year’s boules festival began last Friday, with the closure of High Street, removal of cars and dumping of tonnes of sand to create flat pitches, or pistes.
Teams from Wales and the Midlands embarked on the competition, which drew to a keenly fought close at 7.30pm, ten hours after the first boule was rolled.
The reigning champions from Wales, the Piste Artists, retained their crown. Organising committee member Caroline Moore said: “The Welsh usually win when the French aren’t here.
“It’s such a spectacle. It really has captured the imagination over the years.”
To counteract the French ambience of berets, hooped shirts and onions, there was a nod towards the World Cup when about 30 youngsters, who had spent several hours at a music workshop, marched along the High Street as a samba band. Sunday’s tug-of-war competition produced a surprise, when winners for the past 12 years the Vine Tree at Norton were beaten by the OAFS, Occasion-ally Active Fathers of Sherston.
Elsewhere, a flotilla of 850 plastic ducks was hurled into the Avon, then chased and beaten by children for 750 yards.
Parish councillor Jill Cainey said: “We do many strange things in Sherston, all in the name of having a good time and raising money for good causes.”
Over nearly three decades, the event has raised more than £250,000 for local groups and national and global charities.