FOLLOWING on from golf and tennis, bowls has become the latest sport to take its first cautious steps out of lockdown.

Some clubs in Oxfordshire have opened already, while others will follow suit over the next few days.

They have all had to follow strict guidelines from governing body Bowls England, which means the reopening is limited.

As with other sports which have returned, only singles play is allowed between players from different households.

Social distancing is in force at all times, while clubs have had to lay on hand sanitiser and provide facilities to wash equipment.

After two weeks of work behind the scenes to comply with the rules, South Oxford were among the first to open, on Wednesday.

Letitia Batten, the club’s secretary, said: “We’ve put in a key lock so people can use the toilet and installed an outdoor sink.

“There are instructions as long as your arm that have gone out to players.

“But it’s nice to get back down there, we’ve missed all this beautiful weather.”

While Oxford City & County are not due to open their doors until next Thursday, the likes of Banbury Central and Witney Town are set to restart on Monday.

Alan Scholan, president at the latter, said: “We helped put together the guidance from Bowls England.

“Normally there are six rinks on a full-size green so we said only every other one should be used.

“With only two people on a rink at any one time that’s a maximum of six people on the entire green at once.

“It’s just social bowls. All the competitive stuff is out the window at least until July and I doubt we will have it even then.

“But it’s a good social outlet and it helps mentally, so we’re keen to do it.”

Most are not expecting a big rush of bookings, despite being shut for more than two months.

With a significant proportion of members in the high-risk category, clubs think some will take their time before returning.

Members at one club will definitely have to wait.

Headington have used the lockdown to make some renovations, which have been held up due to issues with suppliers.

John Henwood said: “We are most probably opening on July 1.

“The opening came as a bit of a surprise to everybody.

“We have to be pretty careful because there are 60 per cent of our members who are in the vulnerable age group.

“It’s the risk element we have to take into consideration. We would rather be more cautious.”

All county competitions for 2020 were cancelled in March.