RIP Gonville Bowling Club


Gonville Bowling Club Green Jan 2024Gonville Bowling Clubhouse Jan 2024

You are looking at a bowling club in its very death throes.  Gonville Bowling Club in Thornton Heath is on the market with a guide price of £1.5 million, and auctioneers Bernard Marcus, from whose auction catalogue this description is lifted, will be selling it to the highest bidder on 6th February 2024

This is such a sad moment in bowling history that it is worth recording. Here is the complete listing from the auction catalogue. May it serve as an In Memoriam now that the clubhouse, its history and its honours boards are to be smashed in burned and lost for ever.


Unique Freehold Development Opportunity (stpp),
No Previous Planning History,
Vacant 12 Months Following Completion.

Gonville Bowling Club lies within the heart of this residential area of Thornton Heath and on the south side of Trafford Road which links through to the A23 Thornton Road via Silverleigh Road. There is a good range of local facilities immediately available within Thornton Road whilst more comprehensive shopping and recreational facilities are within the centre of Thornton Heath with the retail parks such as Valley Park off Purley Way with outlets such as Ikea located circa 1.5 miles to the south. Along with good road links especially provided by the A23, the location benefits from good public transport links including local bus services whilst Thornton Hath Rail Station is 1 mile to the east and provides a direct link to London Victoria with a journey time of less than 30 minutes.

Description: Gonville Road Bowling Club will be sold on the basis that the club will hold a license to occupy for a period of up to 12 months from completion following which, the site will be vacant. The total site area extends to 0.54 acre with the majority of this being vacant and utilised as the bowling green. There are a number of temporary buildings within the site such as storage sheds etc however, part of the land is occupied by the club house/ hall together with kitchen and internal storage areas. These more permanent structures are rated for commercial purposes and total some 137.9 sq m (1,474 sq ft)

Potential: This is a rare opportunity to acquire such a large site within a Greater London postcode area and offers significant potential for a range of opportunities. The auctioneers have researched the planning portals and it appears the site has no planning history having been in its current use for many years but now, with little or no demand for the current facilities. Whilst strictly to be sold on an unconditional basis it is expected that prospective purchasers will wish to consider a range of development opportunities but strictly must rely on their own enquiries in this respect. It is thought that such development could be either for residential, commercial or a mix of both with other considerations perhaps for nursing/ retirement housing or similar. A range of computer generated images are provided solely for prospective buyers to see how such developments could fit within the vernacular of this location and any development will of course be subject to first obtaining all necessary consents.

Total Site Area: 0.54 Acres

Total Built Area: 137.9 sq m (1,474 sq ft)

The bowling club are to be granted a 12 month license to occupy the property from completion following which the site will be vacant. This allows a buyer to know the site is secure and occupied whilst they work up their development scheme and apply for planning permission following purchase.

Green health is, next to member health, the most important asset for an outdoor bowls club.  But how many members know what makes for a healthy green?

Every club has its greenkeeping staff or team, and it’s hard to start a conversation with them from a base of little or no knowledge.  A little knowledge, a dangerous thing according to the popular saying, can nevertheless be a useful ice-breaker if you want to engage your green-team in conversation over a pint at the bar.

So here are some uncontroversial casual comments about caring for your bowls green that can get you chatting, and perhaps learning more about the work the green team does. Who knows, you may even end up joining in!

Mowed bowling green


Casual conversational opener Number 1:  What about top-dressing?

A little dangerous knowledge Number 1: An annual cycle of hollow-tining followed by top-dressing will, after several years, create layers of material in which the actual problems of in a green are being buried year after year. These layers build, making access to the root system by air and particularly oxygen even more difficult.

Casual conversational opener Number 2:  What’s our root depth?

A little dangerous knowledge Number 2: A healthy root depth is 10-12cm, and a green which is dropped below 4cm of root depth needs a program to restore healthy roots within 3 or so years.

There is a temptation on a slower green to cut too short in the summer (4mm) in an attempt to get more speed into the green. In fact, this simply reduces the gap between grass and thatch and makes green performance more spongy and slow, not fast.

The ideal in-season cut height is 5.5 mm and this, combined with correct moisture management of the surface will markedly reduce spongy thatch and moss accumulation and result in a faster green.

Winter cutting should be set at 10-12mm so that moss/thatch accumulation, which in winter increases due to leaf and debris fall, doesn’t exceed the grass height. Should that happen, then the grass cannot photosynthesise sufficiently, and the slower winter growth is seriously jeopardised.

Casual conversational opener Number 3: Do we have a big banana? 

A little dangerous knowledge Number 3: A big banana, also known as a dew switch, is an essential tool for bowling green moisture management. Correct moisture management has more impact on green quality than any other single activity.

Moisture needs to be able to arrive at, and penetrate through, the surface of the green. The more daily switching/brushing that is carried out, the better the green will become. This disperses moisture/dew on the grass blades down to the surface where it can be absorbed, unless the green has a particularly hydrophobic soil surface.

Hydrophobic soil occurs when a waxy residue builds up on the soil particles resulting in it repelling water rather than absorbing it. You can identify hydrophobic soil by watering it. If water runs off or pools on the surface leaving the soil underneath dry, you’ve got Hydrophobic soil.

On a green that is not found to be hydrophobic, use switching when the surface is moderately or very damp, as brushing will tend to smear worm casts.
Use brushing when surface wormcasts are dry, this is better for breaking down the worm casts and standing the grass upright.

Additionally a wetting agent treatment such as Dewcare can be used on a 4-week application cycle. A wetting agent will break down any waxy soil surface to allow moisture to penetrate, and also create water retention sacs around the roots so water is retained and available to the root for longer.

Moss killers should not be over-used. They contain iron, and when over-used they create an ‘iron pan’ and roots cannot grow through it.

