Specialist wheelchair at Andover Bowling Club gives veteran player 'new lease of life'

  • ITV News Meridian's Nicki Woodcock reports from Andover Bowling Club

A veteran bowls player from Hampshire says he's been given a new lease of life because of a specialist wheelchair.

Jack Norris, 89, has been a member at Andover Bowling Club since 2016, having previously played in Canada and the United States. He was considering giving up his life-long hobby due to his limited mobility, until the new equipment changed his game completely.

The specialist wheelchair has been paid for by a community grant from Test Valley Borough Council and a local organisation called The Sofa Club.

The arm rests on the specialist wheelchair rotate to give the user the ability to bowl the ball. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Jack said: "I wasn’t going to bowl at all this year, because of my stability of being on the mat and I thought I was going to fall, and I didn’t think it was fair to the other team members, but I was told they had this wheelchair and I’ll tell you, this wheelchair has been a lifeline for me, and I don’t know how long I’ve got to live, but it’s given me more years of good bowling."

David Canniford, Trustee, Andover Bowling Club, said: "It’s got really wide wheels, because you don’t want it sinking into the grass otherwise you upset the greenkeepers.

"But there’s arms, they rotate round, so you’ve got one side that’s free, so whoever is using it can swing their arm and deliver the bowl without any encumbrance on their movement.

"It means they can play regularly, and then they don’t feel as though they can only play half a game. They can actually play sitting down and play the whole game.

Andover Bowling Club was established in 1913. Credit: ITV News Meridian

"We’re always on the lookout for talent. Novices, someone who hasn’t played before, just turn up and we will show them the ropes, let them have a go, introduce them to the game, see how much they enjoy it. And the whole reason for playing the game is to enjoy it."

Cllr Iris Andersen, Test Valley Borough Council, said: "This is an essential grant to help communities. It’s absolutely wonderful to see the impact that the person can be in that wheelchair, can use it.

"Just because you’re disabled, it doesn't mean you can’t enjoy everyday life, and that’s the impact it has."

Cllr Jan Budzynski, Test Valley Borough Council & Sofa Club member, said: "Able-bodied people can do most things.

Andover Bowling Club has 150 members who take part in leagues in the Basingstoke, Whitchurch and Salisbury areas. Credit: ITV News Meridian

"If you’re disabled, it’s a great difficulty to go on a green, you can’t stand there. So a chair like this is ideal, anything which gets people out in the fresh air, it’s important."

Andover Bowling Club was established in 1913 and is much-loved by the community.

As well as playing for fun, its 150 members take part in leagues in the Basingstoke, Whitchurch and Salisbury areas.

Attention is now turning to the clubhouse, to make it more accessible, in the hope that more people of all ages and abilities can enjoy bowls for years to come.

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