Bowling green closures a ‘blow’ to older generation

U3A groups have spoken about the impact the suspension of activities will have on its members, many of whom are older people, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Bowls is one of the most popular pastimes for the U3A groups in Congleton, as well as across the area, and the new season should have started within the last week but has been suspended until further notice by The British Crown Green Bowling Association.
Playing is not the only reason people enjoy going down for a few hours on the green - it is also to chat and socialise.
Berwyn Jones ran one of Congleton U3A's bowling groups at the town's Coronation Club, Worrall Street. He said: “There's not a lot you can do. We've got to think of the community and stop this virus.”
He said Congleton U3A had around 40 bowls players.
“It's a big blow to be honest,” he added. “On Fridays, of everyone playing none would be below the age of 60 and some are in their 70s and 80s. A lot of the bowls players live on their own and are widowed.”
He repeated the views of other clubs about the social aspect of playing bowls.
“I've turned up on Friday at the Coronation Club when it's really pelting down with rain and there are still eight to 10 loyal players who turn up. We just put the kettle on and have a cup of coffee. Due to the lockdown all we can do now is go for local walks.”
Colin Hooper is the chairman of Biddulph Bowling and Recreation Club and is also one of the town's U3A leaders.
He plays in the first team and many other bowling club members are in the U3A.
He said: “On Saturdays it's more of a get-together - we enjoy a chat and a bowl.
“With bowls, a lot of the members are older as they are in the U3A. Our get-togethers are important as they get people out of the house and get their minds working. With the U3A it's the social aspect as well as making stuff or playing games like bowls. Unfortunately that's all come to halt because of coronavirus.”
Mr Hooper, who has a heart condition and can't leave the house, added: “We are just keeping our fingers crossed that it will all be over soon. The NHS is doing such a good job.”
The chair of Biddulph U3A, Frederick Reed said: “We are facing unprecedented times. The health and well-being of our members is a priority. The U3A is important to our members not just for the many activities covered by our groups, but also for the important social interaction we provide.
“These are trying times and as a charity we will struggle to maintain our facilities and come out the other side, when this dreadful virus allows. Until then I am so proud of our members and we will continue to keep in touch with our membership offering friendship, advice and support.”
Alsager U3A hires the green at Alsager Institute Bowling Club four mornings a week when around 140 players turn out.
Greensman Tony Chesters said: “The cost of the U3A hiring the green is £2,000 which basically pays for the cost of the green and hut's upkeep as we have to pay Cheshire East Council £2,600.”
He said he was concerned about the impact of the green's closure on the players from the U3A.
“Their average age is between 60 and 80 and enjoying the bowling is their way of exercise. But it's not just the playing aspect. They enjoy a cup of tea in the hut and a chat with each other. They would still come down if it was raining and sit in the hut just for the conversation.”
Tony Cullen, who runs a U3A bowling team at Sandbach Park Bowling Club on Tuesday mornings, said: “We should have had our first game on Tuesday. Our group of bowlers are very outgoing people and I am sure while they are not playing bowls they are keeping in contact with each other.”
Tony Challinor, treasurer of Sandbach Park Bowling Club, said: “It's a blow to the older people because it's good for their exercise. I'm a member of the U3A and during the winter months we play in Sandbach Town Hall. That's stopped now and now the U3A bowlers are unable to play outside.”
He added: “The club plays a big role in the town. I cannot understate how important it is to the community of Sandbach. People not only play the game but like to come down to watch.”