DEEP in the heart of the Herefordshire countryside, a group of enthusiasts are working hard to ensure the continuation of the sport they love.

Dorstone Crown Green Bowling Club is the only club of its type in the county with the nearest potential opponents in Shropshire or Mid Wales.

The club are taking on Bridgnorth in a friendly match this week and have intra-club competitions on a regular basis.

But, as much as the competitive element, this is sport as a social force, exemplifying the benefits of the sporting environment for the older age-group.

Club events are held on Tuesday evenings, Wednesday afternoons and Sunday afternoons and, last Wednesday, the first eight players to arrive for their three-hour session on the green were all over the age of 70 - some considerably so.

The enthusiasm and enjoyment generated, however, would have been a credit to a group of any age.

Chairman Rosie Farr, a very sprightly 87, raced around the green in a manner befitting someone half her age.

"I try to encourage other people that they can still do it at this age," she said.

"Today, they are always trying to get older people to do exercise.

"It depends, of course, on your physical disabilities - I've got two new knees and a new hip and I still keep playing.

"It's exercise, it's fun, it's a social thing and we all get on."

To emphasise that this is a game for everyone, one of the players, Colin Joy, is registered blind but is able to play because the other members hold up a sufficiently large pointer that he can see to take aim at.

"We have 28 members but we would like a few more," said Rosie Farr.

"We don't have that many members from within the village of Dorstone. A number of them have passed away, or moved away.

"We do have someone who comes over from Llancloudy to play.

"And we did have a couple of people who came in from Hereford - they came for a long time but sadly they are not well now. They came because they wanted to play crown green."

The key to attracting players from outside the village has often been the sport itself.

"Once you have been a crown green bowler, you don't want to play flat green," said former captain Phil Jackson who, with wife Tina, constitute two of the five members from within the immediate area.

Club member Maggie Hamer was able to attest to the value of the club to her.

"I came to Peterchurch 11 or 12 years ago from Wiltshire and I didn't know a soul," she said.

"I was a single person in a bungalow in Peterchurch and it was a question of either sitting at home and doing nothing or getting out and getting involved.

"I joined the pensioners' club, the garden club, the WI, the church - and I joined the bowling club. It's made a tremendous difference and I am so glad that I moved here."

Fellow member Frank Church added: " A lot of our ladies are single and it's a case of them getting out and enjoying themselves."

When the club was first mooted in 1980, the choice of crown green rather than flat green was quickly made.

"When we had the field first, the chap who came along and talked about it said that it was easier to lay a crown green than it was a flat green," said club captain and founder member Violet Smith.

"We did it all ourselves. I'm the only remaining original member.

"My son used to play when he was about 14, but then other things got in the way.

"Once a month, we try to have a competition - captain's team against vice-captain's team, ladies against gents, doubles.

"We play against Bridgnorth this week, we are also playing against Ludlow - there are three crown greens in Ludlow."

Chairman Farr added: "As you start to go north, there are there are more crown greens - it started in the north and nearly every pub in Manchester has its own green.

"We play from the middle of April to the middle of September."

Anyone interested in playing crown green bowls at Dorstone or getting involved with the club, who are delighted to welcome new members, should contact Barry Megson on 01981 590691, secretary Melvin Powell on 01981 550357 or chairman Rosie Farr on 01981 550394.