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Bourton Vale turn up the heat in Gloucestershire Winter League

All Areas > Sport > Tennis

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Thursday, 19th December 2019, 09:00

Bourton Vale A’s Gloucestershire Winter League players, from left, Clare Bell, Joe Sach, Mandy Kendall and Wasya Awori Bourton Vale A’s Gloucestershire Winter League players, from left, Clare Bell, Joe Sach, Mandy Kendall and Wasya Awori

The rackets in this photo are a bit of a giveaway otherwise you could be forgiven for thinking that this fab four, wrapped up in gloves and coats, are about to embark on a hike around the Cotswolds.

In fact, they are preparing for a game of tennis, even though we are in deep midwinter and it is dark, cold and pretty uninviting.

But that, of course, is part of the fun of it, getting out and about and playing a game of tennis ‘out of season’ when the challenge isn’t just your opponents but the elements as well.

These hardy souls play for Bourton Vale’s A team in the Gloucestershire Winter League, a mixed doubles competition for teams of four.

Bourton Vale, who have two floodlit all-weather courts just off Rissington Road, run three teams and they are by no means alone because the competition is in rude health.

“We play teams from Painswick, Frampton and Bredon we go all over the place,” said Gwyneth Simmons, who is club secretary and captain of the mixed doubles A team, before adding with a laugh, “we’re extremely hardy souls.”

They certainly are because they play all their matches outdoors in a competition that runs until March.

“We can play in temperatures as low as zero,” continued Gwyneth, who has spent some 18 years at a club which these days has more than 60 adult members and the same number of juniors.

“If it’s below zero it’s too slippery, and we can’t play in pouring rain but if it starts to drizzle when we’re on court we keep playing.”

So does Gwyneth, who likes a bit of sun – she learned to play tennis when she was in her late 30s and living in Vietnam – ever think about finding something else to do during the winter?

“Yes I do,” she laughed, “I ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’ every week, I think I should leave it to the younger ones!”

She doesn’t, of course, and experience has taught both her and her team-mates to come well prepared for matches at this time of year.

“We have lots of layers,” she said. “Some of the young men do play in shorts but that’s just ridiculous!”

So what attributes are required to play tennis in the winter?

“Stamina, focus and woolly underwear,” laughed Gwyneth. “Oh, that sounds so old-fashioned, I mean good thermals.”

Gwyneth, who is now retired, used to work in PR back in the day and has a good way with words and is easy to interview.

She admits that she prefers playing tennis in the summer – the club run two men’s teams and two ladies’ teams in the Gloucestershire Summer League – but is keen to stress that whatever the weather in the winter months the tennis is of a high standard.

“Our top team play in Division 1A and we’ve got a really good team,” said Gwyneth. “Clare Bell is our best lady player.

“She juggles a husband and two little boys but really wants to play. She’s a good player and really good fun, she’s really committed to the club.

“Wasya Awori is another, he’s very good as are Bill Fagg and Debbie Jagla. They are our main players although I have played a bit.

“The tennis is very competitive, quite serious. But it should always be fun, we want to win but playing well is the main thing.”

And keeping warm?

“Yes,” she laughed, “but you soon start getting warmer when you start running about.”

And although the winter league matches are played under floodlights the club plays daytime tennis all the year round.

“We are a members only club run by volunteers,” said Gwyneth. “We have to charge to cover the upkeep of the facilities and overheads but adults can play all year round for less than £2 a week.”

For more information on the club, visit www.bourtontennisclub.org

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