It's shooting season it's only right that we Young Ladies About Town head out for to Bisley Shooting Ground in Surrey to put our shooting skills to the test.
The shooting ground (there is also one at Braidwood in Scotland) is set in 3000 acres of heath and woodland. Founded in 1865, originally on Wimbledon Common, the shoot, including the stunning Victorian clubhouse was moved to Bisley in 1895 and has remained there ever since.
I have only ever been shooting once before and that was with a friend who simply handed me a gun (Russian made, it had such a strong kick back I was scared I might rip my cheek off) and told me to aim at the clays. Obviously this wasn't really a lesson so unsurprisingly I hit...nothing. Would I fare any better under the guidance of one of an industry leading professional?
The day began at 9am (which meant a very early taxi ride form London) with bacon rolls, pastries and tea in the clubhouse. Sitting by the open fire enjoying a bacon roll (ok so I had two!), I would have been quite happy to spend the day in there. However we were soon handed our kit for the day: ear plugs, protective glasses and a cap.
After a rather funny loo incident (yes I got locked in, it was all very Miranda, especially the excitement of being rescued from said loo by a chap) we headed out to begin our morning of shooting.
Before any actual shooting our instructor hand each of us a gun (we had been split into groups- luckily I was with the other novices so if I was awful it wouldn't be too embarrassing) to make sure we could actually see over the barrel.
Clockwise from top: A picture taken in 1919 showing club members, hands holding gun, the Victorian clubhouse
I had no idea that there was even the possibility of not being able to see over it. Already I was one up on my first shooting experience- clays watch out, there could be trouble!
It turned out that I couldn't see over it, but a piece of rubber attached to the handle of the gun soon sorted that.
Remembering how much the kick back of a gun scarred me (I really did think it would rip my face of and or dislocate my shoulder) when our instructor handed it to me, loaded it and told me to take aim, I was really quite nervous. To the extent that I pressed the trigger so lightly when the first clay went up that I didn't even manage to make it fire.
Second attempt, spurred on by my instructor who was convinced I would have hit that clay if I had actually fired, I pulled the trigger. And to my sheer delight I saw the clay smash as I hit it! Several shots later I had managed to hit every clay - I was hoping that this was not just a case of beginner's luck.
After stopping for elevenses, the hot sausages, tea and soup were very welcome on the rather chilly day, we took part in a flush.
Normally one clay is released, it flies up, or across, you hit it (or not), job done. A flush sees six or so clays being released from multiple locations at once. Up, across, it's all a bit mad but lots of fun. Basically everyone just fires like crazy and tries to hit something. With the clays coming from all angles it is a lot more difficult, and I'm not just saying that because I didn't manage to hit an awful lot, luckily we all agreed.
After lunch the day of shooting was over. And I think I can safely say I may have a new favourite hobby.
Top shooting tip
Dress warmly- shooting season is during the coldest months of the year, not surprising for an outdoor sport. Jumpers, big socks, wellies (two pairs of big socks if you opt for wellies as they never keep you warm), gloves, scarfs, the lot are essential. Better to be too warm and have to remove layers as opposed to wearing to little and freezing your tweed off.
• A one hour lesson for 1 person with an instructor including up to 100 clays and cartridges – from £138
• A one hour shared adult lesson for 2 people with an instructor including up to 100 clays and cartridges between them – from £163
• A two hour group shoot for 4 people including up to 100 clays and cartridges each - £380
• A one hour Junior lesson for one person with an instructor including up to 50 clays and cartridges - £96.50
• Syndicate/Simulated Game Days (for experienced shots) - from £245pp for 4 x 250 bird drives (200 cartridges per person, breakfast, 11'ses and lunch)
Non-members are more than welcome to play at both Bisley Shooting Ground and Bisley at Braidwood.
Adult Membership - £275
Joint membership - £375
Junior membership - £175www.bisleyshooting.co.uk