At the end of July the usual team of five players from Watford (Cassiobury) Croquet Club headed for the South West in what has become a regular annual event since 2003, playing friendly matches against five clubs in the region on consecutive days. However, this year they abandoned Butcombe Farm as their local base in favour of the Bowl Inn at Almondsbury, near Bristol. From there they enjoyed the best of a new selection of nearby pub restaurants in the evenings - as well as playing some croquet!
Tour organiser: Mark Homan.
26 July - Swindon (supported by Kington Langley): Swindon has usually had the better of this fixture on the outward journey, and this year was no exception. To be more accurate, the weather had the better of it this time and a rain-soaked match was abandoned after the morning play, leaving the home team with a 3-1 victory. Umbrellas were useless. In the car park there was as much rain bouncing up as falling! The stock market crashed 200 points in sympathy. Fortunately the worst fears about a Tour wash-out proved unfounded, and the remaining matches were played in pleasant conditions.
27 July - Bristol: Lisa Jones hit excellent form for the hosts, winning her morning match from 1 and 1 against Rover and 1-back without giving her opponent a look in and following up with a convincing +26 win in the afternoon. However, Watford had the better of close finishes in several of the other games and ended up winning 7-3.
28 July - Nailsea: John Moore arrived mid-day to replace Bill Gillott for the rest of the Tour after Watford had lost the morning session 2-3. A closely contested day ended up with a 5-5 draw, but only after Watford managed a very tight +1 victory in each session.
29 July - Dyffryn: the courts had been under 18 inches of water a few days before, but by the time the Watford players arrived the skies had cleared, the floods had disappeared and the courts were playable, if slow. Dyffryn had the better of the morning play, but Watford perked up after the ritual lunchtime round of 'Croquet' aperitif (kept chilled in a portable refrigerator - this is touring in style) and had the better of the afternoon, resulting in 4-4 draw overall. Jonathan Bowen, just off the plane from Australia and amid some uncertainty about his handicap, starred for Dyffryn. Watford duly awarded him scratch status, a rating borne out by his later performance in the Welsh Championships.
30 July - Cheltenham: in spite of having had no mains water for several days, the hosts impressed with excellent lunch and teas. With a good balance of handicaps between the teams, games between the lower handicappers were played to Level Advanced rules. This time it was Watford's turn to have their team bolstered by a visiting Australian, Martyn Prins, and his assistance enabled the Tourists to end their Tour with yet another draw, 6-6. John Moore of Watford won his two games to clinch a handicap reduction from 16 to 14, no doubt helped by having borrowed the shoes of a 6 handicapper for the day! But the highlight came from Carol Smith of Cheltenham who came extremely close to completing her first TP in the morning play against Ian Parkinson, and it only eluded her at the last gasp. Better luck in 2008!
Tour photos by year:
||Tour results by year:
|Date||Opponents||Venue||Results (Watford names first)|
|Thu 26 Jul||Away||
LOST 1-3(Net index points: -10)
Afternoon games abandoned due to heavy rain
|Fri 27 Jul||Bristol||Away||
WON 7-3(Net index points: +40)
Handicap change: Simon Hathrell 2 to 1½
|Sat 28 Jul||Nailsea||Away||
DREW 5-5(Net index points: 0)
|Sun 29 Jul||Dyffryn||Away||
DREW 4-4(Net index points: +4)
|Mon 30 Jul||Cheltenham||Away||
DREW 6-6(Net index points: -1)
Handicap change: John Moore 16 to 14
*On loan to Watford