Stanway in Colchester

How to play Croquet, a brief description

It is probably fair to say that not many of us are familiar with the rules of croquet, so here is a brief description of how it all works.

Each of the four players has a ball of a certain colour (these being blue, red, black and yellow) and they are played in that order by alternate team members. Team No.1 have the blue and black balls, and team No.2 have the red and yellow balls. There are six hoops arranged on the lawn, four towards the corners and two down the middle, and play progresses through each of the four corner hoops and then through the two middle hoops - this is repeated until one team wins by scoring seven hoops.

As accuracy of strike is gradually achieved, so tactical play comes to the fore, the aim being to co-ordinate with the partners play so that the team scores by shooting one of the team's balls through the hoop before their opponents.

One tactic is to strike a ball so as to place it to block the opposing team's efforts to score, or to stop their possible effort to strike and displace the fellow team member's ball that may be in a good position to score. Or a player may hit his ball so as to strike an opposing team's ball to prevent a score, or to stop an opponent from striking his fellow team member's ball.

The strategies that develop from these simple tactics can become both complicated and pleasurable, with the result that the game is one involving (gentle) physical and (sometimes not so gentle) mental exercise.

As each lawn is approximately the size of three tennis courts, and we start playing at 1.30pm and finish at 3.30pm, this can contribute to the number of steps required to achieve a significant level of physical exercise. All this happens while concentrating on the tactics, so is seemingly without exertion!

This year we have played in a variety of weathers, from windy sunny days to heavy downpours (when we "took tea" early and continued afterwards). The afternoon is always completed by a cup of tea or coffee with biscuits in the clubhouse, providing the chance to wind down, or to wind up your opponents depending upon whether you have won or lost!