Bowling in France means boules or pétanque rather than traditional lawn bowls but an Eymet couple have opened France’s first full-size, artificially-turfed bowling green, to great surprise – and delight.
Judith Smith, 67, and husband Tony, 75, moved to France in 2015 and Judith said: “We’ve both enjoyed bowling for years and we’d always planned to retire here. Gradually the dream of running our own bowls club – named Parsons Meade after my late father, Len Parsons – was born.”
However, when they moved in to their 200-year-old farmhouse with its two acres of land they did not know lawn bowls was little known in France.
“To find out how to get started, Tony visited International World Bowls and spoke to the experts. We were stunned to find there weren’t really any bowling clubs over here!
“The only other bowling green they knew of in France had a natural grass lawn, which was difficult to maintain during the summer due to the heat, which dried out the grass. After learning this, we decided to lay an artificial turf, meaning it could be used all year round.”
With permission from their mayor, they laid a concrete base of 31m x 35m and Tony said: “It looked enormous. Locals kept asking whether we were building a helipad!”
The new clubhouse may also be used as a local venue but Judith said: “It’s big enough for short mat bowls to be played inside in the winter if it gets too cold. And I’m in touch with a yoga teacher who may run classes, perhaps on evenings.”
Despite keeping in close contact with the mayor throughout the build he was surprised when he arrived to open the club: “I think he was expecting a little boules rink, rather than a full-sized bowling lawn!”
She added: “He’s over the moon, as it’s quite a boost for the town. He had a wonderful time on the opening and had a go at playing.”
The president of Eymet boules association has also enjoyed his first game of lawn bowls and Tony joined the Eymet club to play on their terrain.
A few dozen people attended the opening but the club is still in its infancy, with just 10 provisional members, and Tony said: “It’s early days and we’re testing the water.”
Judith added: “Numbers are slowly building as people get to hear about the club and we have high hopes for next season.”
The couple hope to build gites on site and eventually host bowling holidays from international clubs.
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