‘Bowls is challenging... and very sociable’
Heather Willerton and Alan Wickham of Wells Bowls Club are in the spotlight this month
Tell us a bit about your background in bowls.
Alan: I have always been involved with a sport and, when I retired at the early age of 55, I needed a new sport to play to replace tennis – which I had played on a regular basis for 32 years but my body was not up to any more. Bowls has filled the gap very well as it is challenging, competitive, tactically challenging and very sociable.
At present I am the current men’s captain at Wells Bowls Club, having held the post for the past season and the current one. Last season I led the men’s team to winning the Somerset county league we were playing in, promoting us to premier two.
Give us some insight into the City of Wells Bowls Club.
Heather: The club was founded in 1914, though in those days it was a male-only club. In these modern times we are of course a totally mixed club. We had a very successful centenary year in 2014, playing many special games. We even played the royal household at Windsor.
The men play in two leagues, one on a Wednesday evening and the other on a Saturday afternoon. The ladies play in a local league on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Both men and ladies have friendly games as well. We also have a very busy schedule for mixed games. As we are situated in a lovely setting we attract many touring teams from various parts of the country. This season we even have a team from Florida visiting us. These games are always good fun.
How difficult is bowls to take up as a sport?
Alan: The game of bowls is not at all difficult to learn – though to perfect it will take a little longer. When you first start all you need is a pair of flat shoes. You then have a few basic sessions with our club coaches. Currently we have four coaches, but we also have several players of a very high standard that will help any new bowlers.
How physically fit do you have to be?
Heather: Bowls is a game for all ages and abilities. You have visually impaired, disabled, people suffering from dementia and people with degenerative problems. Bowls England, our governing body, supports all of this.
Bowls has a reputation of being played mostly by the older generation. Is that fair?
Alan: I agree there is a stigma of bowls being an old folks game. But Somerset has a thriving junior squad ranging in ages from 10-31. From club level you can work through to county level and even end up representing England, as some of our Somerset juniors already do.
As a club we would welcome with open arms any younger people that would like to try the sport.
Is there an active social scene surrounding the club?
Heather: We have an excellent social side to the club. Social members can join for £5. This enables them to use our facilities but not bowl, so if one half of the partnership wishes to bowl the other half is not excluded and can still join us off the green.
Monday nights are what we call club night, where we welcome new bowlers and also our current members. There is an inter-club triples league normally being played, but there are always spare rinks for others to use. After all this activity, we offer hot dogs and of course the bar is open.
In the closed season of winter we hold various events. There is a coffee morning each month, maybe a full English breakfast one month or a Sunday lunch or an Italian lunch. We also have quiz nights, and are always looking for different things to do as it keeps everyone in contact.
Every other year we go on a bowls tour, which are always popular and good fun. So far we have visited the Isle of Wight twice and Tenby once. This year we are going to Newquay.
If people want to come along and have a go, when and where is training?
Alan: Introductory evenings are normally Mondays at 6pm, but any time can be arranged for any newcomers. Anybody is welcome to phone and arrange visiting us to suit themselves. The number to phone is Dave and Trudy Bishop on 01749 678988.