Despite threatening rain, the sun shone for the crowds who turned up at Polbeth’s annual Gala Day on 29th June. We (public artists, Minty Donald and Nick Millar) were delighted that it stayed dry and that our Polbeth Crazy Croquet game proved so popular. A constant stream of young, and not-so-young, visitors to the Gala Day tested their skills in navigating an obstacle course (with croquet ball and mallet) that featured cardboard models of some of Polbeth’s landmarks. These included the busy A71 road that runs through Polbeth, The Murray pub (filled with beer cans), Five Sisters Zoo, Harwood Water, the railway track and, of course, Limefield Falls, and the new fish ladder and viewing platform. Players could choose a croquet ball decorated with a picture of a an otter, an eel, a kingfisher, or a brown trout. These are all creatures that have either been seen around Harwood Water (several people mentioned that they had spotted a kingfisher near Limefield Falls), or which might be visitors to the area after the completion of the fish ladder (the river could be host to trout and eels, if the obstacle of the weir was bypassed).

As we’d hoped, the croquet game also sparked lots of conversations with people about their memories and experiences of Limefield Falls, and Polbeth generally. We heard stories about people swimming in and skating on Harwood Water above the Falls, about fishing trips, about a misjudged attempt to jump over the waterfall (which resulted in an injury), and about competitions to see who could pee furthest into the river! We heard how much people valued Limefield Falls and that they felt it was an important landmark. The people we spoke to were very pleased that a new viewing platform was to be built. We heard that people – several of whom had returned to Polbeth just for the Gala Day – felt a strong attachment to the village, and wanted it to thrive. The croquet game models were a great talking point, as people identified features of Polbeth that they liked (The Falls, The Five Sisters), and suggested how some things might be improved (better walkways and access to Harwood Water, more and safer pedestrian crossings for the A71).

For next year’s Gala Day, we are planning to make a croquet set (balls and mallets) from the wood of a tree that was felled to make way for the new viewing platform. We hope that the croquet game might become a regular feature of the Gala Day, with local people choosing and building their own landmarks/obstacles each year.

Thanks to Terri Daly and Anne Marie Wardlaw for photos of Crazy Croquet and to Carol Salem for the video of the Community Council stall and the croquet game (with lovely, live musical accompaniment).