Historic Shropshire bowls club keeps rolling despite a year of lockdown delay

Hours of tireless work has been put in to ensure an historic Shropshire bowls club keeps on rolling post pandemic.

Prospective member Pete Rigby with club president Don Davies and secretary Mervyn Jarman
Prospective member Pete Rigby with club president Don Davies and secretary Mervyn Jarman

Despite a year's absence, Much Wenlock Bowling Club was able to reopen at the beginning of April, with ground staff having kept the green and surrounding areas in top condition for the eagerly-awaited season.

The small club, nestled among a circle of trees and hedges in the Gaskell Recreation Ground, formed in 1860, and having survived two World Wars, reformed in 1978, now using the town's old railway ticket station and waiting room as its pavilion.

Mervyn Jarman joined the club four years ago before becoming secretary.

Mervyn Jarman, secretary of Much Wenlock Bowling Club

The 72-year-old said the venue proved a vital social meeting point for members of the community, and encouraged others to give it a go.

"A lot of people, even in Much Wenlock, may not know we exist here, so we want to encourage people to come down and join," he said.

"It's a really enjoyable pass time, both socially and competitively – our club president Don Davies turned 90 years old in August and bowls competitively four nights a week."

One of the members who helped reform the club in 1978, Don helped save the green from being removed by the council.

Club president Don Davies

"Having started in the 1860s, the green was played on regularly right through both World Wars, and was then linked to the tennis club with the courts just behind the bowling green," he said.

"Due to a lack of support it folded, but around 1978, when I used to play at Buildwas Abbey bowling green, I stumbled upon the club in Much Wenlock.

"We started playing there but one of the councillors said we would have to get the club going if we wanted to carry on, otherwise they would remove the hedges and open it all up."

The club is situated behind the hedges seen here

About 10 years after reforming Much Wenlock Bowling Club, Don was made president.

At 90 years old, his aim is to now beat some of the youngsters when he reaches the age of 100.

"I enjoy the game, the competition, the social activities and meeting people – although these days I don't remember names, just recognise the faces," he said.

Prospective member Pete Rigby in action

"We get on with 99.9 per cent of people who play, there are always the few who don't like to be beaten of course.

"In my 80s I was playing the youngsters of 10, 12 and 14 years old, and still beating them.

"My aim was to do that when I was 90. Now it's to do that when I hit three figures."

Members of the club spent hours throughout lockdown ensuring the green would be fit for purpose upon the club's reopening. In shot is secretary Mervyn Jarman

Don added: "It's lovely to be able to get back on the green and see it all running.

"The lads have done a terrific job on the green and we'll soon have the pensioners starting the second half of the season in July."

Mervyn said the long-awaited reopening of the club went well, with changes put in place to make the venue Covid-secure for its dozens of members.

He said: "All of the members were very eager to get back on the green as soon as possible, but obviously they were patient and cautious with the ongoing situation.

Prospective member Pete Rigby alongside secretary Marvyn Jarman and president Don Davies

"Although we haven't played in a year, two members that look after the green have been tending to the hedges and they've done a great job.

"We've also got a hand sanitising station in place, and all the equipment is cleaned before and after use."

The club holds free tuition and refreshments every Thursday at 2pm for prospective members.

Equipment is provided and there is no need to book in advance.

For more information email muchwenlockbc@gmail.com

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