Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Horseshoe, Wilby, Northamptonshire

If ever there were an example of how pub skittles play can be a true force for good (bear with me, it's not as far fetched as it sounds), the hardy skittle players of The Horseshoe in Wilby might well be it. Of course team games like skittles come with inbuilt social benefits, and often play a crucial role in the success (or even survival) of many community pubs, but players and customers can also be involved through pub games in numerous charitable events, a point not lost on pub and beer campaigners CAMRA and Pub Aid in this recent press release.

When I visited The Horseshoe in April this year, a 24 Hour Charity Skittles Marathon had just taken place involving 25 players chucking through the night in a bid to raise funds for Prostaid. The eventual total raised from the overall event was a magnificent £5,000, and was such a success that it's hoped this could become an annual event. Not surprisingly, the pub itself is a real cracker, and I was made to feel very welcome by licensee Eve Jackson and the regulars at the bar.

The Northamptonshire Skittles Table is located in a separate games room adjacent to the front bar, an entirely necessary precaution given the noise generated during a lively game. I believe the black board on the left can be removed during a game creating an additional bar counter, particularly handy for those working up a thirst setting pins up in the 'Woodyard'. The skittles are set up and ready to play whenever you are and were being used for a casual game by a group of visitors to the pub when I was there.

The 'Oche' for the skittles can be seen leaning on the left-hand side of the table, an essential part of the Leicester skittles game where it is known as the Mott and usually made from steel, but an optional extra in Northamptonshire it seems.

Many venues for Northamptonshire Skittles indicate the position where the thrower needs to stand with a simple line on the floor, sometimes a brass or other metal strip. Where an Oche like this is used, it's usually the case that both feet must be within the area defined by its three wooden sides. This restricts how far to the left or right a player can stand, which is important in Northamptonshire Skittles because it's often necessary to bounce a cheese off the padded side panels in order to down a tricky pattern of pins.

The Horseshoe play their skittles in the Wellingborough & District League, with two teams currently throwing in the 1st and 3rd divisions of the Summer League.

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