Sporting pursuits on sprawling country estates are not just for old boys anymore. Thanks to Victoria Knowles-Lacks, who set up the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club in 2011, there are now weekly simulated game shooting events for women – using clay disk targets to mimic the flight of game birds – all over the country.
With funding from BASC (British Association for Shooting and Conservation), the club is now able to bring a quintessential rural experience to a much wider audience, with added glamour.
No experience is necessary – just a willingness to meet new people and enjoy a fun day out. Getting ready beforehand, I am aware that my jeans and scruffy old trainers may not be country classics, but they are warm enough for a brisk autumn morning. I add lashings of mascara in the hope of fitting the ‘glamorous gun’ moniker from the neck upwards, at least.
Today’s Simulated Game Day is at the Oxford Gun Club, a 30-minute drive from the city.
Point and shoot
Jericho Farm occupies 400 acres of rolling Buckinghamshire countryside. We pass the 17th century farmhouse where owners and expert shots Doug and Shirley Florent live.
The group walks to the first stand – a camouflaged shack from which we can make out our distant target. With the push of a button, the instructor fires a clay disc into the air. He traces its route with his gun, and shoots. There’s a loud bang, and the smoky smell that lingers puts me in mind of Bonfire Night.
I hang back, a little intimidated that no-one else here is a newcomer. But, most of them, however, only embraced the sport after attending Victoria’s events. No doubt due to her fun, accessible approach.
When its my turn to take hold of the gun, my heart thuds. I hadn’t expected that, or the heavy weight of the gun. It feels unnatural and I’m too aware of its power. I tense up, pull the trigger, and the walnut stock lurches and smacks my cheek.
I quickly learn my lesson – it doesn’t pay to be nervous – so I loosen up. As the morning progresses and we move to different stands, I find myself agreeing with fellow shotgun sally, lawyer-turned-novelist Lucy King, “It’s just the most amazing feeling when your mind and body come together.”
Victoria also encourages each of us to bring along a cake for a baking competition incorporated in to the day, and there’s even a country classics fashion show as part of our experience. But the biggest surprise comes when she announces the day’s shooting results with a slight look of confusion on her face, “And congratulations… Hannah!”
HOW TO GET THERE
The Oxford Gun Company is 14 miles from Oxford City Centre via the A40.
FIND OUT MORE
Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club
A day’s shooting costs £45 and includes 30 cartridges and clays, instruction, gun hire and, of course, tea and cake.
British Association for Shooting and Conservation
01244 573 000
Find out more about shooting events held across the country.
The Angel Restaurant
47 Bicester Road, Long Crendon, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP18 9EE
01844 208 268
Deep leather sofas, roaring fires and exposed beams – perfect for a post-shoot meal.