Club ‘plagued’ by larvae

By Jake Chown  
Friday 30th April 2021 8:28 am

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A BOWLING green in Chepstow has turned brown after being hit by a devastating ‘plague’ of insect larvae.

The green at Chepstow Bowling Club, located on Mathern Raod in Bulwark, has seen an extensive infestation of crane fly larvae in recent weeks, which has killed most of the grass and made it unlikely that there will be any bowling there at all this year.

The problem has been a recurring one in Chepstow recently, with other greens and the racecourse having reported similar issues.

Crane flies are also known around the world as ‘daddy longlegs’ and their larvae known as ‘leatherjackets’, which are notorious for feeding on the roots of living plants, including grass.

Leatherjackets have been known to cause lasting lawn damage and have been described as ‘major pests’.

They are often more numerous after a warm, wet autumn as they favour damp conditions for their survival.

The club was recently visited by experts who said that they’d never seen an infestation of crane fly larvae like it.

Graham Horder, a green committee member at Chepstow Bowling Club, said: “It is unlikely that we’ll be bowling on the green this year.

“We have a programme of action that consists of wetting the green, covering it with black sheets overnight, removing the sheets in the morning then blowing the millions of larvae into the surrounding ditches to be swept up.

“Most of the larvae have to be physically removed before it’s even worth reseeding it, otherwise they’ll just keep on eating the grass.

“We hope to reseed in about two weeks’ time, but then the seed has to germinate and establish itself before we’d allow any foot traffic or bowling.

“Doing so too early would undo all the hard work and expense that’s going in at the moment. It’s a big volunteer effort from a group of our most dedicated members.

“We’ve taken advice from a bowling green guru called John Quinn, who’s based in Scotland, and one of his agents, Mark Harper, who is a consultant from Caerphilly.

“Both agree that this is the top of the league when it comes to infestations they’ve ever seen. It’s a combination of weather patterns and the banning of a particularly obnoxious chemical that has led to the problem we have.

“It has to be seen to be believed.”

The club, which has origins as far back as the late 19th century, currently has around 120 members.

Graham said that the club were trying to remain positive about the situation despite the financial implications and are looking ahead to the future.

He continued: “What with Covid and the green being wrecked we have lots of members who won’t be re-joining the club.

“Last year, because of Covid, we waived membership fees and had zero income.

“We’re trying to look upon this in a positive way. The green will be better next year after a radical change in approach to management, but that comes with the expense of new machinery and so on.

“This year we will only play away games, and at the moment the OSL (Over Sixties League) are talking to Caldicot about playing what would be our home games down there.”

Graham added that the club are keen to follow the example set by other countries in encouraging more young people to get involved in the sport.

“In the UK bowling suffers from the image of being a sport for old folk”, he said.

“It’s a great game for young people too, and we’d love youngsters to come and have a go to see what it’s all about.

“New Zealand, Australia and Canada are streets ahead of us in that respect. Teenagers playing 80-year-olds in a sport that puts them on a level playing field is a joy to behold.”

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