Bowls round-up: Bridgwater votes to welcome in the ladies
Bowls will surely never be the same again, now that the historic Bridgwater club in Durleigh Road, which has been an all-male bastion since it was formed 104 years ago, has decided to open its doors to the ladies.
“The old boys will be turning in their graves,” joked a club stalwart last week, after an extraordinary general meeting voted overwhelmingly – by 48 votes to 9 – to accept women into membership.
Membership at the Bridgwater club has been dropping steadily over the past few years, and a concerted effort to recruit new members at the start of the summer produced exactly one newcomer, and one new junior member.
Similar decisions have been taken in recent years at other hitherto all-male clubs in Somerset, like Clevedon, Bath and Victoria (Weston-super-Mare), and it is believed that the only genuinely all-male club left in the county is in Banwell.
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“We’ve made the decision, now we must make it work,” said club chairman Stuart Vinecombe, who believes an exciting new chapter in the club’s history is about to begin.
A Victorian pamphlet once described bowls as ‘a graceful game for girls’, but the biggest boost to bowls came in the first decade of the 20th century, when Gloucestershire and England cricketer Dr WG Grace founded the English Bowling Association.
The notion of the gentlemen’s club was all the rage in Edwardian England – and the Bridgwater club was formed when the sport was in its heyday – and it took many decades before women established that they had a place outside the kitchen.
Just think what may happen in Bridgwater! – When the prestigious Clevedon club did the same and threw tradition to the wind ten years ago, no-one anticipated that the club’s women bowlers, most of whom were novices, would blossom to the extent they have.
Eight Clevedon players recently appeared in the finals of the Somerset women’s championships this summer, and the club can boast several Johns Trophy players as well as two junior international players – and one who even plays for England at senior level.
As thoughts turn to the winter season, and bowlers started to move indoors, there was little joy for local supporters last week, when the English Indoor Bowling Association announced the names of the players who will appear in the international trialists this year.
Admittedly three Somerset girls – Stef Branfield, Laura Holden and Kirsty Hembrow – have been called up for the junior women’s trial at Rugby Thornfield on November 3, while Branfield gets her first chance to challenge for a place in England’s senior team.
Dorchester’s Annette Hallett has been invited to the senior trial at Melton Mowbray on November 10, but the men’s trial the following day will involve only one player from Wiltshire, Gloucestershire or Somerset – and even he, Westlecot’s Neil Smith, will have to sit on the reserve bench.
That means there is no reward for the Somerset men who have powered their way into the final of the Liberty Trophy for the past two years, but at least North Wilts youngster Wayne Snook and Dorchester’s Nick Voss have made it into the 35-strong junior men’s squad.
Somerset will enjoy some reflected glory in the selection of Louis Ridout for the men’s senior and junior trials, and of Amy Stanton, who will appear in the women’s senior and junior games – but Ridout is now playing out of Devon, and Stanton out of Worcestershire these days.
It is a particularly depressing statistic that not one of the 145 hopefuls called up to parade their skills in front of the England selectors is from Gloucestershire, whose players have been snubbed once again.
Winter in England is summer Down Under, of course, and there was a timely reminder this week that the world outdoor championships will be staged in Adelaide from November 24 to December 9.
An announcement from Bowls England revealed that Graham Shadwell, from the Spencer Moulton club in Wiltshire, will lead for Torquay’s Jamie Chestney in the pairs, and play second with Berkshire duo Mark Bantock and Rob Newman, and Cumbria’s Stuart Airey in the fours.
More than eight years have passed since the 25-year-old Chestney burst on the scene, so his selection to occupy the coveted singles berth comes as no surprise, and is just reward for the form he showed in the Atlantic championships in Paphos (Cyprus) last October.
Not only did the Norfolk-born Chestney win the Atlantic singles title, but he showed his skill as a skip as he steered Shadwell and Clevedon’s John Hick to the triples title.
And, it was in Paphos that his romance with golden girl Natalie Melmore, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist, blossomed, and he made up his mind to move from his native Norfolk to Torquay to be near his girlfriend.
Melmore has been handed the women’s singles berth, so, for the first time ever, England’s singles hopes in World Bowls will be carried by members of the same outdoor club – the famous Kings club in Torquay.
The women’s team in Adelaide will be under the control of Yeovil’s Edna Bessell, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer, but who is determined to fulfil her role as team manager.
Rumours that the King Edmund Acro-gymnastics club that was poised to move in to the Yate Leisure Centre and occupy the space that has housed indoor bowls for the past 25 years were no longer going to do so have proved to have no substance.