If meadow-grass in the bowls green starts producing little white seeds, it means one of two things, either overwatering, or the adult plant is forecasting that there will be too little water in the weeks ahead so it is preparing to survive to the next generation!

Casual conversational opener Number 4: Do we fertilise with organics?

A little dangerous knowledge Number 4: Organic fertilisers are usually preferred to man-made ones: the latter have a high salt content (20%) and this is bad for grass roots. Organics have lower salt (4%) which is not harmful. Seaweed applied monthly is a good organic fertiliser low in salt and preferable to applications of synthetic fertilisers.

Fertilisers are described (on the packaging or in the specifications) according to parts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Pottasium (the N-P-K ratio, e.g. 7-0-7). Nitrogen promotes leaf growth. It’s part of the chlorophyl molecule which gives plants their green colour and is involved in creating food for the plant through photosynthesis.

Phosphorus is involved in the metabolic processes responsible for transferring energy from one point to another in the plant. It’s also critical in root development and flowering. Because phosphorous moves slowly through the soil, it’s important to work it into the soil, where it’s needed by the roots.

Potassium helps regulate plant metabolism and affects water pressure regulation inside and outside of plant cells. It is important for good root development. For these reasons, potassium is critical to plat stress tolerance.

To identify the correct specification for your green a soil analysis might be necessary.


After 10 years at Genotin Terrace Bush Hill Bowls moved to Lincoln Road in March 2023.  The distance between the two locations is small – maybe a mile and half by car, or 800 yards as the crow flies.

Here’s a picture

Genotin to Lincoln

And here’s why: we came to the end of our lease at Genotin Terrace. It was a good lease, interior repairing only (most are ‘full repairing’ meaning the tenant is responsible for anything and everything that needs mending).

We were offered a renewal at a 50% increase, AND a switch to full repairing.  Well, bowls is ok to earn a living, but not to earn a fortune, so we had to move.

Our choice of location has raised a few eyebrows.  The house in front of Scoffields Garage was in poor repair and uninhabited.  The ground floor, however, was spacious and after a bit of sprucing up has become our new shop.

But not for long!  Medicus Health Partners, which runs the Health Centre opposite us, is intending to buy the whole of 180 Lincoln Road, including our shop, Scoffields Garage and all the workshops on the plot.

When will this happen?  Probably within eighteen months so in the meantime we’re on the lookout for our next premises.  If you happen to hear of somewhere that might make a decent bowls shop in the Enfield area, do let us know!

In a unique collaboration, the national Bowls and Swimming authorities have combined to introduce a coaching qualification for underwater bowls. I am delighted to be the first Level 2 qualified underwater bowls coach, and am proud to share the news, sent to me in the letter reproduced below.

Dear Jerry Sanders,
I am pleased to inform you that you have successfully achieved the Level 2 – Donyngs IBC qualification.

Should you wish to continue your training with Scottish Swimming, more information and all available courses can be found on the Events calendar section of our website at www.scottishswimming.com. Alternatively, please contact the Education Team and we will be more than happy to help you.
I hope that you enjoyed your training with Scottish Swimming and we wish you luck in your aquatics career.
Yours sincerely,
The Education Team
Kind regards,
The CoachBowls Team

While on the lookout for hot new products for serious bowlers I came across this advert.  Those of you who know your scriptures will immediately hear Luke 6:38:

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

With this measure you couldn’t lose!



Item 1: Not so much a night of the long knives, more the morning of the guillotine. Never have so many ministers been culled in one day than by Boris this week. This is a BIG CHANGE. Read more

Ullo John, gotta new bowls set?

Alexie Sayle doesn’t play bowls. If he did he’d probably come up with a new lyric about the datestamp on lawn bowls.

Read more

Bowlers behaving badly

No Bowlers behaving badly?

Only this week I had the painful task of ‘rescuing’ bowls equipment from a park bowls club.

It was a true rescue, because 24 hours later the club secretary handed the gate keys back to the council. Read more

The BHP Skip had retired with breathing difficulties. One minute I was spectating a Middlesex Triples match between Broomfield and Bush Hill Park. The next I was in the game.

It was a dark and stormy night. The rain came down in torrents. And the number two said to young Jerry “You’re on, leading and the jack has already been cast.”

All three opposition players were County standard or higher. When they saw me come on they must have licked their lips and smelled victory.

That’s now how it turned out. Why? Because despite their experience, they couldn’t handle the water… and I could.

Between ends, I scooped out a dollop of Aero Monkey Grip into my left palm and gently rubbed my hands together. By the time I picked up my bowl for the next delivery my grip was solid and reliable.

They got back to 13-13 on the 16th end, then we got a five. Their consolation shot on the last end was game over. My warm glow lasted for several days …. and I’m bowling better than ever since that night!

Mental Toughness

You’re eight shots ahead, your opponent is clearly demoralised. Yet within four ends they’ve caught up, are 17-16 ahead and get a four on the next end to win.

What happened?

What happened was that you empathised so much with their feelings of demoralisation that you eased up and let your empathy for their despair offer them the human gift of comfort.

In other words, you didn’t want to see them suffer.

Well, not all of you. The bowler in you still wanted to win the match. But the human being couldn’t bear the guilt of deliberately inflicting suffering on another human being.

Now imagine this: as the owner of an online bowls store, you see a competitor going out of business and running a closing down sale. He’s offering 20% off everything in his web store until all his stock is sold.


Yet you know that even after applying the 20%, customers would get a better deal if they bought the same gear from your web shop – which isn’t closing down!  So do you go out there and press home Bush Hill Bowls’ advantage, flooding social media and your mailing lists with the facts of the matter?

Or does your humanity get the better of your business instinct, and you end up making your point in an obscure blog somewhere where no-one will read it?