Autumn maize crops for feed or anaerobic digestion leave land vulnerable to environmental damage, says Tim Field. However, cover crops and buffer strips can benefit farms and shootsThe acreage of arable land put down to maize has tripled since the 1990s.
Growing maize has tripled since the 1990s, giving large yields of high-energy crop for feed or anaerobic digestion. But the muddy fields come October are the signs of serious consequences, says Tim Field.
For more on farming, read sustainable seafood production: buy one set one free.GROWING MAIZE
Getting stuck in mud over the axles demonstrates nature’s challenge to machines. The perfect storm for mud-wallowing tractors occurs during seasonally dreadful weather on bare ground bound loosely by a superficial root structure. The autumn maize harvest has it all, with 20 tonnes of machinery providing scope for humiliation.
Sown in spring, an old American adage benchmarks a good maize crop as “knee high by the fourth of July” but advances in breeding make thigh or even waist high not unusual. With pre-emergence herbicides to keep weeds at bay and bolstered by a dose of mineral fertiliser, maize gives large yields of a high-energy crop that is attractive for forage production – not just for 365-day housed dairying but also as a buffer and complement to grass-fed systems. The land area put down to maize has tripled since the 1990s but, sadly, October mud wallowing typifies rather more serious consequences.
The siltation of our waterways from excessive runoff and correlating nitrate and phosphate spikes has long been a concern for the Environment Agency, fisheries and water companies. Their associated organisations are increasingly taking steps to keep the mud and fertility on the fields and maize is an obvious target. While the fast-growing, carbon-storing stand is ideal through the summer, the disturbance of a late, wet harvest leaves the field vulnerable to soil damage. This was exemplified by a Pembrokeshire farm I visited on a shoot last January. Saturated from compaction it was crossed by incising tyre marks, had thin, patchy soils revealing shale screed and a noticeable absence of organic matter. Top soil had been deposited on the bed of once-thriving spawning redds in the valley’s stream. Aside from the environmental impacts of poorly managed maize, there is anecdotal evidence that links tuberculosis with maize-fed cattle that lack certain minerals and a significant difference in meat and dairy nutritional quality to that which is pasture-fed.
On a positive note, there are measures that can be put in place to mitigate or lessen the environmental impact of growing maize under adverse conditions. The Campaign for the Farmed Environment provides a suite of options, including under-sowing and cover crops, buffer strips, early harvest varieties and specific cultivation techniques.
The recent rise in maize growing is not only attributed to feeding livestock, as maize has become a regular feedstock for anaerobic digestion (AD). Farmers are well placed to mitigate climate change through managing emissions and generating green energy and AD can achieve both these by diverting animal and food waste, and supplying the national grid. However, farm systems can struggle to get viable gas yields solely from on-farm waste so are encouraged to grow maize to enrich the feedstock – or even replace it entirely. There is a certain irony with the use of fossil-fuel derived nitrogen fertilisers applied to feedstock maize; a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. That said, maize stubbles can benefit from an application of the digestate, a by-product of AD. Digestate is an excellent fertiliser and soil conditioner but the window to spread is restricted while the crop stands thus it is stockpiled and spread whenever possible after harvest in October. Poor timing substantially increases environmental risks in the catchment.
In 2013, the NFU laid down ambitions for a thousand AD units by 2020; with 277 operational as of June 2017, there is still scope for rapid growth in the industry. The NFU suggested 100,000 to 125,000 hectares of maize would be required to fulfil this goal. It raises debates of fuel over food security, with the same area capable of producing one million tonnes of wheat or more than 5.5 million tonnes of potatoes. Meanwhile, we are threatened by a hike in farmland value and degradation of the environment. With regard to food security, surely we should consider the estimated 30% of UK food that gets wasted, most of which is viable AD feedstock and comes with a welcome payment for disposal. AD plants do need to be considered like a giant living stomach – and with all stomachs, too much “junk” food can result in unwelcome rumbles and gurgles.
A more stable source of feedstock helps to buffer the inconsistencies of food-waste streams. Our local Agrivert AD plant at Oxford has a valuable synergy between its livestock holding and grass growing for the farm. The perennial grass leys have good soil structure to receive AD digestate through the winter and the benefits were evident in spring – their grass was twice the height of ours. The ensiled grass provides a 365-day buffer for the predominantly food-waste input while supporting livestock, better soil structure and a good chance of avoiding mud-wallowing forage harvesters.
