Marlborough Bowls Challenge a big success

The Bowls Wiltshire Clubs rose to the occasion and gave enormous support to the intrepid team from Marlborough BC as they made their way around the County on Saturday.

Here is an account of their day written by Alan Eyles – thank you Alan.

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Marlborough Bowls Club, we wanted to raise some money for charity. The idea of a 24 hour bowls marathon was suggested, before the madcap question, ‘could we play bowls on every green in the county in one day?’ At this time we had no idea of the logistics, and, therefore, no idea whether or not it was possible. That was in August 2013. A couple of emails and phone calls later we arrived at June 21st 2014.

Ahead of us were 18 hours, 47 clubs, 49 greens, 100 ends, 264 miles and 400 woods to be bowled. A good healthy start was needed!
We met at Marlborough at 4:15am, with bacon rolls and coffee on the menu for breakfast, kindly cooked up by Shelley and Yvonne. Breakfast was served just before sunrise, with our bowls challenge set to start just after sunrise at 5am.
We started our challenge at 5am with an audience present to support us and wish us well as we set off on our tour of the county. Our first stop was Devizes, where even at 5:30, there were a number of people to greet and support us. This set the tone for the day, with numerous clubs having lots of people on hand to cheer us on and offer their support.

From Devizes we headed north to Calne, Wootton Bassett, then Malmesbury. It was as we left here that BBC Wiltshire made their first contact with us, giving us some air time to help promote our challenge. We headed south to Chippenham as we started to make our way down the west of the county. Our aim was to get to Tisbury for 1:10pm, which was during the lunch break of their 3 way annual match. As we left Bradford we were 8 minutes ahead of schedule, but there were problems ahead! Someone was sending smoke signals above the skies of Trowbridge. We first spotted the smoke while at Broughton Gifford, but as we headed towards Trowbridge and joined the back of a queue of traffic, we realised that the 8 minutes we had in hand were in jeopardy. As we headed for Blue Circle we were 10 minutes behind, thanks to the traffic issues in Trowbridge.

The white horse looked down on us and the sun continued to shine on us as we headed further south to Warminster and Mere. It was here that Ian Longdon of BBC Wiltshire called in for an update on our progress, again broadcast live to the county. We were still 10 minutes behind as we started to head east towards our next target, Tisbury. We arrived at 1:20pm, whilst lunch was being taken, so although we were slightly behind schedule, we didn’t affect the match. Wilton, Downton and Alderbury were next, which is where BBC Wiltshire had their 3rd and final check in with us at 2:45, in what was a live broadcast from the green, with 3 woods bowled while ‘on air’.

Heading north again we visited the 2 Salisbury clubs, before continuing north to Amesbury and Pewsey. We paid a 2nd visit to Devizes to play on the lower green and were again greeted by a warm welcoming party. From here we headed towards Swindon, dropping in at Wroughton en route. It was while heading towards Swindon that Jason White likened the Swindon clubs to the washing up.  ‘Just when you think you’ve finished, you realise you’ve still got the cutlery to do!’

At Westlecot we were greeted by a boisterous England flag waving crowd. We think the flags were a job lot from Poundland at 1p each! They were clearly waved more during our visit than at either of England’s matches prior to our visit.  With the second green (Garrards) to also play on, it meant double the cheering flag waving and cutting remarks! But don’t worry, we loved it and played up to it! A dash around Swindon followed before heading out towards Purton and Cricklade. It was then that we finally started heading towards home. South to Highworth, Supermarine and Wanborough, where then sun had already gone down and we were playing in dusk light. Another good crowd greeted us here before we left for Ramsbury, our last stop before returning home. The two ends were played using the temporary floodlights that were especially installed that day – namely the headlights of a BMW 320D estate! They did the trick however and meant that we had completed our challenge of playing on every green in the county in one day. All that remained was to get back to Marlborough and play the 99th and 100th ends, to round off the day. We were greeted by over 50 people cheering and clapping as we walked onto the green to what was a fantastic greeting at the end of a long day. We bowled the last wood at 11:05pm, 18 hours and 5 minutes after bowling the first.

Like most bowls matches it probably looked like a fun and friendly match. Like most bowls matches it was serious. Team Pink (Alan White and Jason White) ran out comfortable winners against Team Blue (Alan Eyles and Nick Patterson) although Nick firmly believes he was taking on a team of three! There was also the small matter of who had the most ‘touchers’ throughout the day. This award went to Jason White of Team Pink.

Team Yellow also played their part as the official crew. Their roles included photographers, stand in drivers, radio interviewees, parking attendants, telephone receptionists, mat carriers and PR Guru’s to name but a few.

Most importantly, we need to thank every single club in the county for their support. The permission to play the 2 ends on each green was all that we asked for, intending to be self- sufficient and not cause anybody any fuss. In the end we were offered refreshments by way of food and drink by numerous clubs as well as lots of very kind donations along the way, with more promised.

We originally chose 2 charities, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance and the Wiltshire Bowls Benevolent Fund. It was only afterwards that we discovered that the Men’s and Ladies funds were actually separate, thus there are now 3 charities that we are supporting. As I write this report, I know we have exceeded £2000 raised with more donations promised over the next couple weeks. I will update you again via your club representatives and local website once the final monies have been counted.

A massive thanks to you all for your help and support.

Alan Eyles

Marlborough Bowls Club.

The Yellow Team - Support Crew

The Yellow Team – Support Crew

The Pink and Blue Bowlers

The Pink and Blue Bowlers