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Joining Ampthill Bowls club (Bedfordshire) – how it changed my life

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

To find out more about this wonderful club click here

In Lancashire they play Crown Green Bowls everywhere, from the suburbs of the cities to the smallest villages on the edge of the Pennines, so as a 9-year-old child in the care of my Grandad after school I would go with him to the bowls club, in the suburbs of Manchester, and watch until it was time for tea. As I watched him unzip the brown leather 2 wood case with its brass zip and lift out 2 shiny black woods to polish them with his cloth before bending down to start the game, I thought to myself……… when I’m old I’m going to do this.

Fast forward 52 years (I’m not considering myself old just yet!!) without ever setting foot on a bowls green since those childhood days, I found myself retired from a life in the NHS, widowed and wondering what to do. I am grateful to my friend Debbie who prompted me to go down to the local club and ask about how to join. She found an advert online for new members at the bowls club in a small Bedfordshire market town. I called them but there was nobody home and although a date had been set for the open day, I chickened out of going on the day by myself.

Fortunately for me, Sandra, the club secretary, called me on the Tuesday to ask If I had gone along and when I said no, she arranged for somebody to meet me at the gate on the next new starters evening. Martyn duly met me at the gate and sorted me out some club bowls and a coach to help me understand what I needed to do to actually send the bowls up the green to reach anywhere near the jack.

A year on I cannot describe how Bowls has changed my life in such a profound way. I was made to feel so welcome and a part of a friendly community which offers so much more than just bowls.

I’ve met and become friends with such a range of people and their families, that I would never have known. I’ve joined them in social events at the club particularly through the summer season, including a fun night of giving Crown Green bowls a go, which takes me fondly back to those days with my grandad. And when September ends and the days are short, evening socials in the club house also bring everyone together.

This year I’ve become a part of the ladies’ team after a season of playing in friendly games and learning the ropes of how the game of bowls works. And this winter I’ve started to play indoors ……. a completely different game but enjoyable all the same. It has taken time to master the rules, the etiquette, the terminology and the techniques but

"Everyone in the club has offered help and support and made me feel like they want me to play and improve.
I’ve also enjoyed so much helping others to join in.
Some of our members need help for various reasons like medical conditions and sight issues but everyone can play with support and as a game it is really inclusive."

As the club is run by its members including green keeping and catering after games there has been so many opportunities to pitch in with cake baking, refreshments making and gardening, and generally helping the club to grow. Everyone can contribute something as much or as little as they wish, to make sure the club keeps going and it certainly fills up as much of my life as I need. We all have a chance to promote the growing future membership and so next summer

I’m hoping to help with encouraging the youth of our small town to join the club and learn how to play bowls.
Then it will truly be a club for everyone of any age, gender, and any ability.

Jacky Groves

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