Follow Tim and Agricology @agricology
Fantastic kit is useless without a practical way to transport it to the shoot. For EJ Churchill managing director Rob Fenwick, a do-it-yourself effort is now invaluable throughout the seasonRob Fenwick doesn't expect top marks in woodwork for his highly practical shooting box.
With a sliding compartment for guns, hidey hole of ammo, enough room for wet clothes and even a dog bed, complete with electric blanket, for the lab – Rob Fenwick couldn’t be without his shooting box. Though he doesn’t expect to score top marks in woodwork any time soon.
Find out what Jonathan Irby from Purdey couldn’t be without in the field, read my favourite bit of kit: Jonathan Irby. His fear of misplacing it is so great that Audley House are busy designing a replacement.ROB FENWICK
There were many answers I could have given to this but then I thought about all the things I have in the back of my car, without which I would be lost. Then it struck me that the best bit of shooting kit I had was actually the device that houses all this kit throughout the season in the back of my car. My wonderful, handmade (by me), shooting box. Ok, I know it’s not a stunning, £8,000 piece of furniture made out of burred walnut, just a simple-looking device born out of my garage from some MDF.
In terms of practicability, it is brilliant. The shooting box has a sliding compartment underneath, into which you can slide at least four guns, still in their slips. They are then safely stored away, out of sight, and can stay in here without having to be broken down and laid on top of everything on the back seat. It also has a hidden area for two slabs of cartridges to be stored as emergency supplies.
As I have a labrador, I had to balance carrying the kit I needed to take with me from shoot to shoot, while travelling all around the country, with having a happy dog area. I can be away for days on end so needed to think about wet clothes and a wet dog, too. So, the top area has a compartment where the dog sleeps, which is separate to all my shooting clothing. To overcome the wet-dog situation, it has high sides all around that contain any mud or mess. It also has a small, electric blanket that connects to the cigarette lighter. This dries her off and keeps her warm in the cold months. It is ideal when she has to sleep in the car if the hotel won’t let her in, too.
On the left-hand side there is an area to store many jackets, over trousers, pliers, tape, hats, glasses, chocolate bars, first-aid kit, refrigerated box (for soft drinks and champagne – who says I have gone soft). You name it, it’s all in here and there is generally enough kit to fit out a whole shooting party or help those who have forgotten anything.
Last but not least, on the bottom right it has a quick-access cubby hole for things I need to grab at the last minute if I’m in a rush: dog whistle, ear defenders, sun glasses, grouse butt markers, hand warmers, gloves and all those knick knacks that get lost easily throughout the season.
I then needed to think practically about what I’d do when something goes wrong: changing a wheel, for example, that is stored under the boot. As it’s MDF it doesn’t weigh a tonne, like the bespoke boxes, so if
I need to change a wheel, I can empty the contents and lift the box out on my own.
The worst thing about my gun box is that, all season, I get friends saying: “Did you make that shooting box, Rob?” This is followed by: “Of course he did, look at it.” Woodwork was never my strong subject at school.
Rob Fenwick is managing director at EJ Churchill.
Janet Menzies meets Simon Ryder, a Hampshire artist whose latest work-in-progress is as fluid and dynamic as the stretch of the Test at its heartA Space for the Bittern (2014) shows a proposal for inflatable architecture in response to rising water levels caused by climate change in the Cotswolds.
A fascination with chalk and passion for landscape inevitably turned to an interest in chalkstreams for Simon Ryder. Janet Menzies meets the Hampshire artist, who is on a year-long mission to create a video artwork of the Oakley Beat at Mottisfont. To watch Surface Tension developing and join in, or access Ryder’s previous work, go to: www.simonhryder.wordpress.com.
Chalk is, of course, literally in every bone of artist Simon Ryder’s body. It is also, metaphorically, in his soul. A Hampshire man, he was recently artist in residence at the Winchester Science Centre and admits: “I am so fascinated by chalk – by the end of the residency I was producing drawings in chalk on blackboard.” This developed into the intriguing Giants of Albion exhibition at Winchester Cathedral in 2015.
Ryder says: “I grew up on the South Downs and I am passionate about that landscape; knowing about the chalkstreams is all part of that.” It was as inevitable as water seeping its way through the chalk to the river that Ryder should eventually arrive at the Test with a year-long mission to create a video artwork of the Oakley Beat at Mottisfont, owned by the National Trust. Although the video aspect of Ryder’s residency will not be shown until next summer, his work is already in progress and available for our examination. In one of those multi-mirrored moments that crop up in installation art, simply by reading and responding to this article, Field readers are now part of the creative process. Ryder explains: “I am already blogging about the work and that will be a part of the project in itself, as will the reactions to that. I am spending all my time at the river, watching and talking to the riverkeeper and the fly-fishers. I am captivated by the Test, there is so much that excites me – the history, the culture and traditions of the river.
