Experience The South Of France In South London


The classic French game pétanque finds a perfect home in Cleaver Square.

The game of pétanque (or boules) has been around for quite a while. Given that it involves nothing but nine balls and a small jack made out of cork, you can see why – it doesn’t take much to conceive of. There were similar games played in Ancient Greek and Rome, but it wasn’t until the early twentieth century in Marseille that it became the modern recreation of France – an instantly recognisably past-time usually enjoyed by old men in public squares. 

Basically it involves a team of people – with a drink in hand, preferably – throwing solid metallic balls as close as possible to the jack, knocking others out the way. It’s easy to play but hard to play well: you need a real sense of space, balance and momentum. In France they play in squares and public spaces because, for architectural reasons that elude us, French municipal squares are often dry, hard or sandy. However, in London the typical square is grassy, which means there’s too much resistance for the boules. Enter Cleaver Square.

The beautiful Georgian Square is surrounded by grand terraced houses and, in the centre, is a long, rectangular dusty square. It’s the perfect place for pétanque, which is why it’s the home of the London Pétanque Club. To make things even better, in the north-east corner of the square is the Prince Of Wales pub. With its wooden interior and lovely floral arrangements, entering feels like stepping back in time. You can get a boules set from the bar for £1 and a £10 deposit (which they'll keep if you lose the jack). Get your drinks to go in a plastic cup and take them outside. C’est un plaisir

Cleaver Square is a five minute walk from Kennington Station. To get there from Generator London, take the Northern line southbound to Kennington from Euston station. Ask at reception for directions.