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Unsung Heroes: David and Sylvia Chamberlain, Cotswold Bowls Club

Gloucestershire South > Sport > Bowls

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 09:00, Tags: Unsung Hero

David and Sylvia Chamberlain David and Sylvia Chamberlain

When you think of well-known couples, you think Posh and Becks, Harry and Meghan, and Barack and Michelle Obama.

Well, at Cotswold Bowls Club, they’ve got their own top couple, a couple who work tirelessly to make sure that the go-ahead club continues on an upward roll.

David and Sylvia Chamberlain are major players at a club that was founded in 1960 and is now one of the big clubs in Gloucestershire.

Sylvia is the managing director and David is the club’s greenkeeper and if they’re not at their home on the south side of Gloucester it’s a fair bet that they’ll be down at the club which can be found at Golden Jubilee Way in Dudbridge, Stroud.

Both their roles are completely voluntary at a club which hosts both outdoor and indoor bowls.

Sylvia has been MD since October – she was outdoor secretary for two or three years before that – while David has been greenkeeper for the past four years.

“At least we always know where each other is,” said Sylvia with a laugh.

Surprisingly, considering how much time they devote to bowls, they took up the sport only in the mid-noughties.

“It was in 2004,” said Sylvia, who will be 71 in July. “My husband had been a cricketer for most of our married life. I used to score for the team he played for.

“His last team was Cooper’s Hill before he decided to pack it in. He said his knees were playing him up and he was going to give up cricket and start playing bowls.

“I said if you’re going to play bowls, I’m going to play too.

“It was the best decision I ever made, I wish I’d started playing earlier. It’s such a social game, you can play at any level – novice, experienced, county – it’s a super game to play.”

The Chamberlains initially played at Gloucester Civil Service but when the club was shut down they had to find another home.

That was 11 years ago and it’s fair to say that neither of them have regretted joining Cotswold Bowls Club for a minute.

Sylvia heads up a six-strong management structure while David has a team of four or five helping him tend to the green.

So does the MD ever question the greenkeeper about the state of the green?

“Certainly not,” said Sylvia with a laugh. “I think everyone would agree our green is in superb condition. It’s got to be like a carpet. It gets mown three times a week in the summer and in the winter they’re out on the green brushing off the dew, it’s not just a summer job.”

And all the hard work is certainly worthwhile because the club get to host some very prestigious matches including one between Bowls England and the Welsh Bowls Association that took place in early June.

The outdoor green has six rinks, sometimes seven, while indoors there are six rinks.

The club have close to 600 members across the outdoor and indoor sections and both are very successful.

Sylvia plays both outdoors and indoors – she prefers outdoors – and the outdoor season is in full swing after the opening of the green in mid-April.

“We have men’s teams who play in Division One and Division Three of the South Cotswold League,” said Sylvia. “We also have a team who play in Division One of the Gloucester Sunday League.

“The ladies play in the Corinium League and also the Stroud Valley Triples league.”

Sylvia was captain of the Corinium League team for the previous three years before standing down – Denise Ryles is the new captain – while David is club captain for all of their friendly matches.

The friendlies are made up of mixed teams and Sylvia added: “Most weekends we have a friendly game on both a Saturday and a Sunday and we also play midweek triples.”

It’s clearly busy, busy, busy because Sylvia was looking forward to a game against Gloucester Masons that afternoon when she spoke to The Local Answer.

Her husband, being the captain, was also due to play. They’re both obviously pretty good at bowls so who would win if they played each other in a singles?

“I don’t know,” laughed Sylvia, “we’ve never played each other in singles. I suppose I should give the classic remark, ‘It’s all on the day!’

“Some days you can walk on water, you can’t put a wood wrong. The next time you play you can pick up your woods at the end of a game and say you’re never playing again! It’s that erratic.

“But if you ask me the question, I’d have to say I’d like to think I can beat him!”

Sylvia clearly loves her bowls and just as clearly she’s one of those people who believes that the more you put in, the more you get out.

And while she clearly does a lot for the club she is keen to stress there are a good number of other “willing horses” as well.

And she’s equally keen to namecheck those who serve with her on the management committee – club secretary Averil Craddock, premises director Nigel Stronach, marketing director Peter Iles, catering director Brenda Oakey and bowls director Mick Yeo – saying they all do “sterling work”.

She brackets men’s captains Tony Barker and Eddie Hayes, ladies’ captain Denise Ryles and fixture secretary Bob Gartan in that group too.

Two others she is full of praise for are bar manager Liz Merrett and catering manager Alistair Coles, describing them as “treasures”.

Those two are pretty full on most of the time and they’ll certainly be full on the evening of Friday 20th September because that is when the green closes for another season.

“We always host a floodlit match on the final day of the season,” said Sylvia, “it doesn’t usually finish until about 9pm.”

And while that is a fun time, it also a little sad as well as it marks the end of another season, but at least Sylvia and the other 80-plus members of the outdoor section don’t have far to go if they want to play indoor bowls during the winter!

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