“Although for me it all starts with the chalk, I am fascinated by everything that goes to make up the life of Mottisfont. I began my career as a sculptor and the fishing flies fascinate me – I think their shapes have a sculptural feel. And the whole valley, with the water meadows and the Oakley Beat, is a landscape that has really been created by man. Yet the riverkeeper has been explaining to me what a fragile environment this is.”
Ryder plans to call the finished work Surface Tension and he is finding much to support his initial feelings that the life of the chalkstream is at a turning point. “I can see that lots of the customs of the river are beginning to shift. I have been looking at the work of Eric Ravillious, who painted wonderfully atmospheric watercolours of this area in the middle of the 20th century. Equally, the old Shell travel posters feature fishing on the Test and they capture something special.”
Trying to understand why the whole culture of the Test is so captivating, Ryder is beginning to realise that there is a strongly personal element. “I am passionate about the landscape and the river. I see it on the brink of change and it feels as though my own sense of Englishness is being moved and shifted. It is causing me to question everything I grew up with.”
Ryder finds himself grappling with issues such as culture and society, climate change and land use – all within the context of the life of Mottisfont. “Chalkstreams are sensitive to climate change,” he explains. “The chalk of the South Downs was originally laid down during the Cretaceous period, which was the last period that the earth was very warm. The waters of the Test have arrived there filtered through these ancient aquifers, which is really what makes them unique. So the future of the river is bound up with what happens to the chalk and in climate change – but, of course, we don’t know exactly what that impact will be. These are all perspectives I want to capture in the finished work, to challenge attitudes and perceptions.”
Ryder plans for the project to culminate in a multi-media presentation led by the video that he is now filming. It’s certainly thought provoking, but is it art? Ryder concedes: “Well, no, it isn’t art yet. What I have to do over the next few months is to be receptive to all that I discover. I had a feeling at the beginning of how I would present this landscape but that is already changing and I want to let that develop as I get to know the people on the river – the keepers, the fly- fishers, the visitors.”
Ryder is clearly comfortable with a process that would seem rather unpredictable. But his previous work proves his point. When he does arrive at art, it is worth looking at. His images are unexpected and beautiful, leaping out from slips of video footage, or photographs, or even bits of stone or blackboard. And now Field readers could even find themselves turning into art.
For the best kind of comfort food, try Philippa Davis' slow-cooked pheasant with chickpeas Revithia - a Greek-inspired dish which could even boost the immune systemSlow-cooked pheasant makes the best kind of comfort food.
Keep the new season sniffles at bay with Philippa Davis’ slow-cooked pheasant with chickpeas Revithia. The broth of this Greek-inspired dish contains lots of minerals extracted from the bones and will keep you fit and healthy for days in the field. And slow-cooked pheasant is the best kind of comfort food for a kitchen supper.
The pheasants are flying and it’s time to start planning your game suppers. Look no further than The Field’s top 10 best pheasant recipes. But will you plump for the perfect roast, a sizzling paella or sausage rolls for elevenses?SLOW-COOKED PHEASANT WITH CHICKPEAS REVITHIA
Based on the Greek dish Revithia, I am not sure which ingredient benefits the most from this recipe: the slow-cooked chickpeas getting to soak up all that wonderful game flavour; or the pheasant being allowed to cook long and slow and so becoming incredibly tender. Drinking the broth from this dish should help boost the immune system as it will contain lots of minerals extracted from the bones.
Pre-heat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1 or use the slow oven in an Aga. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Place everything in a pot with a lid except the lemon, parsley and chopped oregano leaves; season lightly. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop then place on a cartouche and add the lid.
Cook in the oven for about five hours (checking and stirring after three) or until the chickpeas are tender.
Once soft, remove the pheasant, let it cool slightly then shred the meat and stir into the chickpeas with the lemon, parsley and chopped oregano.
Check for seasoning and serve with warm, crusty bread.
Taxidermy, far from being a dying art, is having new life breathed into it by a talented band of women, as Ettie Neil-Gallacher discoversFiona Dean's peacock, I tried my hardest.
Talented female taxidermists are breathing new life into an art form that is far from dying out, as Ettie Neil-Gallacher discovers.
