At the Calne Bowls Club meetings in August 2018 and early September 2018 it was suggested that a short mat bowls club might be formed. Martin Grugeon, the Buildings Manager at C.B.C. began, on his own initiative, to search for secondhand equipment as it was realised that to set up a club with new mats etc would need in the region of £4,000. He found a mat in Bedford for £125 which came with fenders and delivery mats. Pip and Stuart Beard then drove to Bedford, paid for it and brought it back.
It arrived at C.B.C. H.Q. on a Club night (Tuesday) and, as it was rolled out on the carpark, it brought some very excited people off the green. Another mat was then purchased from Cornwall, Pip and Stuart doing the payment and collection duties again. We now had 1 mat stored at the Club and another in Stuart and Pip’s shed.
The search for a venue then began in earnest. Martin came to the fore again and, after many false attempts and an assortment of unsuitable halls inspected, Kevin Whitehorn, Head of Leisure at Beversbrook Sports Facility said we could have sessions on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday, providing that the mats/equipment could be put on wheels. After much head scratching, and searching online, Martin found a 3- mat trolley at the Bournemouth Electric Bowling Club, for £90. Stuart and Andy Collier hired a van and collected it, picking up the 2 mats from their temporary homes too, en route to Beversbrook, where the mats were installed on the carrier.
After buying straps, Martin making centre blocks and another set of fenders, and being given some yellow jacks, we were up and running, for a total of £579.45. At that moment in time Christie Miller Indoor Bowls Centre in Melksham closed and their surplus funds were handed back to their member clubs, enabling Stuart to be repaid for his initial outlay.
On 10th October 2018 an inaugural meeting was held at the Calne Bowls Club Pavilion,attended by 18 people, with 8 apologies. It was agreed to have the first playing session on Wednesday 17th October and 26 people turned up at Beversbrook to support the new venture. It was an interesting afternoon as we only had room for 16 people to play, but it was great fun as a lot of the attendees had not played short mat before. The following week only 11 players turned up but by the end of October we had 8 fully signed up members (all Calne Bowls Club players) and playing numbers were growing.
At the end of November full member numbers had risen to 20 and by the time the Christmas session was held it was 26, fortunately not all of us turning up to play at the same time. At the end of the year we realised we had a success on our hands and, with Kevin’s support, applied for a Sports England grant enabling us to buy 3 brand new mats as well as 10 weeks hall rent, publicity costs and coaching lessons.
We arranged for an AGM to be held at the Lansdowne Arms in Calne on the 9h February 2019 with 17 attendees to formalise the Club and decide the way forward. A constitution was approved and an agreement was reached that we would join the WSMBA (as well as the ESMBA).
We joined the WSMBA on 14th March 2019 and since then have held 4 Monday afternoon public tester sessions. As a result of this our membership now stands at 34. The Sports England grant was approved and the grant paid to us on 22nd March 2019, so the order for 3 new mats was placed.
This is an ongoing story as, up to now, we have been mostly Calne Bowls Club Members. However, we now have 8 general public members, with the possibility of another 3 or 4 joining before the end of the month, so we have taken the decision to run the club through the summer on a Monday and a Wednesday, thanks mainly to John and Ann Harris, who will be in charge.
The summer of 2019 was a good one for the Club, attracting members new to the game (membership is now up to 44) and for the first time in September all 3 mats were in use.
The first friendly was played on the 16th September 2019 against Urchfont, with calne winning 22-16 (3-1).
The first Thursday evening session took place on Halloween night, 31st October 2019 at 6-30. It was well attended and the evenings continued until in December it was attracting 16 members. In the meantime the first AGM took place on the 23rd November 2019 at the C.B.C club house and was attended by 29 members, there is to be an annual lunch on the 2nd Feb 2020. We are also looking to enter a league in the summer and 2 of our 54 members have become the first bowlers from CSMBC to register with ESMBA, namely Ann C and Yvonne M.
