Aiming to keep bowling on to the centenary

Bowls under way at Centre Vale Park, Todmorden
Bowls under way at Centre Vale Park, Todmorden

Calderdale Council, five local bowling clubs and the Friends of Centre Vale Park are working together to secure the future of the bowling pavilion in Centre Vale Park - but it won’t be without its problems.

Todmorden hosted a big British Federation of Crown Bowls Tournament at the weekend. Six teams from Preston to South Derbyshire played on the park where the four greens have been called “the Wembley of Greens” that attract many bowling clubs and their supporters to Todmorden.

The tournament marked the launch of the local bowls clubs’ “Big Fundraise” so they can begin to improve the very poor facilities they have in Centre Vale.

A Todmorden Bowling League spokesman said: “It was a huge success with over a hundred people enjoying the day.

The Sunday tournament was followed on Monday by a big competition that marked the climax of the local bowling season. There were eight competing teams in the Todmorden and District Veterans Bowling League. This brought in teams from the far side of Rochdale, Littleborough and Bacup as well as Todmorden.

Fundraising and a raffle took place during the day and the total so far reached is over £400.

“We need to keep this going because of the embarrassing lack of facilities on Centre Vale”, said Fred Birtwistle for the Todmorden Veterans club.

“Everything we raise from collections and raffles will help us carry out urgent repairs as well as going towards more long term plans. It is very important for us to keep the bowlers’ buildings, and put them right after years of council inaction”, said Fred.

On Thursday last week three council officers were invited by the five local bowling clubs and the Friends of Centre Vale Park to a lively question and answer session.

The council said it reiterated its full support towards working with the groups to allow them to carry out their own work to spruce up the building. The possibility of a future community asset transfer was discussed, where local people would take over management of the pavilion from the council.

Calderdale Council’s Head of Neighbourhoods, Andrew Pitts, said: “The bowling greens are a great asset to Centre Vale Park and we want bowlers to enjoy them for years to come. Next year marks the centenary of bowling in the park, so it’s particularly fitting for us all to pull together to secure the future of this popular pastime.

“Achieving the best for the pavilion is something that the council, bowling clubs and Friends group are committed to. Following last week’s meeting we are all confident that we can move forward positively and constructively to give the building a sustainable future.

“We are very open to looking into the idea of transferring the running of the pavilion to local people to make the most of their skills and community links.”

From the Friends’ and bowlers’ point of view, they said officers were prepared to admit that under investment had happened but they warned the bowlers that there is now very little council funding available due to severe budget cuts. The Centre Vale problem was characterised as “a challenge”, they said. Some small improvements could be made to the 99 year-old pavilion, but the recreation room next to it will be closed this Christmas and demolished.

As a consequence the clubs are going for the DIY approach, and considering a lease agreement with Calderdale that would give them security of tenure and ensure the funders and volunteers are not “knocked back again”, as has been the experience with the council up till now, they feel. Contact with the Bowls Pavilion Fund can be made through Linda Jones 14, Wood Lea, Church Road, Todmorden OL14 8EZ or through Sarah Pennie, for the Friends of Centre Vale Park on 01706 559971.