Over the centuries hockey has been played on a variety of surfaces and one of the most intriguing has been on beaches, writes The Hockey Museum’s Mike Haymonds.
The game of bandy or hockey was played informally for many years back to Shakespeare’s times. In South Wales in the 1830s Bando was the first Welsh mass spectator sport, drawing crowds of 3000 to the beaches of Baglan and Aberdaron to watch, gamble and enjoy the products of enterprising brewers.
Up the West coast on Lancashire beaches Rossall School could be found playing a very similar game known as Rossall Rouges in the 1850s.
Beach hockey remained popular even when the modern grass game emerged under the auspices of the Hockey Association after 1875. In 1910 Bridlington Alexandra Ladies’ game with Hull YPI ended in a draw with both teams playing ankle deep in water. They had commenced play on Bridlington North Sands and concluded in the North Sea! In 1931 the Northern Counties Women’s Championships abandoned unplayable grass pitches for the beaches of Scarborough.
Minehead Ladies, a club located on the north coast of Somerset, had a long tradition of playing on the local beach where they did not need to pay a rent. They became affiliated in 1924 and continued playing on the sands, while also occasionally using a school pitch, before moving to a permanent grass home in the early 1980s.
The requirement for changing facilities was met by the use of beach huts, which were also used for storage of goal posts and corner flags, near the golf course at the end of the prom. Playing on the beach meant that the pitch needed careful marking and an alternative one may be required for the second half if the first one cut up badly. It also helped if you played youngsters on the wings who didn’t mind going into the sea to retrieve the ball.
Playing on the beach allowed multiple games to be played at the same time. In January 1956 the Minehead club staged three matches simultaneously and during the 1961-62 season even managed four.
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