Welcome to the Isle of Thorns website.

We are a friendly club tucked away in a tranquil setting just off the A275 at Chelwood Gate.

We have 4 rinks, a clubhouse and play bowls at all levels.

The rinks are open for members throughout the bowling season and roll ups are encouraged.

We play over 60 friendly matches in the season and are in the Mid Sussex and John Spriggs leagues.

We also enter teams into most of the competitions in the area and have several County players.

All level of players and beginners are warmly welcomed.


President Dave Lindsay president@iotbowls.co.uk
Chairman Alan Johnson chairman@iotbowls.co.uk
Hon. Secretary Barbara Bird secretary@iotbowls.co.uk
Hon. Treasurer Phil Bird treasurer@iotbowls.co.uk
Fixtures Secretary Ian Thomas fixturesecretary@iotbowls.co.uk



We are at Lewes Road, Chelwood Gate, on the Ashdown Forest.
Turn off the A275 where you see the signs for the Cats Protection Society (and our sign) and follow it to our car park. Post Code for Sat Nav RH17 7DE

We can be contacted by
telephone 01342 323861

or write to us
Barbara Bird, 89 Heathcote Drive, East Grinstead, RH19 1NE, England

Come and Join Us


All welcome

Even if you have never played before, come along, chat with us and find out what it is all about.

We have a regular Monday afternoon session that is ideal for you to meet us and try bowling a few "woods". Our coaches are usually on duty and several members are available to answer any questions you may have.

We have a very friendly coach who can show you everything from how to hold the bowl, why we wear flat soled shoes, what happens when it rains, and give you all the help you need to get you playing enjoyable bowls.

Compared to most other sports the cost is very modest, and you do not have to splash out on a set of new bowls the moment you join. We normally have some club ones you can borrow or some perfectly good second hand ones at half the price of new ones.

If you can bowl already please come along and check us out, without any final commitment to join. It is always difficult when moving to a new area to decide just which club is ideal for you.

We are a mixed club and most of our matches are for mixed teams. We do play in local leagues, County matches and many competitions as well as friendly matches and roll ups.

Come and join us.


The enigma of The Isle of Thorns.

The Isle of Thorns is on Ashdown Forest at the Chelwood Gate.

The Isle of Thorns, a contradiction and an enigma.

Its name goes back to at least the 16th century and the probable origin of the name was an enclosure made of thorns.

Ideal for keeping sheep safe from foxes and other wild animals.

Some suggest it is linked to the Red-Backed Shrike that impales food items on thorns.

Racing ahead to more recent times we have the development of the boys camp in the early 1920's where boys from Hackney came down to enjoy healthy outdoor activities. This was started by the

Eton Manor Boys’ Clubs (EMBC) with the ethos of adopting an adventurous ‘can do’ attitude. They were expected to take part in as many different activities as possible.

The club was founded in 1909 by a group of old Etonians: Gerald Wellesley, Arthur Villiers, Sir Edward Cadogan, and Alfred Wagg, and grew out of a mission church supported by Eton College, which had been operating in the area since 1880.

It was they who were responsible for building the swimming pool, gymnasium and accommodation blocks. Yet we cannot find any reference to the construction of the bowling green. We know it was there in 1934 to a very hight standard and that it drains superbly. Did local bowlers persuade Alfred Wagg to build it, or did he do it for the boys. A most unlikely recreation for inner city boys at that period.

Any light the readers can put on this will be appreciated.

Then in 1964 Sussex University had the use of the area and to this day their observatory is still in working order.

Most recently the sale of the whole estate to Cats Protection (formerly known as the Cats Protection League) was completed in 2002.

Through all these activities and ever since 1934 the bowling green has been sitting there and gently maturing into one of the finest outdoor bowling greens in the South East of England.

Whilst sheep are no longer grazing in the area, keeping the grass short is very ably done by the tens of hundreds of rabbits that have colonised the whole of the Isle of Thorns. The Cats Protection with their predisposition to be kind to all living things naturally does not allow the rabbits to be trapped or shot.

However the bowlers would find great difficulty if they were to try and aim their woods to the tiny yellow Jack and at the same time miss the rabbits hopping across the green. The solution of course is a rabbit proof mesh fence. Yes, there are many a tale I could tell about the occasional rabbit that gets in but cannot get out again!

But back to bowling. This is a sport for all ages, it can be casual and sociable or highly competitive.

At the Isle of Thorns Bowls club we manage to combine all requirements, with regular casual bowling on Monday afternoons. Then mildly competitive games against other local clubs. Plus several of the Ladies and Gentlemen play in highly competitive matches at County level.

The tranquil setting of the whole of the Isle of Thorns does make for ideal working and playing. Those working or visiting the Cats Protection arrive along a pleasant tree lined lane to an area of great natural beauty.

This is of course also enjoyed by the bowlers. Here they can park their car in the large (free) car park and stroll to the green which being set within Ashdown Forest is delightfully quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Bowling is almost unique in that you can still play it well beyond the time that sportsmen (and women) have had to give up the sport of their youth. We have many members who in their earlier days were keen badminton, football, cricket etc players. They can still exercise and be competitive to a ripe old age. Mind you they can still beat those 30 year old whipper snappers that have recently joined us.

All taken in good spirit, that really is the message that still remains from the early days of The Isle of Thorns.


Isle of Thorns Bowls Club, Lewes Road, Chelwood Gate, East Sussex RH17 7DE,     © 2014-17