County associations play a pivotal role within our sport. From growing the awareness of the game within their areas, to day-to-day administration to ensure best and compliant practices, every single county association is crucial. So, when it comes to creating a shortlist for the County of the Year award, it is no easy feat! Factoring in outstanding work across all areas of development, competition, governance, promotion and national initiatives, you can see our shortlisted counties below and find out more about them, their successes and the work they have been doing over the last season.
Below are the list of counties which have been shortlisted for the Country of the Year Award at the Bowls England Awards 2023.
Bedfordshire’s unwavering commitment to charitable initiatives stands as a testament to the collective hard work and dedication of everyone involved. The county’s support for causes like Keech Hospice Care, Anthony Nolan, Prostate Cancer UK and more emphasises its deep community engagement.
A 7.5% increase in affiliated members and the appointment of safeguarding officers across numerous clubs are reflective of Bedfordshire’s proactive measures to secure clubs, setting a robust foundation for the upcoming 2024 season.
Transforming their website into an information hub, Bedfordshire ensures bowlers have easy access to regular news updates and comprehensive competition details, fostering a well-informed and connected community.
A noteworthy addition to their initiatives is the establishment of a youth academy. Bedfordshire has successfully created a relaxed and enjoyable environment where young bowlers of all skill levels can not only challenge themselves but also benefit from quality coaching. This forward-thinking approach demonstrates Bedfordshire’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of bowlers while making the sport accessible and enjoyable for all.
The county’s website has evolved into an excellent platform for publishing news and information. The Buckinghamshire Academy has been a standout success, with instructive ‘how-to’ videos providing a clear and informative introduction to the game.
A pivotal focus on welcoming new participants was also evident, with numerous clubs in the county opening their doors for Bowls Big Weekend. Embracing the Bowls Bash initiative, Buckinghamshire has emerged as a strong supporter, with several clubs registering to host Bowls Bash sessions — making them strong advocates for introducing newcomers to our sport.
Buckinghamshire celebrated a triumphant season both on and off the green, marked by the outstanding performance of Michael Gomme, Matthew Hyde and Andrew Briden from Gerrards Cross in securing the men’s triples at the Aviva National Finals – the county’s first win in the event since 1992.
Lincolnshire excelled in their social media endeavours, demonstrating a keen focus on cultivating a strong online presence. With regular updates and impressive graphic design work, the county has embraced social media to keep followers well-informed about the latest news and developments. The number of affiliated members has also shown impressive growth over the past 12 months, which is testament to the work being put in on the ground.
Lincolnshire also showcased exceptional prowess on the green, both nationally and internationally. A significant triumph occurred on the Gold Coast, Australia, where Lincolnshire’s own Amy Pharaoh, alongside Sophie Tolchard, Jamie-Lea Marshall and Lorraine Kuhler, clinched the Gold Medal in the women’s Fours at the World Championships.
Domestic success continued at the Aviva National Finals, where Lincolnshire secured victories in four competitions. Annie Dunham set the tone with a triumph in the Women’s Champion of Champions. The women’s team continued the winning streak, claiming the Walker Cup for the third time in the last six years. The men’s side made history by securing the Middleton Cup, marking their first triumph since 1996 and the Men’s Fours played superbly to secure victory.
Somerset has taken on the challenge of member recruitment with enthusiasm, actively pursuing new club memberships through successful participation in Bowls’ Big Weekend. This reflects a dedicated commitment to portraying bowls as an inclusive activity accessible to individuals of all ages and skill levels.
Beyond Bowls’ Big Weekend, Somerset clubs have shown great enthusiasm for the innovative Bowls Bash and Play Bowls platform, contributing to the growth of new memberships throughout the county.
The Aviva National Finals proved to be a triumphant occasion for Somerset, securing victory in four competitions. The Men’s Junior Pairs saw Oli Collins and Liam White emerge victorious, while Stef Branfield claimed the Women’s Singles title and Laura Holden the Women’s Two-Bowl Singles. Anthony Page celebrated success in the Disability Bowls England (DBE) singles, adding to Somerset’s impressive achievements.
A concerted effort to bolster membership in Surrey saw clubs leveraging Bowls’ Big Weekend to welcome novices and implement initiatives to expand their ranks. This commitment to growth extended to several clubs signing up as Bowls Bash clubs and utilising the Play Bowls platform, contributing to their enhanced expansion efforts.
Surrey celebrated a strong 2023 Aviva National finals with triumph in the Women’s Fours, The DBE pairs final witnessed Mike McDonagh and partner Hampshire’s Steve Stockley emerge victorious and the third title for Surrey was by the Men’s Senior Fours. Although the women fell short in the Johns Trophy, their commendable effort earned the county runner-up position and Egham BC also reached the Top Club Final