Horncastle Indoor Bowls Club look ahead to thriving 25th anniversary year

That winning feeling: John Fieldhouse with Jim Green
That winning feeling: John Fieldhouse with Jim Green

It’s a biting, bitterly cold Thursday morning.

Reporter John Fieldhouse talks to directors and members of the Indoor Bowls Club

Reporter John Fieldhouse talks to directors and members of the Indoor Bowls Club

In fact it’s so cold, Torvill and Dean would struggle to stand up on Coronation Walk.

But, step through the doors at Horncastle Indoor Bowls Club and the welcome is anything but frosty.

The first thing that grabs your attention is the size of the place.

There’s a large bar and viewing area, a kitchen, a separate restaurant and function room, changing rooms and disabled toilets.

How to do it: Club stalwarts involved in a singles match

How to do it: Club stalwarts involved in a singles match

The main attraction is the actual ‘green’ or rink. It’s so big, Jose Mourinho and his entire Chelsea squad would easily be accommodated for a training session, egos and all.

I’ve entered the ‘inner sanctum’ as part of the club’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

There are two matches in progress. One is a singles’ clash between two of the club’s male players. The other is a ‘roll-up’ between half-a-dozen regulars who, literally, have just ‘rolled up’ for a game.

At it’s height, the club had between 450 and 480 members. It has produced a number of county players and even national champions like the formidable Olive Wells.

A quick glimpse at the trophy cabinet - and the honours’ board - highlights that impressive history which started on April 14, 1990.

Photographs of leading figures - including presidents - adorn the walls of the restaurant and function room.

Apparently, the idea of an indoor bowls club was hatched in 1986 when an inaugural meeting attracted more than 40 people.

Thanks to the efforts of stalwarts like Sid Cowling - and impressive fundraising efforts - work started in 1989.

Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength.

You don‘t have to be an expert to enjoy the game...and the club’s impressive facilities.

And, you don’t have to be collecting your pension either.

“Bowls is a game for anyone,” says Judith Moody, one of the club’s directors. “Everyone thinks it’s a old person’s game but nothing could be further from the truth.

“We had the county U18 squad here a couple of weekends ago.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are five - or 105 - give it a go.”

The club will be holding an open day on February 1 as part of those 25th anniversary celebrations.

Anyone can turn up and chance their arm. Judith adds: “You can be a complete beginner. You don’t need any equipment. We’ll supply everything.

“Hopefully, people who come along, enjoy it and then come back again.

“We could do with a few new members. A lot of people know the building is here but they’ve never been inside.

“They’re surprised when they come in. We’ve everything and on a day like this (it must be minus five outside) it’s nice and warm.”

Thanks to air conditioning, it’s also probably one of the coolest places to be in Horncastle on a baking hot summer’s day.

It’s not just about playing. The club has an active social set-up and regularly stages events including charity evenings.

The actual green, a luminous carpet that could substitute for a manicured lawn at Buckingham Palace, is divided into lanes.

One is hosting that singles match. It’s obviously a serious competition. The two players are dressed in regulation white playing uniform.

A few feet away, the ‘roll up’ crew are a lot less formal. They are every bit as competitive as they gather round to see whose bowls are closest to the jack.

It would be rude not to have a go. Judith supplies the bowls, club stalwart Jim Green the opposition.

Bowls might look easy, but take it from me, it’s anything but. The jack is rolled out first, a distant target perhaps 30-yards away.

The key, explains Jim, is the bias. Bowls are weighted. They don’t roll in a straight line. You can either bowl it to the right or left of the intended target (the jack) and hopefully watch the bias work its magic.

My first couple of attempts fall well short. Jim promptly rolls his first two bowls off the back of the green. “One too many Weetabix for breakfast,” he says.

I add a bit more ‘grunt’ to my third and it would probably have stopped down river in Kirkby on Bain, if it hadn’t been for Judith’s foot.

Gradually, I get used to the speed and the distance - and the bias. It’s a bit like putting at golf. Aim straight at the hole and you’ll miss by yards. Aim straight at the jack and it’s the same.

You need a good eye, a steady arm and excellent judgement. I’m no match for Jim who is soon peppering the jack.

So, it’s onto a grudge match. Reporter vs photographer, John Aron. There’s quite a crowd - made up of members including President Cynthia Wells.

We play two ‘ends’ - four bowls each. It’s an annihilation. Let’s just say Mr Aron is more talented behind the camera. Perhaps big-match nerves got to him.

It takes courage to set the bowl at least three or four yards ‘off course’. There’s definite satisfaction to be gained from watching it pleasure it curve back and come to rest within a few feet of the jack.

Modesty tempts me not to report the result. What the heck. It’s a 7-0 battering. Take that.

It’s over far too quickly, unless your name is Aron.

It was enjoyable and as I celebrate my success with a coffee, I can’t help but think in true Terminator style, I’ll be back.

n Horncastle Indoor Bowls Club is open every day and most evenings. There is a joining fee of £25 and yearly membership is £30 (£10 for U18s). The rink fee is £1.25 an hour.

Details from www.horncastlebowls.co.uk or 01507 522147.