WHEN crown green bowlers are able to return to action this year, one Northwich venue will look a lot different.

The spectator stand at the side of Green 1 at Castle Sports and Social Club has been demolished.

But the changes do not end there.

Arrangements are being made for a new bowls hut, an outside drinking area and a new toilet block.

A bowls fund has been set up to help pay for the upgrades, while two successful grant applications have been made.

David O'Brien, bowls secretary at Castle Sports and Social Club, said: "The Covid-19 crisis has affected all walks of life, but also given us an opportunity to invest in our facilities, give our members a nicer environment to undertake their hobby in and hopefully give all of us at Castle Sports a bright future when the world returns to some kind of normality."

Northwich Guardian:

Northwich Guardian:

Northwich Guardian:

Northwich Guardian:

Northwich Guardian:

Northwich Guardian:

A decision had been taken at the bowls annual meeting in January, 2020, before the pandemic that an improvement to the facilities around the two greens was needed.

"To do this, we agreed we would need to start raising our own funds as we couldn't keep relying on the main club to make this investment," explained O'Brien.

"To this end we agreed to increase our match subscriptions by 50p per game. We have 14 active teams and this would have raised in the region of £1,500 per season.

"The pandemic affected crown green bowls like all other sports and in 2020 there was no local league bowling.

"During the first lockdown a group of members started to undertake small improvements, mainly cosmetic but in an effort to try and improve the look of our venue.

"Faced with no way of raising funds from member subscriptions, as there was no league bowling, we started a bowls development fund to which members could make personal donations.

"We applied for and were successful in receiving a grant from my employers (Heineken) and received £400.

"When the first lockdown eased we were very active in organising internal club competitions and external open competitions at which we sought to raise funds at every opportunity running raffles and football cards.

"The 'Bowls Fund' was launched in March last year and to date we have raised over £3,300. We have recently launched a 50/50 draw where members pay £10 a month to enter with 50 per cent of the monies being collected being paid out in prizes and 50 per cent going to the fund.

"This 'Bowls Fund' has allowed us to place an order for a new bowls hut which will be a major upgrade on what we have at the moment and we are looking to introduce a refreshment area in the new hut where our pensioner teams can make cups of tea and coffee in a safe clean environment during their afternoon matches."

And then came the news of a further financial boost.

"Alan Baskerville, the club secretary, applied for a grant from Sport England in December and we were delighted to hear last week that we have been successful with this application," said O'Brien.

"This will be used to knock down and rebuild the current toilet block that is used by members when the main club is closed. We have received a grant of £5,460.

"With the grants and members' efforts we have recently passed the £9k mark for fundraising, which personally I think is a fantastic effort through 2020."

He added: "Our other current project is that we have demolished the stand to the side of Green 1 and we are looking to develop an outside drinking area for all members of the club which will also serve as a viewing area for bowls."

It is hoped that the changes will attract new members as well as serving the current ones.

"Castle Sports is a family-friendly club and new members are always welcome." said O'Brien.

"Crown green bowls, despite of its image, is a unique sport that caters to all ages with our youngest bowler being only nine years of age while we also have active bowling members in their 70s and 80s. We are able to cater for players of all ages and abilities across the various teams that we run."