Students are bowled over with chance to help community
College students and staff have joined forces with their community to restore and transform a disused bowling green into a centre of activity for villagers of all ages.
It is hoped the transformation of the bowling green at Blyth, near Doncaster, will see young people playing alongside older members of the community as it is turned back into a playable space.
The restoration project has been led by Gary Wilkinson and supporters from the White Swan pub in the village and Harrison College, which provides specialist education to young people with autism and other learning needs in Doncaster.
They teamed up with Volunteer It Yourself, a national organisation that challenges people aged 14-24 to learn trade and employability skills through helping to fix local youth and community facilities in need of essential repairs and improvements.
Mike Peebles, business development director at Harrison College, said 25 students were working on the project, restoring and staining fencing, restoring and building six benches, doing groundwork and clearing out the gutter that runs around the green as part of the National Citizenship Service (NCS).
He explained: “The green has been deserted for the past five years. It wasn’t used for a couple of years prior to the pandemic and since then no-one has used it and it has become badly run-down.
“When I heard what Gary and others were doing, I said staff and students at the college would like to support the project. The site is owned by the village church and they have said that if we restored it to a bowling green they would allow the land to be kept for community use. We have also committed to maintaining it going forward.
“This is our second project with Volunteer It Yourself. They give us the skilled workforce, in this case two joiners, who will lead each task that needs doing and support our young people to do the work that’s needed. They have also used their contacts to supply us with materials to do the jobs.”
The companies that donated materials include Dulux and Crown Paints, Travis Perkins, Jewson, Rigby Taylor lawn care and Torne Valley Country Stores, which donated a new 12ft gate for the entrance. New benches arrived flat packed from a local prison where they are made by inmates as restorative justice.
The college has also joined up with The Primary School of St Mary and St Martin Blyth, which is next to the green. Children are creating a new logo for the green with the winner chosen by Gemma Peebles, principal of Harrison College, and have taken part in an art project based on features of the village.
The restoration work is expected to take five days so the green can be back in use by September. The EFL (English Football League) Trust has visited the project as an example of a NCS initiative.
“With the restoration work done, after that once a week we will take five or six students there to look after it,” added Mike. “We are also looking to build a new clubhouse and trying to raise £5,000 for this. We will try and raise enough money so people don’t have to pay to use the green, but we are looking at a membership subscription of £5 a year.
“One of the reasons we wanted to get involved is that bowls can be played by anyone. There are few games that children can play together with older people and both be competitive; it will be great to see the village’s pensioners and children out there.”
Last summer students from Harrison College completed projects to enhance the outdoor area for children at Saltersgate Infant School, at Scawsby.
Mike said: “All but three of our Year 2 students who took part in that project have found full-time employment and the skills they learned, team-building and other qualities they developed in addition to what they do at college have been discussed at every single interview they had, which proves the benefits of these initiatives to the young people, as well as our communities.”