The hosts of Lancashire’s first dedicated curling rink have been shown to know what they are doing when it comes to playing the game – after winning the first ever tournament held at the complex.
The Flower Bowl entertainment complex at Barton Grange Garden Centre in Barton, near Preston, is home to only England’s second dedicated curling facilities – after one in Royal Tunbridge Wells – and the first of its kind in the North of England.
And the complex took a big step into attracting national talent after holding its first ever major curling tournament.
The tournament, the 39th Welsh International Bonspiel, took to the ice sheet last week with teams from Wales, Scotland and England all trying to sweep their way to success.
Guy Topping, managing director at The Flower Bowl and Barton Grange, took to the ice with his Preston team – as well as a little help from special guest and Scottish Champion, Gail Munro.
Rhona Martin MBE, best known for her role as captain in the 2002 Winter Olympics Gold Medal winning British curling team, also attended the event and even recreated the very moment she won gold with the famous ‘stone of destiny’ shot that sent rapturous applause through the Salt Lake City crowd.
Goosnargh-native Guy said: ‘It was a great honour for The Flower Bowl to host The Welsh International Bonspiel and a dream come true to then come out as winners.
“The whole weekend ran so well; the ice was good, the competition was fierce but friendly and there was a real buzz in The Flower Bowl.
“The highlight had to be Rhona Martin recreating the ‘stone of destiny’ and the huge cheer that went up around The Flower Bowl when the stone landed.
“Our next major event is The Four Nations from January 25-27. This sees teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland compete over the three days.
“It is 147 years since Preston Curling Club was formed and finally with our own rink Preston is becoming the focal point of English Curling.
“The club has doubled in size in three months and must be Preston’s fastest growing sports club.”
The development is the brainchild of Guy, whose family have run Barton Grange since 1963, who wanted to bring the rink to Lancashire to attract curling clubs from around the country to the red rose county – as well as just provide a bit more to do on rainy days for those a little closer to home.
Adrian Meikle, President of the Welsh Curling Association and member for 43 years, was one of the visitors to the complex.
“It was fabulous,” the 53-year-old explained. “We normally have to travel four hours to Glasgow so it’s really handy with it being an hour and a half away. And it’s not just curling; there’s so much to do there too.”
Adrian explained how the ice quality near him isn’t to the elite level required for his team to train – and is now hopeful The Flower Bowl can help future Winter Olympic efforts.
He said: “The rink in Tunbridge Wells has already produced a couple in the mixed doubles. Getting the facilities can only bring out peoples’ best.”
A Flower Bowl spokesman said: “It was a very close event with the likes of curlers Lesley and Martin Gregory, Garry Coombs and Grant Farquharson all competing against each other.
“Yet, it was Guy Topping’s local Preston team who brought it home, winning the overall tournament. This couldn’t have gone any better for Preston and its first and only Curling Hall.”
They added: “Curling is one the world’s oldest sports, and Preston Curling Club became an official member of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1875. Some 140 years later, they have finally got their own rink to practice on at The Flower Bowl.”