Saturday, 25 July 2020 14:05

Crows beware – mannequins on parade at Barnet’s bowling greens

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Greenkeeper Alan Henderson with his arm round one of the mannequins which scare off crows. From left to right, Rosario Wass-Berru, Mr Henderson, Brian Wass, club president Greenkeeper Alan Henderson with his arm round one of the mannequins which scare off crows. From left to right, Rosario Wass-Berru, Mr Henderson, Brian Wass, club president
By installing two male mannequins dressed in white in the Old Courthouse Recreation Ground, Barnet Lawns Bowls Club has managed to frighten off crows that have been digging holes in the fine turf of their two bowling greens.

All went well for the first three weeks until one of the mannequins was stolen overnight by vandals and left in a footpath leading to Mays Lane.

Next morning a passer-by discovered the decapitated mannequin, covered in tomato sauce. Park keepers said they were alerted by a lady who thought she had found a dead body.

Club president Brian Wass said the remaining mannequin was having to protect both greens until a replacement could be purchased.

Installing mannequins dressed as bowls players -- instead of scarecrows -- was the brainchild of club greenkeeper and coach Alan Henderson.  He had been plagued for weeks by crows using their beaks to drill holes into the grass as the birds search for insects such as earwigs and leather jackets.
“We had thought of putting scarecrows on the grass, but the birds know me, and they used to fly off the moment they saw me arrive.
“So, we had the brilliant idea of dressing up two mannequins in white trousers and shirts and then standing them in the middle of the two greens.
“The mannequins look just like bowls players and in the two weeks they’ve been there we’ve kept the crows off the grass,” said Mr Henderson.

Club president Brian Wass admitted the crows were formidable opponents. “They are very clever birds, they walk on the grass, listen for insects, and then drill down to find them.
“But the greenkeeper was having to fill as many as 100 tiny holes every morning with sand and seed, so we had to find a solution. Alan was having to come an hour earlier just to repair the greens.
“We bought the two mannequins for less than £50 each off eBay and then members donated white clothes to make them look as realistic as possible. They each hold silver flashings in their hands which give some movement in the wind.”

Mr Wass said Barnet’s two bowling greens were judged to be the best in the Borough of Barnet because of the quality of the turf.
“We are very proud of our two greens and Alan has done a tremendous job as greenkeeper.
“When Barnet withdrew all funding for the club four years ago, the council wanted to charge us £9,000 a year to maintain both greens, which was prohibitive and now it’s all the more important that we look after our prime asset.”

Barnet Bowls Club was established in 1926 and according to the club history some of the marchers on the Jarrow March stopped off on their way home to help lay out the greens and build the clubhouse as a “thank you” for the support they had been given.
Club members have been playing again since May 18 when the government relaxed the coronavirus lockdown rules to allow sports such as bowls to resume.
“Initially only singles were allowed, but we are now playing pairs and trebles as well,” said Mr Wass.
“Because of pandemic and lockdown, more people are acknowledging the need to undertake sporting activity and since we resumed playing, we have picked up 11 new members, which is very encouraging.
“We now have 27 playing members, but ideally we’d like around 40.
“Playing bowls is good, healthy exercise. A player walks 21 ends per match, which is about one-and-three-quarter miles, bends down 80 times, and then has to throw the fair-sized weight of the bowl.”

Mr Wass’s wife, Rosario Wass-Berru, is another stalwart of the club. Until ten years ago the men and women played separately, but then the two sections combined.
In 2018, Mrs Wass-Berru won the singles championship – the first woman to hold the title in the club’s history.


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