Bowls, traditional sport which continues on The Grove

Bowls Club

There is a lively programme of bowls competitions each summer on the green at The Grove, the home turf of Teddington Bowling Club since before World War 2.

Club activities include about a dozen matches every summer against other clubs, and about six one-day competitions for club members. There are also knock-out matches leading to a Finals Weekend, a team competition on Fridays and a so-called “roll-up” starting at 2pm almost every Wednesday afternoon in the season, which runs from late April to the end of September.

Richmond Council owns and maintains the green, and under its lease, the Club can never occupy all six rinks on the green. This is just in case members of the public turn up wanting a game of bowls. They are entitled, on payment of a fee which varies according to age and time playing, to occupy the remaining rink.

However, this almost never happens. Bowls requires quite a lot of equipment – bowls, a jack, mats, rink markers, a measure to show which bowl is nearest the jack – things not found in the average garage.

Someone interested in playing bowls might do better to turn up for a Wednesday roll-up (practice session), where existing members will explain the intricacies of the game and provide bowls for practice.

Club members also have to pay for use of the green – after all, a Council contractor spends dozens of hours each summer mowing the grass and generally ensuring it is playable. Members can pay by the hour, but most buy a “season ticket” costing just under the £100 mark for those over 60, and just over £180 for younger adults.

One feature of the early season is the “Mayor’s Match”. This is played by members of the three bowls clubs in the Borough which have Council-owned greens – Teddington, Hampton and Strawberry Hill. One club acts as host and has to provide a team of nine players who play for the Mayor’s Team. It and the other two clubs each provide three people who form a team to play against the Mayor, who presents a cup to the winners.

In 2023, another early season highlight was the Friends of Grove Gardens open day, for which the Club ran a “Come and Try Bowls” afternoon. Lots of local people took the opportunity offered, and the event resulted in a welcome increase in Club membership as several signed up. Another such event is planned for 2024, which should be another valuable chance to meet more potential members.

If the Mayor’s match is usually the first of the season, the highlight as summer turns to early autumn is the annual Finals’ Day/weekend where those who have made it through earlier rounds compete to become champions in five competitions. Finals are usually on the first weekend in September.

Come October, some members who cannot bear the thought of a whole winter without picking up a bowl take themselves off to one of the area’s indoor bowls club to play what is really a subtly different game on a carpet. But as the days lengthen in spring, their thoughts turn to the first outdoor roll-up, traditionally the best attended of the season.

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