As I was on my daily walk in Cross Flatts Park Beeston, I saw a sign at the Bowling Green stating that they have been part of the community for over 112 years and that they are looking for new members.
I know absolutely nothing about the sport so thought that I would investigate. According to Wikipedia:
“Bowls, or lawn bowls, is a sport in which the objective is to roll biased balls so that they stop close to a smaller ball called a “jack” or “kitty”. It is played on a bowling green, which may be flat (for “flat-green bowls”) or convex or uneven (for “crown green bowls”). It is normally played outdoors (although there are many indoor venues) and the outdoor surface is either natural grass, artificial turf or cotula (in New Zealand).”
My fellow writer Claire spoke to Keith Broughton to find out how he had got involved with bowls:
“My father was a bowler for Cross Flatts and then South Leeds Conservative Club. I used to follow my Dad and from the age of 8 I became interested in the sport myself. I had no distractions as a child like kids do these days. I played in tournaments from the age of 16 and also played for the Conservative Club.
“It’s the competition and the buzz of winning a game, especially against good players. Every green is different (flat greens and crown greens, crown greens can be very different from club to club). You get a drive to keep playing. Nothing better. A way to get exercise.”
Keith’s main advice is “Give it a try.”
I had the pleasure of speaking to Ernest Lundy who told me he began playing at 9 years old – the only interruption in his bowls career having been his time in the army and merchant navy.
Despite being a professional rugby player and athletics competitor, bowls remains Ernest’s favourite. He says that it is a character building sport and is very safe for children. You get to be out in the open air and it is a very cheap form of entertainment. You exercise your body and your mind and make countless friends.
When I told Ernest I was thinking of trying out bowls for myself, his advice was very similar to Keith’s “Go to it!”.
At the age of 94 Ernest regrets that his days of being active on the green are over. Ernest published a book “Crown Bowls – A Survey” in 1961 – the first book to deal with Crown Green bowling exclusively.
Andrew Dewhirst has been playing on and off since he was 8 years old and began because his grandfather was a top ABA (Amateur Bowling Association) county bowler and his Dad was also a player. Andrew now plays at Holbeck Bowling Club but since Covid has sadly played very little bowls.
He is a member of Leeds Parks Bowls Partnership that works with the Parks and Countryside arm of Leeds City Council looking at how council run greens are maintained and paid for. He is eagerly awaiting the outcome of a council consultation on the matter but is fearful that it will be not good news. Andrew thinks it seems incongruous that the council would like to reduce the money spent maintaining greens when there is also a huge national push to make us all more active and to benefit get outside and be active to help our mental health.
When asked why a person should take up bowls Andrew said:
“It gets you outside, you meet friendly people. There are not many sports where an 8 year old can take on an 80 year old. It fosters relationships and respect between different age groups.”
There are many clubs operating in South Leeds and Andrew tells me they would all be happy to let beginners use the equipment and get into the swing of things. I think have found myself a new post-lockdown hobby!
This post was written by Hazel Millichamp and Claire Carter
Photo: Yorkshire Captain Charlie Varley bowled well into his 70s
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