Cashmere’s one of those suburbs that’s pretty easy to find in Christchurch.
The locals tell you just to get on Colombo Street (the main street) and keep going until you hit the Heathcote River and the Port Hills. You’ve arrived at Cashmere.
Cashmere’s claim to fame is being ‘on the hill’ (most of Christchurch is ‘on the flat’). So Cashmere’s an unlikely place to find a bowling club. But there is indeed a little bit of flat hidden in Cashmere just along from the old Princess Margaret Hospital. It’s the Cashmere Valley. And that’s where you’ll find the Cashmere Bowling Club.
The bowling club has been there almost 100 years, since 1924. In fact, it could be argued that Cashmere is already a centenarian - the umbrella sports club, Cashmere Hills Recreation Club, was established in April 1922 to purchase land for three sports that gentlemen and gentle ladies of the day played : tennis, croquet and lawn bowls.
“They opened with 187 tennis players, 28 croquet players and 28 bowls players,” says Immediate Past Club President, Bryan Mackay. “Today, there’s 400 tennis players, 80 croquet players, and 40 full-playing lawn bowlers.”
“Having said that, the original sports club, Cashmere Hills Recreation Club, no longer exists. It was wound up in 1939, and tennis, croquet and bowls went their separate ways. Still remaining on the Cashmere Valley Reserve, but with their own clubrooms, facilities and management.”
“None of us would ever want to move,” says Club President, Mike Linsdell. “We’ve got a wonderful spot here. It’s unusual in Christchurch … we’re protected from both the sou’wester and the easterly winds.”
“We have two greens but we’re only using one of the greens at the moment … and have been since before the earthquake in 2011. We keep the second green tended, and our croquet neighbours use it.”
“After the earthquake, we were left with a big 4 metre wide sinkhole and liquefaction pockmarking the greens. But some of our more persistent members still found 2 or 3 rinks playable … they weren’t going to wait until the greens were fully-repaired the following season!”
These days the greens are looking immaculate.
“Our longest serving member, Stuart Dalley, is also our Greenkeeper,” observes Bryan. “He keeps the green in tip top shape, helped by other club volunteers, particularly Mike. We are proud of our gardens and even received a Council award last year!”
The clubhouse is also looking good.
“It was relatively unscathed in the earthquake,” says Mike. “It’s an old wooden structure, so it just bent and twisted with the earth movement. There was some cosmetic damage, but that’s it.”
“That was fixed and we’ve been upgrading the clubhouse over the last 5 years. We’re getting approaches from more and more community groups to use the facility … we have a ballet school, a church group, two card groups, a ladies’ group and the Cashmere High School bowlers attend for regular coaching. Plus we’re becoming an increasingly popular function venue. In the lead-up to Christmas a lot of local businesses enjoy bowls, beer and a barbeque here.”
“We have floodlights, but our long summer twilights here in Christchurch mean that we rarely use them. We do turn them on later in the season for our annual St Patrick’s Day Twilight Tournament … a mixed two bowl triples. We usually have a waiting list for the tournament.”
And the future?
“From time to time there’s talk about amalgamation. Either re-amalgamation with our tennis and croquet neighbours. Or amalgamation with a number of other bowling clubs in Christchurch south. But to date, it’s been just that : talk.”
“We’re very happy with what we have here, and to continue the long tradition of lawn bowls in the Cashmere Valley. We now aim to expand support for the leisure and cultural activities of our local community.”