Bowled over

In her final Echo sports column, Bobbie Makoni lays down the lawn

Walthamstow Borough Bowls Club

Walthamstow Borough Bowls Club is based in Lloyd Park

On the spectrum of controversial sports, you’d think lawn bowls would be fairly far down the list.

Often played on perfectly manicured grass, opponents take turns rolling their bowls towards the jack at the centre of the rink. However, the sport, which can be traced back to the 13th Century, was once banned by the king and parliament, as both feared it might jeopardise the practice of archery, which was so important in battle.

Because of the modernisation of warfare, people across the country are now free to enjoy the historic sport. And enjoy they do at Walthamstow Borough Bowls Club, which boasts an impressive history of its own.

Founded in 1912, after calling a number of places home, the club now operates out of Lloyd Park. It is here that I sat down with Bob Belam, a former councillor, who is now the club secretary and treasurer.

While Bob explains much of the charm of bowls is in the “opportunity to keep playing competitive sport as you grow older” he is keen to recruit some younger players. Yet those who have been playing for decades are not about to give up. After suffering shoulder problems with his dominant arm, one Walthamstow member has learned to bowl successfully with the other.

The club also takes an active role in community inclusivity and as well as hosting a weekly session for people with disabilities, they also accommodate visually-impaired players. While there are some perks with being lottery-funded and council-run, the club must deal with the restrictions that come with a shared space.

Walthamstow still manage competitive showings in four competitions, including recent wins in the mixed triples and the ‘Thursday Fours’ which saw them promoted into a higher division.

As well as competitions, the club also holds ‘roll ups’ which see players randomly assigned matches when they show up to play. Annual membership is £40 a year, or just £3 a session, while new members are welcome for free on Monday mornings.

On a personal note, this will be my final sports column with the Echo. I’ve lived in this borough for more than ten years, but the last eleven months have been full of revelations! I have discovered local sporting gems and been inspired by the most enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers. Thank you to all who welcomed me through their doors and with more time on my hands, I hope to revisit many of the clubs as a participant rather than a journalist. I encourage young and old across the borough to do so as well.

Editor’s note: Thanks for your great sports columns over the last year Bobbie, they’ve been terrific! Best of luck in your career, everyone at the Echo wishes you well.