On Tuesday, December 30th, 2014, Tracey Crouch, M.P. for Chatham & Aylesford, joined RBBG – for a game of bowls. Anyone who knows how busy Tracey is would be surprised to learn that she joined us for nearly two hours (at Prince Arthur Road Indoor Bowls Club), meeting and talking with our members, playing in a match with visually impaired bowlers and discovering how we manage to play the game.

Apart from any other duties and responsibilities, Tracey Crouch is also Chair of Medway Disability Forum which meets regularly to discuss issues concerning - and on behalf of all categories of disabled people throughout the Medway Towns. Anyone attending forum meetings appreciates her strong commitment to the group, knowing that she gives full support and her precious time in addressing issues where possible.

Representing visually impaired people in the Medway Towns, one of our members, Hans Farley, had mentioned our group, RBBG (Rochester Blind Bowling Group) and Tracey had expressed a strong wish to learn how people with vision impairment went about bowling. At the latest Medway Disability Forum meeting she repeated her interest in playing in a game of bowls, even offering to bring along a blindfold! So it was that we booked a visit, including a bowls match – no blindfold required.

Pat F set up three matches and, on rink 1, we had Mary W and Marian R against John R and Hans. However, we partnered Tracey (in place of Hans) with John – but she had arrived dressed for action and Brian supplied a set of woods for her use. She was quick to get involved; asking questions, about the string used as guidance, instructions to blind and visually impaired bowlers, providing information to bowlers about where their woods arrived – so as to improve the next delivery.

Brian and Hans gave advice to Tracey, but it soon became clear that she was a very quick learner – and needed very little help. She revealed that she had played once or twice, outdoors, and that her grandfather had been an accomplished Kent bowler … obviously, there was something passed on in the genes. It was quite evident that Tracey was more than a little competitive, so much so that we suggested that, at any time, if she had time to spare, she might wish to come along and bowl for us!

Her first experience of bowling indoors, showed some real ability. She had declared she was competitive – no harm in that, most bowlers are – but she also radiated enjoyment, the other key component of our group’s approach to the game. Tracey showed excellent touch and instinctive tactical awareness, way beyond our expectations for a beginner. As for the match, not important in all probability, but it was nip and tuck, right to the last end – but Mary and Marian took the honours, with a five shot haul in the last end. Everyone enjoyed the contest, not least Tracey who was enthralled by the skill (as well as the fine spirit displayed) – not just on rink 1, but across the three rinks.

Before departing, Tracey had a few words with another group, Boccia players who usually meet on Saturdays, who took up the opportunity of an extra session.

Boccia is a game, overseen by the Bowls Association and designed for wheelchair users and others with very limited mobility. It is played with leather balls and is a mix of bowls and petanque.

The sport was seen by many people, for the first time, at the 2012 London Paralympics, and great credit is due to the Prince Arthur Road Indoor Bowls Club, for providing facilities for both bowling for the partially sighted and boccia.

All too soon, it was time for Tracey to be on her way (… with a report to have done by 4 p.m.). She left, bidding farewell to all of our members, having greatly enjoyed the experience. If ever she has some (is that likely) s[are time, Tracey would be most welcome to join us, again, bowling indoors or out on the green in the summer!

Thank you for joining us.

TC Bowls Tracey

Brian and Hans gave advice to Tracey, but it soon became clear that she was a very quick learner – and needed very little help.

TC Bowls John

John bowls a perfect line with his third wood

TC Bowls Marian

Marian's last wood takes shot from Tracey's - and the end!

TC Bowls Mary

Mary is accurate as ever - holding three shots

TC Bowls with Tracey Crouch (9)

Brian sees that Tracey has definite ability

TC Bowls Tracey has shot wood

Tracey admits to being quite competitive ... as she and her partner, John, took three shots!

Below, more pictures of Tracey Crouch, bowling bowling at Prince Arthur Road Indoor Bowls Club

Pictures courtesy
Tracey Crouch,
Andy Payton