Last Friday, the gymnasts’ ‘Sports Shed’ website carried news that the ‘King Eddie’ is expected to take up residence by Christmas, with Chairman Mark Thorne saying, “Once the lease is signed it will be all systems go.”
Only a handful of bowlers from Yate have signed up at the Thornbury indoor bowls club, which was named as an alternative venue for them, so it seems as if the rest are going to miss out on bowls altogether this winter.
A match between Somerset and a team representing the British Civil Service at Taunton Deane has become the traditional way to start the indoor season, and is regarded as an important run-out for those who aspire to be part of Somerset’s Liberty Trophy campaign.
“The Civil Service always bring a strong team, and can be relied on to field several Welsh internationals, so the fixture is an excellent test for us,” said Somerset team manager Don Fowkes, who has named his team to face the pen-pushers.
“I have been delighted with the way we have performed over the past two winter seasons, reaching back-to-back finals,” Fowkes added.
“Naturally, losing heavily in both finals was extremely disappointing, but we are hoping that it might be third time lucky this year.”
National indoor inter-county championship (Liberty Trophy) – Somerset team for a Liberty Trophy trial against Civil Service at Taunton Deane (Sunday, October 14), Rink 1: R Billington (Taunton Deane), B Smith (Taunton Deane), M Denslow (Ilminster), N Kunc (Victoria Street). Rink 2: M Woods (Clevedon), M Hamilton (Ilminster), T Salter (Victoria Street), R Francis (Clarrie Dunbar). Rink 3: C Doughty, K Bailey, T Perkins, A Colebrooke (all Clarrie Dunbar). Rink 4: A Poolman (Bristol), P Birmingham (Bristol, N Pearce (Clevedon), C Keating (Bristol). Rink 5: S Barnard (Taunton), S Hooper (Watchet), S Wiltshire (Bristol), G Shadwell (Clarrie Dunbar). Rink 6: R Williams (Victoria Street), J Amery (Taunton), P Bryant (Bristol), J Hick (Clevedon).
Reserves: A Rendell (Watchet, J Groves (Watchet), J Sparkes (Bristol), S Steel (Watchet). The next (internal) Liberty Trophy trial will be staged at Taunton Deane on Saturday, October 27.
World Bowls Tour World Indoor Singles Championship (January 11-27) – England play-offs (winners will play at Potters Leisure Resort) at Bournemouth, Quarter-finals: R Gadd (Victory) bt L Prince (Adur) 4-3, 2-8, 2-0; G Fountain (Dolphin) bt W Jackson (Palmerston) 4-7, 13-0, 2-0; B Hawkins (Clarrie Dunbar) bt D Attwood (Taunton) 5-6,7-2, 2-0; S Edwards (Preston) bt R Moses (Preston) 6-1, 9-1.
Semi- finals: Fountain bt Gadd 2-7, 8-3, 2-0; Edwards bt Hawkins 11-6, 9-1.
Final: Edwards bt Fountain 6-1, 6-6.
At Bromley, Quarter finals: P Briscoe (Paddington) bt P Last (Ipswich) 8-2, 2-7, 2-0; S Cook (Beccles) bt M Cheeseman (Bromley) 7-6, 1-9, 2-0; L Rowland (Sudbury) bt J Lopes (Wey Valley) 8-2, 10-0; P Coleman (Wey Valley) bt C Gathercole (City of Ely) 8-3, 6-6.
Semi-finals: Briscoe bt Cook 8-5, 7-4; Coleman bt Rowland 8-4, 2-9, 2-0.
Final: Briscoe bt Coleman 8-2, 7-3.
World Bowls Tour World Indoor Pairs Championship – England playoffs (winners will go to a final play-off) – at Bournemouth, Semi-finals: G Fountain & D Denison bt L Harwood & B Paulley 8-3, 7-3; S Edwards & L Prince bt A Stanton & A Walters 5-7, 8-0, 2-1.
Final: Edwards & Prince bt Fountain & Denison 7-3, 6-7, 2-1.
At Bromley, semi-finals: A White & C Wilkins bt M Jacobs & J Lopes 7-3, 6-4; M Hyde & D Stavrou bt L Blackman & L Rowland 8-3, 2-7, 2-1.
Final: Hyde & Stavrou bt White & Wilkins 8-6, 6-5.
