Friday, 6 December 2013

Cherry Tree, Catthorpe, Leicestershire

The Cherry Tree is a warm pub in every sense of the word. The welcome from licensee Phil Cartwright was certainly warm when I popped in on a Saturday afternoon recently. The open fire in the cosy bar was if anything a little too warm, but welcome nevertheless on a cold Winter afternoon. Another fire was being set in the games/function room as I snapped off a few of these photos, ready to help warm up the local 'Shoot' along with a few pints of local Dowbridge Brewery Ale. The shoot tend to settle in for the afternoon when they visit the Cherry Tree, and I can see why, this is as good a place to spend an afternoon as any you'll find.

The shoot represent welcome additional trade on a Saturday afternoon, a time when many rural pubs experience a lull in custom, or may even close for the afternoon. But it's the holy trinity of Darts, Dominoes, and Table Skittles which are the Cherry Tree's day-to-day lifeblood, with several teams playing in local leagues throughout the week.

This view through the trophy cabinet to the bar (below) was taken from the function room which houses the venerable old skittles table. Skittles is a noisy game, not ideally suited to an open-plan pub layout, so it's as well that this separate room has been maintained. The Cherry Tree field both ladies and mens teams in the Dunchurch & District League, with play on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Darts is played in the Lutterworth & Welford League.

Two aspects of Skittles play which are specific to the Warwickshire and South Leicestershire (and possibly Bedfordshire) area are shown in the images below. Plastic pins and cheeses are the norm throughout this part of the traditional table skittles area, and are in fact a requirement for league play. Plastic pins and cheeses like the ones shown above and below have been around for a good few years now, indeed I recall playing with them some thirty years ago in many Leicester and Leicestershire village pubs. But they would certainly have been wooden at one time, and my guess is that over the course of several years, many pubs replaced their worn out wooden pins with the cheaper and more durable plastic alternative, such that a tipping point was reached where it was decided that all league venues should adopt the newer plastic alternative. I can only imagine the strong feelings which would have been expressed at the meeting where it was finally decided to abandon the age old tradition of wood.

Notice also the steel square (below) used to define the throwing point, fashioned with a cut-out entry point on the right-hand side. Steel 'Oches' or 'Motts' similar to this are occasionally seen in the Northamptonshire version of the game, and seem to be obligatory throughout Leicestershire and Warwickshire, but this is the first example I've seen which seems to define both the minimum and maximum throwing distance, as well as the all important sideways movement available for tricky 'off the cushion' throws.

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