Matt Baker - Ellie Harrison - Rachel Leadbeaterby John Dawson
Whilst the top GC players were battling it out for the World title in Kent and Sussex a group of 45 enthusiastic croquet players drawn from across the South and West returned to CountryfileLive at Blenheim Palace to give visitors at the 4 day event the opportunity to " give croquet a go". Tony and Pat from the Eynsham club had made a lawn out of the parkland right in the middle of the show. This meant that we were able to " entice" passers-by onto the lawn to try their hand at running hoops with some expert guidance. All of the visitors seemed to enjoy it and nearly 100 left their contact details for us to follow up.
As the weather was hot and humid and the show lasted from 9-00 to 6 pm on each day the CA volunteers worked hard with some time off to enjoy the rest of the show themselves.
It is always difficult to assess the long term impact of this sort of activity but there is no doubt that the team of volunteers raised the public profile of croquet amongst the tens of thousand visitors to the show. They also persuaded a number of the BBC Countryfile Live stars ( Matt Baker , Ellie Harrison, John Craven , Adam Henson ) to try their croquet skills watched by many of their fans. Some activities were shot on camera but we shall have to wait to see if any of the footage makes it to the Sunday night show.
A big "thank you" to all the volunteers, to Tony and Pat for setting up and dismantling the site, to the Eynsham club and others for the loan of equipment and to Frances Colman for managing all the recruitment and admin processes.
Next week Countryfile Live ventures " oop North" for a new four day event at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. Anna Giraud and Derek Knight of the Yorkshire Federation have recruited teams of volunteers and are setting up the site. It will be fascinating to see whether the success CountryfileLive has had at Blenheim over the last 4 years is replicated at Castle Howard and how the visitors take to croquet.