Visually impaired bowlers club faces closure

A CLUB for blind and visually impaired bowlers will close at the end of this year if they cannot attract new members.

The North-West Surrey Visually Impaired Bowls Group, which plays in Knaphill, is down to three members from a high of around 17.

Bowlers at the North-West Surrey Visually Impaired Bowls Group

The club needs helpers as well as players. The game is played with a length of white string running along the centre of the mat, which acts as a guide for partially sighted players and can be felt by blind ones.

A “marker” calls out the position of the jack and at least one other helper is usually on hand for blind players.

Sheila Martin, who is a “marker” and helper, said the group came very close to folding last year when there were just two players.

“One of the ladies has come back, so we have three. But we also need more volunteers. At the moment, it’s just myself and another lady, who is blind, who helps,” Sheila said.

She became involved in the group when her late husband Philip, who was virtually blind, joined about 12 years ago. Philip was a keen bowls player and served as chairman.

After Philip died seven years ago, Sheila continued helping the group, organising competitions against rival clubs and outings such as one to Arundel when the group played against sighted players.

In its heyday, the group would invite up to eight clubs to Knaphill Bowls Club, where it meets every Tuesday from 10am to noon.

“We can’t do that now,” Sheila said. “The other groups would come but we don’t have enough players or helpers to put on a competition.”

The outdoor season begins in the first week of May and runs until September. In autumn and winter, the group moves indoors to play short mat bowls.

Joining fee is £10 with annual membership of £13 and £2 a week for tea.

The group provides some bowls. Players need to have flat shoes with ridges. There is no dress code for new players, but as they become regular members, wear white shirts with grey trousers or skirts.

For more information, call Sheila on 01483 829977 or Stephanie on 01483 823575.

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