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SandHockeyHockey players on the beach at Minehead with North Hill behind. Photograph by Alfred Vowles. 

Unlike most of today's youngsters who learn to play on artificial pitches, Nan Williams, a former England international and volunteer at The Hockey Museum (THM), started her playing career on the sands of Minehead on the north Somerset coast. In the 1950s, the home pitches for Minehead HC were marked out each week on the local sands and bully off times depended on the tides. It might seem like another world, but the surface still encouraged great skills as a press article from October 1952 reports; "Minehead 1st XI achieved a really well merited win – the forward line gave an excellent display with the two young wingers working like Trojans and using their speed and skill to the fullest advantage." Those two wings were Liz Venning (nee Boobier) and Nan Williams (nee Morgan) and both went on to play for Somerset, the West and England!

pdfNan has researched this amazing period of the club's historywhich is downloadable by clicking the icon to the left. She used old club records and press reports of the time. It is an affectionate account of games played on the sands of Minehead between the 1920s and 1950s.

Hockey has probably been played on sand for as long as the game has been in existence. Forms of sand hockey such a Genna (played in Ethiopia), Oggaf (Tunisia) and Nomad Hockey (Morocco) date back over hundreds of years and a number of these games are still thriving, almost unchanged, to this day.

A quick search of 'sand hockey' on Google will also show you how many different versions of the old and modern game there are. There has even been a World Sand Hockey Festival in Holland in 2014 on the beaches near The Hague (click here) where the players use a slightly changed stick with holes in the head. The different forms of sand hockey are often played to slightly different rules, number of players, pitch size but they still bear a significant resemblance to the modern game of hockey.

Over time, THM is looking to develop the full stories of all these ancient and modern versions of hockey played on sand. If you have any information on any forms of sand hockey or are interested in getting involved please contact THM Curator through our contact form.

Katie Dodd, January 2016

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