Norman sets his sights on World Cup

Crescent Road Car Park Tunbridge Wells

While the eyes of the world may be on the Rio Olympics this month, competitors will be gathering for another sporting spectacular near Tonbridge this weekend.

The Bat and Trap World Cup is being staged at Capel, where a total of 16 teams across the county will gather to compete for the title.

Though this Kentish game may have received few headlines over the decades, it can trace its history back more than 300 years.

From its humble origins as a forerunner of cricket played by farmers, it has been successively passed down the generations and survived into the 21st century.

Then three years ago the creation of the World Cup has seemingly given this quirky game a new lease of life.

“I really don’t want to see this game die,” said Norman Walke, Team Captain of present World Cup holders the Tonbridge Nomads, as he acknowledges that many of those playing the game are of mature years.

The 66-year-old former Hadlow College maintenance engineer has played Bat and Trap for more than 20 years, and believes it is an excellent family-friendly pastime.

He said: “It is a good, friendly game that is played by people at the local pub, where they can just come down and have a good laugh with everyone.

“A lot of people don’t have a clue it exists. We only started playing at The Dovecote Inn [on Alders Road in Capel] five years ago, but now everyone here knows about it,” said the club Captain, who stressed there is a good deal of skill involved in learning its finer points.

As he explained, the basics of the game are pretty straightforward. There are two teams of six players which can be mixed and of all ages, making it a very social game.

The trap is a wooden box of 22 inches in length with a see-saw mechanism, which is then placed at one end of a 19m pitch – with one team batting, and the other team designated to bowl back in response.

The batsman flicks a ball up to then strike it down the pitch with a small bat, with points being scored for the shots between the two wooden goalposts.

The opposing team responds through bowling back down the pitch, aiming at a small target on the end of the trap – if it’s struck then the batting player is out.

Though it is now played as far and wide as America and Europe, the World Cup taking place this weekend is scheduled as an all-Kentish affair.

Mr Walke added: “We’re feeling confident about retaining our title, and we’ll really be going for it this weekend, so we hope there will be a good number of spectators there.”

The Bat and Trap World Cup is in the grounds of Capel Village Hall, Falmouth Place, Five Oak Green, from 11am on Sunday August 21, and will be fundraising for the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance.

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