The summer sun beat down on Bramley Park Bowling Club, as short-sleeved men and women made the most of a tranquil summer evening in the park.
Some were laughing and telling jokes in the clubhouse, others were enjoying a game of crown green bowls – but it was clear this is a very special and friendly place, where lasting friendships are made and everyone finds it easy to fit in.
No-one stands on ceremony here. Chairman Keith Bradley, 72, is quick to say he’d started the game a few years ago but wished hed taken it up sooner. He said:
“It’s such a friendly game, you meet some good people. In one game alone you can do 6,000 steps – I wish I’d taken this up 20 years ago. I find it very relaxing.
“You can play it regardless of age, sex or physical ability “
Katie Chetwood, 42, is one of the younger members at Bramley (the oldest is 92). She said:
“It’s not just an older person’s game, it’s a game for everyone. There’s a lot of nice people and it’s good for meeting people and getting you out in the fresh air.
“It really helped me when I was going through depression. It helped me forget about how down I felt.”
Deborah Sandles, 63, described crown green bowling as a ‘stressbuster’. She added:
“It’s such a sociable activity, it’s great for conversation with others. It’s also a great leveller, I’d recommend anybody to try it.
“There is a lot of socialising and you don’t have to be competitive to play. If you just want to play with your friends on an afternoon, there’s nothing stopping you.”
Heading Onwards are a Bramley company specialising in stress-management training, mindfulness coaching and motivational support for individuals and teams.
They sponsor the Bramley Park club – and mental health awareness is one issue close to their heart.
Paul Abraham, owner of Heading Onwards, said he was once five minutes from taking his own life after battling mental health issues since he was very young. He said:
“I’m a proud Bramley lad. A couple of my dad’s friends play here and I thought ‘let’s get them kitted out’. It’s a lovely club with lovely people.
“We are delighted to sponsor the Bramley Park Bowling Club as crown green bowling is a fantastic way to improve your mental wellbeing. It gives you gentle exercise, fresh air and the social interaction that many people, especially when retired from work, miss out on.”
The charity Mind recently issued results of their latest survey which revealed one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week, and approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
Bramley councillors Caroline Gruen, Jools Heselwood and Kevin Ritchie (all Lab, Bramley) were also on hand to give bowls a go. Cllr Heselwood said:
“Bowls has got huge benefits for your wellbeing, and it also keeps you fit and active, as well as tackling social isolation. It’s great to see how many people come here to meet friends, there’s a fantastic atmosphere.”
The club has also been working with Bramley Elderly Action to attract some of its members to the sport.
Anyone interested in taking up crown green bowls or former bowlers who want to start playing again will find a warm and friendly welcome on Monday, Tuesday and Friday afternoons at the Bramley Park green.
Contact club secretary Deborah Sandles on 07931 182590 for details.
Deborah paid tribute to Leeds City Council’s parks department – and Steve Gedge in particular – for keeping the green in immaculate condition.
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