Allen Valley Bowls Club

Penny Little emails me a few notes to help with today’s diary entry, which I will try to supplement with what I know of the past two decades, anyway.

The Allen Valley Bowls Club was formed in 1953, on its current site. Ray Archer built the single-brick-walled building, and the green was carefully developed. Originally the little pavilion was open on one side, with toilets on the other. The actual toilet drainage is out to a soak-away in what is now referred to as the Nature Reserve, a small triangle behind the pavilion. There is no electricity supply to the building, but tea can be made on a little gas burner, and there’s been mains water ever since it was created.

Within recent memory, there have been a couple of semi-dramatic leaks on that water supply: once when boys eager to create BMX-type ramps dug out a slope in the park and burst the pipe; secondly when a leak materialised under the new path paving just in from the roadside meter. both leaks were rectified simply; the burst pipe was easily repaired with a connector and re-buried, while the leak under the paving was eliminated by the simple expedient of connecting to the village hall’s water supply and circumventing the original Bowls Club meter entirely. This process had the happy effect of eliminating water/drainage rates from the worries of the Club, as they were taken in under the village hall’s expense sheet.

Although the AVBC has had a history of being quite independent of the original Recreation Ground charity, the site has increasingly come under the responsibility of the combined Allendale Village Hall & Recreation Ground charity. Insurance for the building is now paid for by AVH&RG while the Club continues to pay its own athletics insurance for its members. Although the Club was successful, independently, in securing grant money for a new mowing machine to keep the green pristine, and its members contributed to the renovation of the roof as well, I remember when the Club was in some despair over how it could continue, as the building looked like collapsing, vermin over-ran the green and the whole park just looked like an unloved derelict blight — who would want to try to enjoy a relaxing game of bowls in such surroundings? Thereafter, much of the renovation over the past decades of the wooden surrounds, the benches, and the pavilion itself (uPVC windows throughout) has been financed by grants secured by the AVH&RG charity. Also, the final creation of the last wooden perimeter and the installation of new Rhino vinyl flooring, were the result of a donation in memory of Dan B. Leeming to the AVH&RG charity, which seemed appropriate as Dan had been a keen bowler.

The renovation of the derelict park over the years, financed by the AVH&RG charity’s grantsmanship (mostly the EU’s LEADER-based funding), has helped, also, to contribute to a sense of completion of the facility, as George Little supervised the dramatic reconstruction of the original stone steps. The pathways, specifically incorporating a wheel-chair access path from the roadside, were laid in fresh tarmac before the colonnade of birch trees was planted. Much of the tree planting in the park was paid for by an environmental grant secured by Fawside. Nowadays, the bowling green is situated in a very lovely, pleasant space, a kind of discrete outdoor room (particular thanks to Ingrid Gifford for the overall garden design) dedicated to the pursuit of the sport. Indeed, Allendale Parish Council has long recognised the intrinsic value of the Bowling Green as an amenity, and pays an annual stipend for its maintenance.

So the park and the Bowling Green and Pavilion have developed, hand-in-hand over the years, in the face of sometimes daunting membership rolls and inclement weather. There are still a ‘happy few’ members (actually currently at 18!) who welcome all new potential participants, especially on Tuesday evenings for practices, from 6pm in the season, which is now, of course. Friendly matches are held on Saturday afternoons, and league play (West Tyne) is on Thursday evenings. Tea is served on the match days after the bowling is finished.

The Allen Valley Bowls Club is a friendly club, says Penny, and people play both for the social and the physical aspect of being outside in the fresh air, with a bit of exercise, tactical consideration and mental stimulation thrown in too. Participants range in age from 27 through the late 80s, and some have been playing for years and years, though Penny notes that Steve only joined this year and having been thrown in at the deep end, has risen to the challenge — he’s already become part of the team. Perhaps because the drainage on the green was never properly instituted (though George and John Little did do wonders a few years ago with aeration techniques), the surface is a little ‘heavier’ than most, but the bowls do travel on the immaculately maintained grass, and the game is all about delivery and tactics — you don’t need to be mighty strong to ‘get them up.’ “We’d love people to come and join us and will provide bowls and coaching. Give it a go for free and see if you get hooked like we did,” concludes Penny, and it sounds such a wholesome and friendly invitation. You could go along tomorrow, being Tuesday, for 6pm, and see what it’s like!

Mutual cooperation between groups using the village hall and park facilities has been a watchword for decades, as shared community endeavours help to enhance all our lives.

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