Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shooting in England

One of my (Charlie) interesting events was shooting with my friend and colleague from northern England, Jonathan Welford-Carroll (Jonty) during the last week of October.   Jonty is a Judge working here in Kosovo and in England is a barrister and part time Judge.   In England barristers who are interested in becoming a full time Crown Judge can work on a part time basis until selected as a full time Judge.

Jonty lives in the very quaint village of Pickhill, next to Thirsk (the Darrowby of James Harriott for you fans of "All Creatures Great and Small").  He invited me to join his friends in a driven shoot for partridge and pheasant in North Yorkshire.  I was thrilled to be invited and eagerly accepted. However, I constantly committed the unpardonable error of referring to the activity as "hunting".  Jonty quickly pointed out that "hunting" is something done by a guy in a pink jacket riding on a horse and chasing hounds.  It took me a while but I finally got the hang of the lingo.

We met in the morning with his friends and their wives at a nearby country inn for a "full English breakfast which would be absolutely forbidden for those of you who have cholesterol problems, but was delicious anyway...lots of sausage and other meats with the occasional egg thrown in for health purposes!

We then proceeded to the area for "shooting".  Jonty and his shooting friends have exclusive rights to hunt some farms that are cultivated by the farmers with an eye toward leasing the rights to hunt to local shooting syndicates.  In Jonty's group there are 11 members and each can bring a guest, so there are usually about 15 shooters.  It is also important to note that, as I said previously, this was a driven hunt. In the old days, on estates, servants were charged with the duty to go in large numbers through the brush pushing the birds ahead and toward the hunters who waited in assigned spots for the birds to finally lift and fly over them.
I asked Jonty who the drivers were and he replied "some lads from the village."  In fact a few wives and daughters joined the drivers and seemed to be having a good time.So, most of the shooting is straight up or going away from you to the rear.  Shooting straight ahead would endanger the "drivers"...and they quit shooting the help several years ago !!!

We gathered at one of the farms shown below  This is known as a "Model Farm" There are a number of these spread around England and was part of a reform movement in the middle of the 19th century.

I arrived in typical Iowa redneck hunting gear of boots, jeans, a ratty sweatshirt and a jacket and hat. As you can see below, that is totally inappropriate shooting attire. Jonty (on the left) and "the colonel" on the right are modeling the latest "kit" for the shooting set.

Below is Jonty and his son, Oliver, (11) who got to shoot with us and got two partridge.

The Colonel is well armed (see the shells on the belt)

Above are some of the others and another son and below Jonty showing his fine duds.  Notice that every person has not only tweed shooting attire but also a tie !!! They only made fun of my clothes a little...they were very polite

As I said, some wives and daughters joined the hunt and below we are preparing to lunch after 3 drives (below)  Lunch was, once again, an extravaganza of meat, sausages, meat pies and sandwiches delivered in wicker baskets,  washed down with home made sloe gin..then back to hunting !

The guy below is the captain of the shoot.  We all draw "pegs" with numbers assigning us to a different location on each "drive". We did a total of 6 drives that day in different locations and shot about 40 partridge and 15 pheasant. My friend Hajnalka (a very nice woman from Hungary who is an excellent Judge) said that she heard that Jonty and I went "peasant hunting"...I told her that I hoped we missed most of the peasants

In the following three photos you can see the hunters spreading out and waiting at assigned locations for the "drivers" to push the birds toward us.

Jonty's brother-in-law loaned me a gun to use for the day. I must admit that I was the worst "shooter" of the day. I found standing still and waiting and then shooting straight up at the birds as they flew over to be very difficult. We Americans are more used to following an upland game dog and shooting out in front which seems much easier to me.  However, this was an experience that few Americans ever get to enjoy and I enjoyed it immensely.

As one would imagine, we adjourned to another inn/pub for some discussion and a few pints after the shoot.

In the evening Jonty, his wife Mellie and I joined some of the shooting friends for dinner at their beautiful (1610) home.

The inn and pub where I stayed for the two nights I was in Pickhill.

Below is the typical interior of the pub.

Following are photos I took of the little village of Pickhill on a early Sunday morning walk.

As you can see below, even though we are in a village, North Yorkshire is very rural and agricultural.

Below:  Jonty and Mellie's house in Pickhill.

I thought the place below was interesting. Immediately behind Jonty's house is this mound where the manor house or castle stood about 1000 years ago.  The moat is still somewhat visible.  

I couldn't leave Pickhill/Thirsk

Below is the surgery with residence upstairs

Harriot's real name was James Alfred Wight.

They have completely restored and recreated the premises including some of the sets and equipment from the popular BBC television series based on the books.  Jonty couldn't resist getting into the car from the TV series.

Finally, I was really interested in the Church across the street from Jonty's house pictured below. The part of the church to the far right was build in 1030, prior to the Norman Invasion of England. The rest of the church was completed in the time of Henry VIII.

The main door to the present church is Norman.

I liked this spot on the inside of the middle part of the church. The local militia was (in the middle ages) required to have archery practice after church services and the grooves shown here are from sharpening arrows on the limestone blocks.

It was really an exceptional experience for me to see that part of England, and, as a lifelong hunter, to take part in a type of that was so different and interesting. Next time I need to get my tweed knickers, vest, hat and tie ready and that will, no doubt, enable me to shoot better.

1 comment:

  1. charlie,

    loved the read. so glad you had a great time and you and kathy would be welcome to come again any time. as for correcting your us english terms, as you know "hunting" = shooting. you may also want to know that
    "knickers" = breeks (in UK english, 'knickers' are the rather fetching small lacy things best suited to a pretty girl's butt.
    "vest" = waistcoat.