'Bowled over': Local sports 'hero' honoured with merit award for accessibility work

(L-R) Annie Bradshaw, Peter Bradshaw, Peter Thompson and David Rhys Jones.

(L-R) Annie Bradshaw, Peter Bradshaw, Peter Thompson and David Rhys Jones. - Credit: Supplied

A keen bowler and former teacher was 'honoured' to have received an award for his work on improving accessibility in the game he loves. 

Peter Bradshaw, of Portishead, taught art at Gordano School from 1961 to 1990, but used his skills to design, develop and manufacture a ground-breaking device that allows people in wheelchairs to play bowls on equal terms with their able-bodied competitors. 

On Friday (July 22), Mr Bradshaw received a surprise Service of Merit award from the English Indoor Bowling Association (EIBA) for creating the Bradshaw Bowls Buggy.

Peter Bradshaw with his Service of Merit award

Peter Bradshaw with his Service of Merit award. - Credit: Supplied

He said he now feels 'bowled over' after the national governing body travelled to Portishead to pay him a visit. 

84-year-old Mr Bradshaw was presented with the honour by EIBA CEO Peter Thomson, in front of a large crowd of bowlers and long time friends from four clubs on the Lake Grounds. 

"The usual Friday lunchtime session had been billed as a special event for Crackers Corner, which is a club within a club," said Mr Bradshaw.

"I was wondering what we had in store, but couldn’t believe it when my name was mentioned. Bowled over – I was quite overwhelmed."

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He said his idea to improve accessibility requirements for other bowlers began in the 1980s.

Peter Bradshaw presented with the award by CEO of the English Indoor Bowling Association Peter Thompson.

Peter Bradshaw presented with the award by CEO of the English Indoor Bowling Association Peter Thompson. - Credit: Supplied

He added: "One day, I met a keen bowler, who was in a wheelchair. He couldn’t play the sport properly because it was thought the wheels might damage the playing surface. So I had the idea of building a specialised buggy with wide, low-friction wheels."

"It wasn’t just me - there were other people involved in the project who helped me turn a dream into a reality, and we built well over a thousand buggies."

Most indoor clubs in the UK now have at least one buggy for the use of visitors. Now with the aid of the buggy, many have gone on to compete in national competitions. 

President of the British Wheelchair Bowls Association, Ian Blackmore, said: "The introduction of the Bradshaw Bowls Buggy changed everything for us.

"We used to play a makeshift game, usually on an end rink, but Peter’s buggy gave us the freedom of the green."