This journey started almost exactly a year ago, and I think more by chance than by design. This shoot is held every year, each time for a different charity, and a group of construction and housing sales companies are invited to pitch teams, including DDS Demolition, founded by a friend of mine from the shooting circuit. When I ran into him at a construction expo which I was attending with my current contractor, he asked me to fill the ladies space on the team this year. I was so shocked that he would want me there, especially as there are so many other women who could have filled the spot, but of course I said yes! I gave him my number, scrawled hastily on the back of a business card another company had handed me earlier that day, and went back to my stand, the biggest smile on my face.
That was last October, and the shoot was this September. As the year has passed, so much has happened in my personal and work lives and my shooting career that I almost forgot about it, until I was asked to go to the expo this year once more with my contractor and I remembered what had gone on and wondered whether my friend had forgotten to contact me, or lost my number, or decided to replace me with a better shooter. I needn’t have worried; within a day, I was contacted and asked if I could still go!
I knew it was going to be an early start to make it to the Royal Berkshire Shooting School; the M25 is an absolute nightmare at the best of times but first thing in the morning? I wouldn’t even want to drive that, so I was very thankful that we were all going together in the same car that wasn’t mine! But due to the early start (being picked up at 5:15am!) and excitement, I barely slept, getting a measly 3 hours of kip before the alarm went off at 4:30. Being sat in the middle of the back seat on the way there, I didn’t get the opportunity to nap either, so needless to say I was dying for a cup of tea when we arrived an hour earlier than we needed to!
The ground provided bacon and sausage rolls, pastries, fruit juices and hot drinks whilst people were arriving, before gathering all the teams on the patio for the standard safety briefing. The weather started to turn and threatened a downpour, but as we made our way to our first stand, the pattering stopped.
Our first stand, number 2 on the cards because we were staggered, was a four person 100 bird flush from five traps; we shot a pretty impressive 98, and I’m almost certain that I was the one who dropped those two, but we were happy with that performance and it put us in a good mood for the remaining stands! I especially was ecstatic, given that I haven’t shot sporting for over eight months.
During the day, whilst waiting behind the other less experienced squads, I got to chatting to some of the other shooters; it made me immensely happy that so many of the women I chatted to were enjoying themselves, and a couple were even interested in doing events with the ladies shooting groups around the country (if you are reading this, do drop me a line or follow my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and I’ll put you in touch with the right people!). Everybody seemed to be enjoying their day, and hitting a few clays on every stand.
The second flush was 26 clays for two shooters, held in the woods from an elevated platform shooting down onto a combination of three traps simulating low game, including a rabbit. I shot it with James Bradley-Day, and we ended on a total of 24 (including an excellent shot at a rabbit clay taken by him just as it was rolling up a bank to our left and almost out of sight!); our two team mates then managed 25. We headed towards our final stand, knowing that we were in a very good position for the team high gun.
We were first back for the champagne reception at the clubhouse, but the other teams soon rolled in, and after a sweepstake was taken to guess how many of the 9900+ clays had been hit, we shortly settled down for lunch. During the meal, we played ‘heads or tails’, were given a speech about the charity we had been raising money for (the Honeypot Children’s Charity, which raises money for young careers between the ages of 5-12 to provide them with excursions and experiences they wouldn’t normally have access to), and heard how much had been raised so far. At the last count on the day, we had helped raise over an immense £51,000; we are still awaiting the final total.
There were five prizes to be given out; the Best Dressed, the sweepstake, Team High Gun, Men’s High Gun and Ladies’ High Gun. The first went to the gentleman we had all been saying throughout the entire day should win the prize, turning up as he had in a very impressive tweed suit. The sweepstake was announced next, and I was shocked to discover that I had won! My guess of 7150 was closest to the answer. As for the other three prizes, it had been stipulated that if the individual high guns were in the high gun team, they couldn’t win their individual category. The men’s and women’s high guns were called first, then the team.
To build the suspense even further, Nigel read the team scores from the lowest to the highest; before he called the winning name, he explained that the men’s and women’s high guns had been in the high gun team as well. As he called ‘DDS Demolition’, I felt the biggest smile spread across my face. We all shook hands with Nigel and the charity rep, had our team photo taken for the second time that day and sat down again to finish our drinks before setting off for home.
I feel so proud to have been involved with this shoot. Not only was it a fun day out, doing what I love in a group with great teammates, but I got to meet interesting new people and help raise money for an incredible charity doing wonderful things to help young children. Whether we had won or not, I am so pleased to have been a part of this fabulous event. Thank you Les for inviting me to join your team!