WELLINGTON Bowls Club are looking forward to a bright future after hitting a cash jackpot.

The village club has been awarded £50,000 from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities Fund and will now be able to replace their playing surface as well as sprucing up the shelter at the green.

“It’s very exciting and we are absolutely thrilled,” said club president David Wood.

“Our green is basically a carpet and was laid when the club opened in 1996.

“But now it needs to be replaced and so this grant will basically save the club.

“A new carpet would cost around £45,000 and, although we do hold regular fundraising events, a sum like that would just be out of our reach.”

He added: “A carpet will last for around 15 years and effectively you have to start saving for the next one as soon as the new one is laid and raise around £3,000 each year.”

The new playing surface will not be the only part of the ground to benefit from the cash injection.

“Our shelter is basically a bus shelter,” said Wood.

“It’s not as if we need changing facilities but the money will enable us to increase the width and the depth of the shelter as well as putting in a couple of bays.”

The improvement in facilities is also going to encourage the club to try to improve its playing strength.

“We have a membership of around 40 and they are mostly retired,” said Wood.

“Bowls is a very friendly sport and is as much a social event as it is competitive.

“But we would like to get more younger people involved and we are going to work with school to encourage their involvement.

“We shall be running some coaching sessions as part of the conditions associated with the grant and we also have to extend the club opening hours.

“We also want to try to improve our position in the Tarmac League which should not be difficult — we were the bottom club last season.”

News of the grant has been received enthusiastically in the village and in the county.

“We are delighted that Wellington Bowls Club has been awarded this grant as it will ensure the longevity of a much valued sports facility in the village,” said Wellington Parish Council chairman Barrie Prince.

And MP Bill Wiggin added: “This grant is a huge win for Wellington and very well deserved. “Wellington Bowls Club is a vital part of the local community and these developments will be a real boost. Well done to everyone involved.”

President Wood stressed his thanks to those who had helped in the successful bid.

“We had to get letters of support from all over when we were putting the bid together,” he said.

“But the one which moved me most came from one of our own club members.

“He said that he had had a stroke, after which he had not been able to do some of the things he could before.

“But the patience of bowlers had been a big factor in helping him to restore his confidence.”

Wellington now face a race to have everything ready for the start of the season. “We have got to get at least three tenders for the work and these go off to Sport England,” said Wood.

“They will then come back to us with their approval and we can place the contract.

“But with the season starting in April, the builders will probably only have a month to complete the work.”