Birmingham bowls club seek police assistance after leaving historic home.
It must come as a shock to find yourself kicked out of what has been your historic home for seventy-eight years, but this is exactly what happened to one long established Midlands bowls club - King George V - who had resided at the King George V public house, a Grade-II listed building in the Northfield area of Birmingham, since 1937.
Their predicament began when the pub (which had been converted into a Chinese restaurant at the turn of the century) was sold to a new landlord last year. It soon became clear that the new owners were not interested in supporting the bowling club. After many internal meetings with the new landlord, and even a public protest gaining much coverage in the local press, the club found themselves homeless, losing what was one of the best maintained bowling greens in the league.
The previous landlord had allowed the bowlers to stay in return for maintaining the land, but the club, which has eleven separate teams, claims the uncertainty began after the new owners arrived with what are thought to be plans for an Indian restaurant. Club members claim they were threatened with eviction after they refused to sign a contract agreeing to leave the site by the end of the 2014 season.
Mike Pritchard, greenkeeper at the club, said; "I get emotional about it because five generations of my family played there, right back to my grandfather and now my grandson Ben, who's only seven."
Mike's son Tom has attended the club since he was a boy. He said; "It's hard to express just what this club means to people. It's like a second home for most of them. It isn't just the game, it's the socialising aspect and the friends they have made over the years."
With the door firmly shut, the club's only hope was to find another venue; not the easiest of tasks as there are not many spare capacity bowling green facilities available in the South Birmingham area. However, after some enquiries, Mike found a possible saviour, at the Tally Ho, the West Midlands Police Sports & Social Club coming to the rescue.
The Tally Ho Sports & Social Club is situated opposite Edgbaston County Cricket Ground and nestles in six hectares of prime land between the busy Bristol Road and Pershore Road.
The club has been in existence since the late 1950s and provides a well run social club for serving and ex-serving police men and women. The club has a wealth of sports facilities for its members, including two senior size natural grass football pitches, one rugby pitch, a cricket square and outfield, three tarmacadam tennis courts and two outdoor natural grass bowling greens, one being a flat green and the other a raised crown bowling green.
Mike set up a series of meetings with Lisa Smith, Tally Ho's Club Director, who is responsible for coordinating and organising all of the social and sporting events and activities at the club. It is a very busy club, with over 7,000 members using the facilities on a regular basis. The club is open seven days a week and is especially busy during weekends.
After several meetings with the bowling club, and establishing their needs in terms of access and how often they would be on site, it was agreed that members of the King George V Bowling Club could become associate members of Tally Ho, giving them complete access to the crown green for club matches.
As part of the agreement, KGV were given the go ahead to maintain the green as members of the club, and Mike was ecstatic. He immediately arranged a meeting with Mark Allen, technical sales representative for Amenity Land Solutions, to help put together a management and maintenance programme to get the green back into a playable condition for the club which, for the last couple of years, had only been mown on a regular basis to keep it tidy.
Mark's first task was to take a number of soil samples to establish the condition of the green in terms of nutrient status, soil type and level of thatch content. As the photograph shows, it was very dry with a small layer of thatch. These were taken in March as soon as the club took over the management of the green.
The results also showed a low soil pH at 4.6. Mark suggested applications of calcium products to raise the pH to a more favourable level of between 5.5 and 6.5, along with increasing aeration and better timed cultural operations to improve root depth and grass density.
Mike is aware that they won't be able to do much until the end of the season, when he will undertake a full end of season renovation. In the meantime, it will be a case of regularly mowing at a height of 4mm three times a week, applying some fertilisers, carrying out surface aeration and watering the green by hose and self travelling sprinkler, to ensure the existing grass species can respond to produce a half decent playing surface for the remainder of this year's playing season.
Mike is very complimentary about the new relationship with the Tally Ho. "The facilities are superb and they have made us so welcome."
Lisa is similarly complimentary. "Their attitude is excellent and they have settled into their new surroundings very well. I'm hopeful that it will become a long term relationship, and already there has been renewed interest from some police members to join the bowling club."
KGV have, at present, just over fifty members, with thirty-four regulars turning out to play league games throughout the week. Tally Ho have managed to provide a small lock up garage on site for the club's machinery.
So, out of considerable adversity, KGV look to have secured their existence for the foreseeable future, which looks bright for both parties.