In addition to this the return Friendly game against Urchfont took place on the Tuesday 26th November 2019, unfortunately CSMBC lost having a problem getting used to the shorter mats.
The Christmas session on the 23rd December was well attended this the usual festive fare and dressing up.
2020 started with a record attendance on the 13th Jan 2020 of 33 members, however everyone managed at least 1 hour of bowling, however we decided then that as our membership had reached 50 that we should stop taking on new members and started a waiting list of wannabe short matters.
Our first ever Annual Luncheon took place on the 2nd Feb 2020 at the North Wilts Golf Club, it was well attended with 49 members and partners, with the guest of honour being Kevin Whitehorn, who had done so much to help us on our way.
unfortunately unknown to us Covid was coming over the horizon and on the 20th March 2020 the club ceased to operate when the first lockdown rules came into place. There was a slow easing of the rules through June and July and eventually having obtained out ESMBA Safe Bowls Status we recommenced bowling on 25th September 2020, although with restricted numbers, unfortunately on the 5th November 2020 the second lockdown came into operation and bowling ceased again.It was proving to be very frustrating, as we had to cancel our AGM and relied on Email to get the reports to the members, however the support of the membership was fantastic, at that time we had 50+ members and that enabled the club to survive. This interruption lasted 4 weeks and we were back to bowling in time for Christmas fun and on the 24th December 2020.
In view of the uncertainty regarding Covid, it was decided not to have an Annual Luncheon in February 2021. However we had a friendly against Devizes on the 22nd March 2021 and our ESMBA registered players began to play in WSMBA Competitions and on Saturday 13th November 2021 Sheila and Martha were runners up in the pairs, the first success for the club. This was followed by our first ever hot shot award on 17th November 2021 to Phil Milham, Beccy Kirk and John Harris. Our membership was still healthy with 43. Our AGM was on the 4th December 2021 at the Calne Bowls Club Pavilion with 15 attendees and it was decided not to book an Annual Luncheon again as Covid was still lurking, the annual awards were presented at sessions instead. Then in March 2022 another hot shot award was awarded to Christine Edwards, Ann Harris, Norman Lawton and Beccy Kirk- her second.
On the 9th June 2022 we had our first ever open evening, that was well attended. It was then decided to enter the WSMBA winter league for 2022/23, we won our first game against Marshfield, but it was a steep learning curve and we ended up the strongest team in the league – that is at the bottom, but members enjoyed the experience of playing stronger players and at different venues.
About this time we had 3 players chosen for the Wiltshire County Squad namely Phil Milham, Les Fish and Terry Brewer, another first for the club.
The AGM took place at the Calne Bowls club Pavilion with 17 members present, at that time we had 40 members, this was the year when we made our first donation to a local Charity,
Christmas 2022 came and with that on our last session, we had the normal festive fun and this time we were challenged by a team from Beversbrook, it was very enjoyable and as always the Mat won.
The Annual Luncheon took place on the 19th February 2023 at the North Wilts Golf Club, with 32 taking part, unfortunately our Secretary, Stuart Beard was unable to attend due to recuperating from having a Heart problem on New Years Day, however everyone rallied round and as always it was a great success. 2023 was a good year with the membership steadily growing and reaching 50+ at one time. On the 23rd October 2023 we celebrated 5 years of bowling at Beversbrook, we had a session that ran from 2pm to 3-30pm when the mats were cleared away and tables and chairs were set out. The food was supplied by the Secretary’s wife Pip and past and present members, as well as people who had helped the club in its early days thoroughly enjoyed themselves, Stuart Beard explained how the club had been formed and gave a brief idea of how we had developed over the 5 years, Barry Wicks, who attended as a founder member (Chairman Calne Bowls Club) responded thanking Stuart for his insight in starting the club.
The story is not yet over there will be more to come, it will be continued………………..Stuart Beard November 2023