It is the Fraternity’s final shoot of the year and there is nothing like going out with a bang on this, which has to be one of the loveliest estates. Big is the operative word; its sheer size harks back centuries when the King’s sport required that he and his entourage be kept in the saddle for a full day’s hunting. That is still possible in the Great Park. Whether the 800-strong herd of red deer feel quite the same is less certain. They took no chances with us, obviously aware they needed to keep clear of the pointed feathery things.
When you can’t pick out the beginners
Saturday and Sunday were typical clear, crisp, sunny winter’s days. A covering of frost on the grass to start with was gradually melted by the sun as the day wore on, showing the park off at its best.
We had a big intake of budding archers who came for tuition, not least Ruth Carty’s primary school class of enthusiastic eight- to 10-year olds. Together with the adults, all went on to shoot in the afternoon. What is generally seen by some as a warm-up for the main event was exceptionally well supported. The ‘aulde alliance’ of Scots and French were there too, with no less than six venerable archers joining us from France. Holland and Switzerland too were represented, no doubt attracted by this wonderful venue. By the end of the afternoon all our beginners were shooting as if they had been for years. The casual observer would have had a hard time picking them out.
Sunday dawned with equally beautiful sunshine and with awesome numbers of archers. The location of the shoot to the west of the capital is such that it attracts archers from the midlands, the west and, because of its closeness to the M25, the east up as far as Lincolnshire. After registering at the Windsor Castle (the pub, not the actual castle), archers went straight for the large car park next to the ground. Next to Helen and Ian Swyer to be more precise, because they had heated up a gallon of mulled wine which was distributed liberally. Given the numbers of attendees, we owe them a big thank you for their efficiency.
We did a nice round of marks in the morning. Among the challenges were Prince Philip’s obstacle courses, which double as excellent cover for setting out some of the marks. The morning marks were concluded with ‘Grauleys Lambe’ and ‘Scarlet,’ both of which are fondly remembered for their inauguration at the 500-year March of the Archers. Then came the speed-shoot under the eyes of Brigadier Peter Walker and his wife Lynne, who had kindly accepted our invite to lunch. Precisely because the archers of the Fraternity are quick afoot, we had time for the annual shoot at the Goose’s Eye as well. This is always very impressive. The grass was absolutely covered with arrows, one could hardly walk among them to retrive one’s own. It is astonishing what just 10 seconds of shooting can do. Conclusive winner of the Goose was Ruth Carty.
Off to lunch we went and it is only timely to mention the welcome Ian and Ashleigh gave us at the Windsor Castle, supported behind the scenes by Vivi doing the meals. There wasn’t a lot of time, but lunch was copious, wholesome, came out quick and with a smile. No wonder they were given a ‘dread-roar’ so loud that it nearly popped out the windows.
The afternoon started with the reminder that distances look huge in a huge estate. In actual fact the distances used on the day were, if anything, kind to the longbow and rightly so in the colder conditions. The average distances are displayed in the results sheet, which can be found here.
Stampeding the cavalry
The good Peter Walker was handed the annual donation for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity – it was a good one with contributions from both the I.L.A.A. and the Fraternity. Of course he too was given the ‘dread roar,’ but facing the long line of archers we were unaware of the approaching trot of a cavalryman – yes really. For the Fraternity it was all before them and so the roar was particularly loud. The result? The rider had no choice but to follow his horse’s instinct and get the heck out of it! It was, needless to say, hugely amusing.
After the particularly challenging ‘Nightingale,’ which had Mark Cox fishing out his and others’ arrows from the pond, we took our archers from abroad in front of the line. They deserved everything they got, coming a long way as they had done deserves a bit of recognition and the Fraternity did not disappoint. ‘Kings Kindnesse’ was followed by ‘Neues Tissick’ out of the wood, which in turn was followed by a tricky ‘Red Lion’ that had to be shot through two successive v-shaped gaps in trees. All too soon we found ourselves shooting in the Cloth of Gold. As the film-clip shows, archers were standing end to end and then more. It also shows the ‘cameraman’ apparently in arrow-catching position. Thank goodness for strong telelenses – the overshot was in fact a good 100 yards.
The Master Archer 2012
Winners, mindful of the need to check that the scorers actually do enter those arrows, were (by miles) Ray Underwood for the gents, Anne Charlet (vive la France) for the ladies and Joshua Casemore for the children. The speediest were Martin Pain, Kathryn Gardiner and Willow Capel, for the gents, ladies, and children’s categories respectively. The Cloth of Gold was all James Westley’s, shot with a Harrington Bow, but the ladies did well too with the inimitable Joan Collins followed by Joshua Casemore.
This end-of-year shoot also awards the Master Archer prize. Never has the result been so inevitable. Huge congratulations go to Jack Longhurst, Master Archer 2012, with a well- deserved name on the trophy.
Our thanks go out to all the archers of the Fraternity, for your massive support, your generosity and your commitment to this ancient tradition. 2012 has been a year we can all look back on with great pride.