From waste ground to a state-of-the-art green, Farnborough Bowling Club (FBC) has come a long way in 70 years.
The club had humble beginnings when it opened in August 1947 on what had been a gravel pit and later a rubbish dump.
After generations of players had put up with an uneven surface, due to the land’s earlier uses, the club’s leaders finally decided last year that it was time to literally level the playing field.
FBC raised around £30,000 to pay for the green to be dug up and expertly re-laid in September and October, since when it has remained virtually untouched as it settled in.
The virgin turf was bowled on for the first time on Sunday April 23, as the club held a special re-opening ceremony just in time for its 70th anniversary.
Christine Lee, who lives in Southwood, has been president of the club three times and is the current women’s champion. She said that its membership included many long-standing and dedicated bowlers.
Mrs Lee has been at the club since 1985 and her first season coincided with the final season by the club’s last remaining founder member, Jack Amos.
“I believe the club was popular from the outset,” she said.
“When I started, there was a lady who had joined in 1953 when she was walking past the club and the bowlers had simply invited her to take part.
“We still try to get members that way now.
“When I started, people were queueing up to join bowls clubs. Unfortunately, it now has an image of being just for older people, which really isn’t the case.”
Her son, Martin Lee, joined FBC as a youngster in 1988 and won his first championship as a teenager. He is still involved in the club today.
The club has a long list of national and county honours achieved over the years. It hosted the English men’s and women’s teams on its 50th anniversary in 1997.
Barry Lee, secretary of FBC, praised club president Michael Andrews and treasurer Diane Hill for leading work to re-lay the green, which comes back into play at the end of May.
He also thanked Aldershot Underwood Bowling Club for offering FBC members practice space.
“The green really needed it because of the poor foundations,” Mr Lee said. “There were dips in the surface and the woods (bowls) would often bounce and spin the wrong way.
“Sometimes people would get fed up and say ‘I’m not going back to that club’.
“The green now looks a lot better than it used to and we can’t wait to get back on it.
“We used to have an advantage because we knew where the dips were, but the new green will be a learning curve for all of us as we don’t know how the woods will roll.”
The official re-opening of the green was attended by the Mayor of Rushmoor, Councillor Jacqui Vosper, Bowls England junior vice-president Hazel Marke and Bowls Hampshire vice-president Ken Eichen.
Councillor John Wall, county councillor for Farnborough South at the time, was there along with Rushmoor borough councillors Liz Corps and Paul Taylor.
They joined FBC members, club greenkeeper Steve Larby and representatives from other local bowling clubs and affiliated associations to celebrate the occasion.
Mr Andrews expressed the club’s gratitude for financial contributions towards the new green from TAG (the owner of Farnborough Airport), Hampshire Playing Fields Association, Hampshire County Council and Rushmoor Borough Council.
“It has taken a lot planning and hard work but we have our new green,” he said.
“Without these contributions and, very importantly, the generosity of our own members, today would not have happened. A massive thank you to all who have made today possible.”
Mr Andrews said FBC hoped that the new green would raise the club’s profile and allow it to grow its membership, especially among younger players.
The celebrations will continue when the club hosts a special match against a Bowls Hampshire team on June 18, followed by a match against a Bowls England team next year.
For more information about FBC, contact Barry Lee on 01252 547801, call the clubhouse on 07901 366698 or www.farnboroughbowls.co.uk.