Report for week ending 22/03/20(March 22, 2020)
“Independence Day comes early for Marine Gardens”
Never mind the 4th of July, Marine Gardens Bowling Club (MGBC) will celebrate their Independence Day annually on 4th March. For on that date Worthing Borough Council (WBC) approved the club’s plan to take over complete responsibility for maintenance of the green.
With the honourable exception of the private Worthing Pavilion, the remaining clubs in town have; since their various inceptions, played on greens maintained by council staff. It must be acknowledged they have generally produced very good quality greens enjoyed by generations of bowlers ever since 1907; when Worthing BC was founded. Beach House Park was home to the national championships for many years; twice to the world finals.
However, dwindling council budgets and falling staff numbers have inevitably restricted the time spent on green maintenance, which in turn risks diminished green quality. Currently Worthing and Adur councils have just five greenkeepers to maintain the greens at Southwick, Southwick Park, Shoreham, & Lancing; all in Adur. Plus, Beach House Park (4 greens), Tarring Priory, Field Place and Marine Gardens; all in Worthing.
In addition to the bowls greens, the council workers also curate the football and rugby pitches, cricket squares and outfields across the two areas. It was against this backdrop that Marine Gardens BC decided to explore the possibility of taking over control of their green.
The council were receptive and very encouraging from the start; with one officer describing it as a potential blueprint for the future of bowls in the town. We are obliged to WBC for their trust and pragmatic approach.
The entire club and committee were behind the project, but special thanks should go to Secretary Jenny Ashman and Treasurer Norman Deegan MBE, for the time spent negotiating with the council and sourcing a private contractor.
The club has been fortunate to secure the services of Complete Turf Care Ltd; headed by Ben Harwood. Ben & his team have a proven track record in sports ground maintenance; they look after 11 croquet lawns at Southwick; where national and world championships are contested, plus Crawley Town FC and Horsham CC.
Their first foray into bowls green care was with local club East Preston, and two years on the members there and the many visiting teams appreciate the top-notch green.
It is hoped that similar improvements ensue at Marine Gardens, where a full programme of works has been agreed, including cutting the grass 52 weeks of the year. And all for a sum considerably less than the total quoted by the council as their costs in maintaining a single green.
An exciting new chapter begins for Marine Gardens BC; their independent control of the green means they set rates for green fees and keep all the monies collected. This should allow annual subscriptions to be kept at current levels; perhaps even reduced in future years.
Any other club in town could follow suit and take over maintenance of their green, but they would require enough funds to pay for a private contractor. Marine Gardens is fortunate in having circa 90 members prepared to make the leap to independence, and in the process remove the financial burden from the cash-strapped council.
For 2020 those clubs with a council maintained green will contribute to its upkeep via the usual season tickets. Worthing has now aligned with Adur on the scale of fees so a full ticket costs £126, while a half year is £85. However, for 2021 the season tickets will be replaced by an hourly rate for work undertaken. The council will advise relevant clubs of the rate in due course.
Marine Garden’s pre-season get-together scheduled for 19/03/20 was understandably cancelled because of concerns over coronavirus. The health and welfare of members; and the wider community, is of paramount importance.
The club is awaiting guidance from Bowls England / Sussex County Bowls, but it seems likely that inter-club matches will not be played until after 1st June, and only then if isolating / social distancing requirements are relaxed.
The committee will shortly decide about the actual opening of the green; currently scheduled for 25 April. If the Open Days; advertised for Sunday 3rd and Sunday 24th May are postponed, there will still be plenty of opportunity for prospective new members to try their hand at bowls. Please call club coach Terry Urben on 01903 700662 for details.
Summary of officers for 2020 –
President – Jill Colbourn
Captain – Michael Ives
Secretary – Jenny Ashman
Treasurer – Norman Deegan MBE
Match Secretary – Bob Cole
Competition Secretary – Steve Davis
Press Officer – Terry Urben
Safeguarding – Paula Seymour
Welfare – Clive Wootton
Clubhouse manager – Mick Wilson
Teas & green steward organisers – Gill Vernau and Leon White
Club coaches – Terry Ashley and Terry Urben
Captain’s Charity – Chestnut Tree House