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Chalford Sports & Social scoops CAMRA award

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The Chalford Sports & Social Club has done it again and scooped the title of Stroud CAMRA Club of the Year—for the fourth year running. And they made it a double by triumphing in the next round to become Gloucestershire CAMRA Club of the Year. Ali and Rob Brady were presented with a certificate recording their achievement at a presentation ceremony and celebration on Sunday, 19 May, writes Tim Mars.

The sun always seems to shine when we present an award at the Chalford Sports & Social Club and this year was no exception. There was a good turnout of Stroud CAMRA members, perhaps lured by the promise of a game of skittles. We made a point of timing the presentation for when the skittle alley was available.

Skittles is an endangered species in pubs these days, and one of the distinctive features of pubs (and clubs) in the southwest of England and south Wales. Any pub closure is to be regretted, but it is always particularly saddening when it involves the loss of a skittle alley—as with the closure of the Kites Nest Inn at Lightpill on the Bath Road, where the skittle alley has disappeared under a terrace of new houses, and Shunters in Stroud, where the pub is now Sorrento’s and the skittle alley has succumbed to a cramped courtyard of new flats.

Many Stroud CAMRA members are enthusiastic players. So to find a pub or club with a well-maintained and supported skittle alley is a boon. After one round of the traditional game, we were inveigled into a fiercely competitive game of Killer, which ended with a tense showdown between Sam Brady (for the club) and Andy Long for Stroud CAMRA. After last year’s win by Rob Brady for the home team, this year we turned the tables with Andy Long beating Sam Brady to bring home the metaphorical cup/bacon for Stroud CAMRA.

The beer range was imaginative and eclectic, confirming the Chalford Sports & Social Club as worthy winners of the double award, with Meor IPA (4.8%) from St Ives, On Point En Route (4.0%) from Bristol and 360º Double Decker, a 6% milk stout from Sussex. All of these beers were new to me and probably to everyone else. So a wide range of tastes and strengths was catered for.

The Chalford Sports & Social Club sits right at the top of Chalford Hill with a glorious southerly aspect across its own tennis courts. The club is the sporting and social hub of the village, with around 500 members. It is an astonishing resource at the heart of the community, offering a wide variety of social and sporting opportunities, from craft clubs to skittles, fitness classes to sport on TV. It is a warm and welcoming place, very family-orientated and where children are always welcome.

The club is justifiably proud of its sporting prowess. It hosts four men’s football teams, two cricket sides and no less than five tennis teams, with their top players battling it out against the best in the area in the premier division. The club boasts five floodlit courts, including two synthetic clay ones. 

The clubhouse is an unprepossessing flat-roofed, concrete-block bunker, but it proves to be an Aladdin’s cave when it comes to the range of facilities and activities within. The main hall is big enough to accommodate 150 people and is a popular choice for wedding receptions, parties, concerts and family events. It is also used for short mat bowls, with several sessions each week. There is a dartboard in the comfortably-furnished lounge.

But skittles is at the heart of the club, with several teams, regular competitive and social events throughout the winter and a weekday league in summer.

Ali Brady became manager in March 2018 and from that point on it was all change on the beer front. In came the handpumps and on came the real ale, and overnight the club changed from serving only pressurised keg beers to an oasis of real ale. Rob is solely a volunteer at the club but takes care of beer ordering, line cleaning and also serves behind the bar.

The Chalford Sports & Social Club now goes forward to the next round—to compete for the title of CAMRA South West Club of the Year. And so on until one pub out of a shortlist of four is crowned national CAMRA Club of the Year for 2024.

Picture by Emily Green

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