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Talking all things bowling with Pippbrook Bowls Club

20 April 2021

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Nearby our Taylor Place community in Dorking is Pippbrook Bowls Club, and as sports are slowly allowed to get back up and running we caught up with David Pettman from the Club to find out more about its history, their plans and how you can get involved.

Hi David, can you tell us about yourself, your role and how you joined Pippbrook Bowls Club?

I have played various sports over the years – including squash, badminton, tennis and golf, albeit I must admit not particularly good at any of them.  But when I retired and found myself walking into Dorking past the bowling club I would stop and watch, and it did not take me long to ask if I could try the game.  It is brilliant as the essentials can be picked up quite quickly, so that you can enjoy yourself from the outset, but you can then spend many years developing as a player and improving.  It is interesting that bowls is seen as an older person’s sport in the UK when as with other sports it can be played and enjoyed by people of any age.  It is key that bowls is a very social sport, of course it is competitive, but bowls players are by nature friendly and supportive and many bowlers who have become too old to play themselves stay on as social members so that they are still involved in the bowls community.

Can you tell us about the history of the Bowls club?

The Club was formed in 1937 at the suggestion of the Council and has ever since played on the public Bowling Green at Pippbrook.  When it was first formed the players paid for every session and the money went to the Council towards their costs.  Gradually however that relationship has changed and now the Bowls Club has a lease from the Council and are responsible for the maintenance of the green and of our clubhouse. 

The membership of the Club has varied over the years briefly reaching 100 members when bowls was at its peak but for the last twenty years or so it has averaged around 35 playing members plus social members. It is a small club, but its members have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming. Like many sports clubs, bowls clubs have found it challenging to maintain their membership in recent years, and Pippbrook has benefited to the extent that when two local clubs, at Westcott and at Capel closed many of their members chose to come to Pippbrook.

What is an average day at the club like for you?

Bowls clubs, like other sports clubs, depend on their members.  Many of our members play an active part in running the club, using their knowledge and experience.  I was Men’s Secretary followed by Club Secretary for some years and I am currently the club coach and Chairman.  I’m not quite sure what an average day would look like – but pre pandemic, over the season, from April to September I may play several times a week. Before the pandemic, on Monday’s the Club played in a Men’s league for local clubs which we won a few years back, but we don’t usually manage that! On Tuesday’s we had a “green maintenance” working party in the morning, followed by a roll-up session in the evening which is basically a relaxed time when the teams get drawn and there are small prizes.  On Friday’s at midday we hosted members of staff from the Council who have a session over their lunchtime. Also, I lead the local u3a summer bowls group which plays on Friday afternoons. With those sessions we charge fees to play on the green, except for Club members who can play for free.  Some weeks there were mid-week games on Wednesday or Thursday with matches also played on Saturdays and Sundays.  The green would normally get its second mowing of the week on Friday or Saturday.  We also have Club competitions and those members who want to are able to play in the Surrey County competitions.

How do you and Pippbrook Bowls Club engage with the community of Dorking?

I have mentioned that this is a public bowling green and we welcome people coming along, as I did, to try the game, or bowling like the Mole Valley council staff on a regular basis. The u3a in Dorking is an excellent organisation with many interests catered for and we are pleased to welcome their members every Friday.  Over the years a number of the u3a members have decided that they enjoy the game so much they will join the Club, and that includes our former Chairman David Watney, and his wife Ann who was our Club Secretary for some years. We normally host at least one Open Day early in the season when sometimes we can get quite a few visitors.  We have also hosted sports and social groups from local firms if they want to play bowls. As a club we play in three local leagues.  As well as the Men’s league I mentioned on Monday evenings we play in two mixed leagues during the week and at weekends, and we also play a number of friendly games against local clubs.

Who benefits from the Bowls club and how?

Bowls is not a contact sport, but it requires you to be able to safely control the bowls which are fairly heavy and it can be quite tiring. Gentle exercise like this is beneficial for all of us as we get older, and the social side of bowls is also important.  The maintenance of the public bowling green free of charge to the council is beneficial to any residents of Dorking who wish to play, and of course to the members of the Club itself.  Bowling is not an expensive sport we keep our green fees to non-members and our subs to members as low as we can, by doing so much of the necessary work ourselves. Currently the cost of full membership is £85 per year with just £10 p.a. for Social membership.

What plans do you have now restrictions are lifting to get back to the sport?

Our 2021 season is due to commence on 24th April, when we will be able to benefit from the easing of travel restrictions and to open our toilet facilities although not the clubhouse as a whole. The numbers allowed to bowl on the green at any one time will be restricted initially with relaxation gradually being brought in as the season progresses. We are delighted that we shall be allowed to start playing again, we cannot wait!

How can locals get involved with the club?

At Pippbrook, as at most bowling clubs, it is normal practice for us to hold Open Days early in the season so that we can host people who are interested in trying our sport. In 2021 the plan had been nationally that these events would be publicised over the long weekend of 28th to 31st May.  When dates are finally decided we shall publish them on our website.

If any Taylor Place homeowners or anyone local would be interested in bowling at Pippbrook then, as the club coach, I would be very pleased to hear from them, to answer any questions they may have and to arrange some sessions on the green at a time convenient to them if they would like once the season gets underway.

To find out more about Pippbrook Bowls Club you can visit the website: https://www.pippbrookbowls.co.uk/

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Taylor Place is a stylish collection of 22 one and two bedroom apartments ideally located on London Road in the centre of the bustling town of Dorking with plenty of amenities on your doorstep. To find out more about the homes available then please call 01306 230 010 or e mail [email protected].