Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Bluebell, Bedford

Bedfordshire is one of several counties which maintain a strong association with the game of Table Skittles. It's in the area to the north of the county, and adjoining the game's original home of Northamptonshire, where tables are still relatively common, though Bedford town itself is now almost entirely skittles-free. You have to venture out to the leafy suburbs and surrounding villages to find a table for play these days, but where the game is still found it remains a popular fixture in the bar and games room, and happily there are still several leagues active in the area.

The Bluebell is a pub which serves the needs of a suburban population to the north of Bedford town. A busy and popular pub, decked out in all its Christmas regalia when I visited in December. It was a cold day but the welcome was warm, and well worth the half hour walk out from town for a pint.

It's been a while since I came across a pair of skittles tables in a pub, both well maintained and positioned for regular play in the games area. These two tables are entirely necessary given that the The Bluebell currently field three teams in the Bedford & District Skittles League. Any less would inevitably lead to home fixture clashes on Tuesday match nights.

A Bluebell 'C' team was recently added at the pub following the closure of The Anchor to the south of Bedford. The displaced team are now well and truly settled at the Bluebell, this despite the recent re-opening of the Anchor, though whether the skittles table remains at the pub is not clear.

A good set of boxwood pins and cheeses were produced for an afternoon chuck, and a local team member gently disabused me of the notion that Bedfordshire skittling is now all plastic.

Whilst it's certainly true that plastic pins and cheeses are the norm throughout much of the Table Skittles areas, and a stipulation for league play in parts of Leicestershire and Warwickshire, boxwood still rules in the various Bedfordshire leagues. Outside of competition though, the more robust plastic alternatives are more common in Bedfordshire, and for how long this admirable preference for traditional wooden pins and cheeses will continue, given the difficulty and expense of obtaining them, is really anyones guess.

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