This week I headed out in the rain to Cropredy Short Mat Bowls Club at Cropredy Village Hall. The weather had improved by the time I got there, and it was certainly sunny inside where 16 members were either playing bowls, cheekily commenting on other players abilities, or chatting to each other around the room. The atmosphere was buzzing and welcoming.
The Connected Communities Fund has helped make the group sustainable by covering an increase in venue costs, funding an open day for people to try short mat bowls to boost membership, and helping to contribute to hall costs, providing new bowls, a score board (replacing a very old hand-made heirloom!) and other equipment.
The recent publicity drive has seen the group grow from 19 to 26 with another two people keen to join.
The club has been going over 25 years continuously and although most people come from Cropredy the word is getting out and people are joining from surrounding villages. One recent recruit is from Mollington, a village nearby and joined because he attended the open-day. He didn’t know anyone before joining but said, “It’s nice to do something totally different where you can relax, it’s a very friendly group and no one takes it seriously – it’s about fun.” But he also noted that it’s a very important opportunity to socialise for those who live on their own.
The group is aged 50-90. Their oldest member has been coming 17 years and bowls every week. He said, “We welcome everyone with open arms, to come along and have a go” and also noted that he doesn’t bowl any different than he “did the first time”! And that’s the point, it’s not about how good you are but about the camaraderie and enjoying time together.
As well as bowls, the group have a Christmas lunch and a ‘food safari’, host a snail race (using homemade snails not real ones!), have days out, and organise fundraisers. This year they supported Young Dementia as one of the members benefits from the charity’s support.
The newest member who signed up when I was there summed it up nicely,
“It’s a great group with light-hearted banter – it’s a bit of fun and puts a smile on your face.”
I certainly felt the warmth and good humour of the group and, even though my bowling left much to be desired, I definitely left with a smile!
Community Development Worker, Community First Oxfordshire
The Connected Communities Fund, is being delivered in partnership by OCVA and Community First Oxfordshire and has been made available by Oxfordshire County Council