Ilfracombe Bowling Club goes from brink of closure to national award winners

ITV News' Claire Manning went to meet members when they were nominated for the award

A bowls club that was on the brink of closure has not only survived the last year but thrived - and now been crowned best in the country.

Ilfracombe Bowling Club has been named Club of the Year by Bowls England.

Club member Stephen Humphreyson said: “We’re all delighted, there were constant messages back and forth between members and those at the event wanting to know what the result was.

"It means a lot to us because we were struggling at one time, now we’ve got more members, more players for matches, we’re having a good time now.”

After losing several key players, the club had fewer members and was facing financial challenges.

Mr Humphreyson said: “It was hard work, you would struggle to get players for matches, we were borrowing players from other clubs.

"We had two new members who had different ideas and it changed the club completely.”

Bowls England says the turnaround is a testament to the remarkable efforts of individuals like Neil Mugleston, the club captain, and Barry Gifford, the club president

The club is now a vibrant community hub with 83 playing members and a target of 100 in the next few months.

They managed to bridge the generational gap, shifting the average age from mid-60s to mid-40s, with an equal mix of genders.

  • Hear Seb and Alex chatting to club member Stephen Humphreyson

Mr Humphreyson, said: “I think bowls is on the up, the problem is people think it’s for older people, but really it’s not, you get a lot of young players playing, we’ve got some younger members who’ve joined who are under 20.”

The club's introduction of various playing sessions, morning to evening, helped retain outdoor members through the winter, doubling membership income.

Giving them the award Bowls England said: “Their one-club philosophy and community engagement have revitalised the club. Their success story resonates, influencing other clubs.”