Scotney Castle attracts more and more archers and no wonder; it is one of the most topographically varied of the Fraternity’s estates in the south. For obvious reasons, that helps greatly with putting out the marks. Dead ground shortens the apparent distance, valleys have their optical tricks too, as do uphill shots where there is a gentle pin-cushion effect. Scotney has all these aplenty. Clearly archers have cottoned on to this with the result that the Armistice Shoot attracts real experts.
Saturday morning had its intake of tutees as usual, this time consisting mainly of adults, with the odd father-and-son team among them. All had done the rounds of enquiries with clubs, only to be told of the bloated courses that had to be done holding the plastic. It appears to be an effective way to steer people towards the Fraternity, but who are we to complain? Everyone had a good time and came out of the experience able to outshoot their own expectations. For most people that counts – basically put it is just plain good for morale.
The Saturday afternoon shoot was for the hardy tars. There was a moment when the heavens opened, just as we were standing in a bit of pasture that was already waterlogged. “Go on, let’s shoot from here,” was Phil Budgen’s approach, and that said it all. The shoot was well supported and the archers were not going to be put off.
A moment to remember
On the Sunday we had what many are now beginning to call ‘Fraternity weather’. A stunning autumn day, with sun, colours and views to die for – it was all there for a perfect day’s shooting. The first mark was ‘Snowball,’ inaugurated the same day a year ago by Alan Simmons, and boy did the little fellow shoot it with pride. We then went downhill for a clear long shot, followed by a ‘tree- hopper’ and a two-minute silence, a moment to remember not just our young soldiers out on service today, but the many veterans and their predecessors in past conflicts and beyond. The Fraternity’s archers all know where a part of their shoot fee goes; it therefore has a special resonance. A black arrow starts the silence, a volley of white arrows ends it; and no surprise there are plenty of white arrows wanting to be part of it.
It seems incredible now, but most had lunch outside in their shirtsleeves basking in the warm sunshine. What a privilege to have such a moment.
The afternoon got off to an early start, entirely due to the archers themselves, who had decided to muster on the other side of the first stream. Not only were we thereby able to shoot more marks, we were also immediately in different ground and had a head-start into even choicer features of the Scotney Estate. Over the second stream and uphill to the ‘Black Bull,’ onward to the ‘Turkes Whale’ then another uphill shot in open ground to the ‘White Lion,’ before heading downward to the ‘Finsbury Pigeon.’ Walkers on the estate were absolutely mesmerised by the sheer length of the shooting line and by how far and how well the children shot. Many have since e-mailed to find out how they too can become part of the simple enjoyment of shooting in the old way and having a beautiful walk while doing so. The officers of the Fraternity successively took the line forward and called the shots. It is, after all, vital that the engine of this tradition functions democratically. It also sends out a message that the Fraternity is as it always was; cooperative access for all archers.
The ever-present David Ashworth was soon measuring the shots in the Cloth of Gold, minutes after a spectacular sunset. Marks were lifted and brought in by collective effort. Less than 20 minutes after the last arrow the field was cleared and the whole paraphernalia of the shoot was stacked in the discovery centre. It is only right to note here a big thankyou to all you guys who help carry the marks, the panels, and the signs, it makes such a difference.
William the indomitable
Prize-giving after such an exceptional day is always a bit special. The winners showed the stuff they were made of. Nancy Ryder was streets ahead for the ladies, Andrew Coe for the gents, and it just had to be Alan Simmons for the children with an amazing score of 70 points. Speed was owned by Richard Sawle, with a record score of 38. The Cloth of Gold was owned by William Hobday – a nine-year-old who shoots a 43 pound bow 172 yards, which is a fantastic achievement. All in all, it was a wonderful day shooting, with exceptional weather and a Fraternity of archers that really works to the benefit of all who shoot the longbow in the old way.