English Indoor Bowls Association international trials – Women’s under 25 trial at Rugby Thornfield – November 3: L Bass (Melton); A Bellamy (Spalding); S Branfield (Clevedon); R Carter (County Arts); L Catchpole (Beccles); K Clarke (Beccles); L Clarke (York); J Clinch (Swale); L Copeland (Hartlepool); P Dennis (Swale); Z Eagles (York); R Field (Norfolk); S Gordon (Desborough, M); K Hembrow (Taunton Deane); L Holden (Clevedon); L Kuhler (Adur); C Lenton (Torquay Utd); C Leuty (Spalding); K Rednall (Ipswich); K Richards (Birmingham); A Stanton (Malvern Hills); S Tolchard (Torquay Utd); C Tomlin (Boston); R Wigfield (Desborough, N);
Reserves: S Makepeace (Egham); H Stevens (Torquay Utd).
Women’s senior trial at Melton Mowbray – November 10: S Allen (Ryedale); C Baker (Diss); J Baker (South Forest); A Banes (Swale); M Barlow (Riverain); A Bellamy (Spalding); B Bellamy (Torquay Utd); P Bourne (Croydon); S Branfield (Clevedon); T Broderick (Wellingborough); L Copeland (Hartlepool); P Cresswell (Dolphin); P Cutts (Nottingham); T Darnell-Langton (Desborough, M); Z Eagles (York); E Falkner (City of Ely); R Field (Norfolk); C Galletly (Oxford & District); S Gordon (Desborough); J Gower (Cumbria); A Hallett (Dorchester); K Hampton (Egham); K Hawes (Oxford & Dist); S Hazell (Swale); K Jones (Desborough, M); W King (Swale); D Knight (Oxford & Dist); J Leake (Bournemouth); B Lewis (Barwell); S Mart (Nottingham); S McClintock (Royal T Wells); C Popple (City of Ely); S Seymour (City of Ely); R Simpson (Spalding); A Stanton (Malvern Hills); D Stavrou (Desborough, M); P Strong (Lincoln); S Tolchard (Torquay Utd); L Tunn (Colchester); L Woodley (Desborough).
Reserves: L Howard (Dolphin); S Williams (Dolphin).
Men’s senior trial at Melton Mowbray – November 11: B Arkley (Stanley); P Barlow (Cumbria); D Bolt (Stanley); I Bond (Exonia); N Brett (City of Ely); J Chestney (Torquay Utd); P Coleman (Wey Valley); M Dawes (Blackpool NH); S Farish (Cumbria); A Foulds (Blackpool NH); G Harlow (City of Ely); P Hartley (Hartlepool); C Height (Wellingborough); D Hubbard (Adur); B Jackson (Lincoln); M King (Gallow); A Kirtland (Darlington); A Knapper (Desborough); P Martin (Swale); N McKee (Kingsthorpe); S Mitchinson (Tye Green); C Moore (Barwell); B Morley (Nottingham); V O‘Neill (Hartlepool); M Orrey (Grantham); J Parkinson (Cumbria); R Paxton (Exonia); J Rednall (Ipswich); L Ridout (Torquay Utd); J Rippey (Falcon); P Simpson (Spalding); G Skipp (Hartlepool); G R Smith (Stanley); G Smith (Spalding); M Spencer (Spalding); B Suggitt (Thornaby); A E Thomson (Cyphers); S Tolchard (Torquay Utd); J Walker (Wellingboro); M Whyers (Spalding).
Reserves: N Smith (Westlecot); M Puckett (Moonfleet).
Men’s under 25 trial at Northampton – 25 November: B J Byles (Desborough); I Catchpole (Beccles); A Clipston (Alfreton); R Elmore (City of Ely); D Forster (Copeland); J Grant (Croydon); B Harber (Beccles); K Harrison (Cumbria); C Height (Wellingborough); M Hughes (Featherstone); S King (Gallow); C Leuty (Spalding); A Liddell (York); P Martin (Swale); T Meller (Isle of Wight); D Morris (Wey Valley); M Orrey (Grantham); M Pownall (Desborough, N); M Puckett (Moonfleet); L Ridout (Torquay Utd); W Snook (North Wilts); B Suggitt (Thornaby); D Targar (Parks); S Tolchard (Torquay Utd); N Voss (Dorchester); J Walker (Wellingborough); A Walton (St Neots); J West (Boston); R Whitlock (Torquay Utd); M Whyers (Spalding); J Willgress (Norfolk); W Willgress (Norfolk); C Yeomans (The Parks).
Reserves: J Melmore (Torquay Utd); E Last (Ipswich).