Feature: Try your hand at bowls
BOWLS is one of the most popular recreational sports in Britain, yet many people have never tried their hand at the game. Hunts Post reporter DAVE WOODS headed down to the Royal Oak Bowls Club in Godmanchester to have a go at the sport. THE origins of bo
BOWLS is one of the most popular recreational sports in Britain, yet many people have never tried their hand at the game. Hunts Post reporter DAVE WOODS headed down to the Royal Oak Bowls Club in Godmanchester to have a go at the sport.
THE origins of bowls may go as far back as ancient Egypt, with artefacts found on tombs in around 5000BC believed to be an early version of the sport.
The game was played by the Duke of Suffolk in the early 1500s and Henry VIII is believed to have been a keen exponent of the game.
The oldest site in this country where the game is played is Southampton, where records show that it was played on the same site back in 1299.
Sir Francis Drake is said to have finished the game he was playing on Plymouth Hoe before defeating the Spanish Armada - and with that sort of history I decided to accept the invitation of Moya Ovens, the ladies captain of the Royal Oak to come along and have a go.
The Royal Oak club was formed way back in 1929 and played its first games on Sir William Prescott's lawn in West Street, Godmanchester, before moving to its current location in St Ann's Lane.
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On a beautiful sunny afternoon I rolled up to the club, not only to chance my arm but also to see how the sport was surviving in today's modern era.
On walking through the gate at the club I was immediately welcomed by Moya and John Sims who was giving instructions to some other newcomers.
John quickly armed me - and my equally-keen good lady - with a set of woods (bowls) and a jack and gave us some brief instructions.
John told us: "Everyone can enjoy the game - the most important thing is getting outside to enjoy the sunshine and company of others."
At this point I had to confess that I had played the game before - albeit my last competitive game was some 40 years ago.
I had started at the club in the Lincolnshire village where I grew up at the tender age of 10 and steadily progressed through the ranks until the calling of women and beer became too strong to ignore.
I stood on the mat about to deliver my comeback wood and remembered a piece of advice given to me by a crotchety old 80-year-old when I played my first league game at the age of 11: "Don't be short son, you get nowt for being halfway in this game."
With that thought in mind I delivered the wood. I certainly wasn't short - the wood blazed across the grass, almost singeing the well-manicured playing surface on its way.
Then, to my horror, it started to take some bias and headed in the direction of the back door of the Royal Oak. The locals enjoying their late lunchtime pint would have been in severe danger of having time called early but for the fact that the ditch at the end of the rink prevented my bowl from leaving the arena.
Within three ends, the old feel for the game was back and I laid a perfect wood two inches behind the jack only to see my wife knock it off the green into the ditch two deliveries later.
After an enjoyable 45 minutes I got a chance to talk to others that had come along for their first taste of the game.
Recently retired Mike Molyneaux, from Huntingdon, had never played the game before but had decided to come along and try out. He said: "It has been a nice experience and I'll certainly be back, the members are really friendly and I've enjoyed the game. Thankfully, John has the patience of a saint!"
Local residents John and Helen Kilford felt the need for some regular exercise during the summer months and wanted something they could do together. Helen said: "We've had a great time and can't wait to come back for the regular weekly sessions."
John and Moya would love to see more people coming along to their club which is one of the smallest in the Huntingdon area. Moya said: "We need a few more members and they don't have to be from the older groups only. It's as much a young person's sport as for those that are in or nearing retirement."
John added: "We have one men's team and one ladies team and play a number of mixed friendly matches."
INFORMATION: Open sessions take place at the Royal Oak on Wednesdays and Fridays from 2-4pm and on Tuesday evenings from 6.30pm. The club is situated to the rear of the Royal Oak pub. Contact Sue Worthington on 01480 411242 or Moya on 01480 451519.
For details of other bowls clubs in Huntingdonshire, contact county secretary Peter Hartwell on 01480 453336.