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Royal Deeside : Ballater Boules

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Possibly the craziest introduction to the Ballater Sports Calendar is the Ballater Boules Challenge. The game, normally associated with warm afternoons in France and the Mediterranean, has a whole new aspect when played in Ballater in mid-winter. Lines are often formed by clearing the snow or frost. A meeting played on hard-frozen ground is likely to be followed by one played on a soft wet surface. Moreover, the playing area is part of the village football field with its ups-and downs and occasional foothole. Predicting just what will happen can be difficult...

So it can be of little surprise that luck plays a substantial part in the Ballater version of boules and, of course the rules have been slightly modified to meet local conditions. But it's all great fun especially as it is accompanied by hot tea and cakes. At the festive season superb mulled wine (made to a special continental recipe) warmed the occasion.

Open to anyone with a sense of humour who can treat those two imposters - triumph and disaster - as the same. Played fortnightly in winter : Sunday 10.30am, Monaltrie Park, Ballater

For more details see Challenge website

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Taking part in Ballater Boules requires more hardiness than skill

An ice-cold boule is delivered with a bare hand and some style. Should we say sang-froid?


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