For more on sporting art, Tony Ladd spent his boyhood collecting wild bird eggshells and has now forged a career producing replicas – read collecting wild bird eggshells.FEMALE TAXIDERMISTS
Taxidermy is trendy. Dispel images of the wonky weasels and botched boar that may linger in the darkest recesses of your house, inherited from an Edwardian forebear and now relegated to being the subject of the occasional drunken witticism. Think Hoxton, Shoreditch and tattooed practitioners. Think Angelina Jolie, Dita Von Teese, Courtney Love and even Kate Moss, all of whom reputedly collect stuffed animals. Think playful parakeets fashioned into lamp stands, vengeful vermin in formaldehyde and whimsical weasels delivering a message of political dystopia in our post-truth era.
Now pop your monocle back in and relax. A little. For while it’s not all postmodern pheasants and ironic raccoons, change is afoot. Traditional practices continue alongside what seems to be known as “rogue” taxidermy. It’s no longer venerable elders peering through horn-rimmed specs at Victorian restoration work – it’s women (and predominantly young ones) leading the vanguard of its resurgence.
This isn’t an entirely new trend. Emily Mayer, the grande dame of the industry, has plied her trade for more than 30 years, collaborating with Damien Hirst along the way. But while her radical use of erosion casting renders strikingly lifelike results, such methods are often eschewed in favour of the more traditional skills employed by Kate Latimer. This Cotswolds-based taxidermist and milliner also offers courses and tuition. She sees her work as “a form of recycling”, using every part of the animal – “I can taxidermy the head of a damaged bird for a headpiece”. Her practice incorporates restoration work and commissions, largely from “people wanting to stuff things they’ve shot”.
Latimer grew up in a creative family and had collected Victorian antiques for years; she then found herself on a date at a clay-pigeon shoot seven years ago. As she got more into shooting and stalking, she saw a way to combine these with her interest in Victoriana. “My job and my hobby complement each other perfectly.” Thus she found her niche. “It all fell into place for me – though I’d never have believed it if someone had told me this is what I’d be doing for a job.”
She now has a freezer containing a two-year waiting list of animals to work on (though one of her freezers, containing mainly exotic birds, recently failed). One of her earliest commissions was a moose which she subsequently learned no other taxidermist would touch; for her trouble, she was paid the princely sum of £160 for three months’ work. Her favourite creature to work with is a hare but she generally avoids reptiles and is hugely mindful of the tight legal restrictions on certain animals and restoration items.
A day in Bourton-on-the-Water at her Aladdin’s Cave of a studio for a spot of stuffing, alongside The Field’s Deputy Editor, made me realise quite how painstaking and skilful the process of taxidermy is. As I swiftly sabotaged my magnum opus by making half-a-dozen holes in the skin during my initial incision, I realised that, dear reader, a new career does not beckon. Latimer patiently oversaw the valiant efforts that followed: after skinning, we removed the brains from our poults, popped their eyes out, washed and blow dried the skin, then preserved and stuffed the poult with wood wool and wire; the final stage was some cross-stitching that would have made my childhood handwork teacher weep. Both efforts now sit proudly in their respective loos. Latimer’s day-long courses are a must-do for anyone keen for a hands-on experience.BIOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING
Latimer’s creativity obviously exceeds my own by some margin but there is much debate as to whether this is art or taxidermy. London-based Elle Kaye thinks “you can’t be one without the other”. Having resigned herself to not becoming a vet, she studied fine art & sculpture at Loughborough University and her insistence on anatomical accuracy means that “before you’re a taxidermist, you have to be a sculptor. It requires artistry, dexterity and a visual and biological understanding,” and that very often people don’t realise how long it takes to create something that will outlive its creator.
Her work comes from interior designers, the fieldsports fraternity and people who have seen her pieces on sites such as Instagram. She prefers to specialise in mammals rather than birds because her work is fuelled by an interest in anatomy: “You can’t hide anything when you’re working with mammals but you can use a bird’s plumage to hide errors.”
Having said that, she once worked on a pelican which was “weird and wonderful” in that these creatures have air pockets in their skeletons and underneath their skin to help them float; moreover, this particular one “had fish in its beak and throat pouch – which I hasten to add was fairly unpleasant”.DEVOTED TO CONSERVATION
Kaye points out the inconsistencies of those people who query the ethics of taxidermy and yet have no idea of the provenance of their roast chicken. “People are very quick to rush to defend animals – more so than to the defence of human suffering – but neither understand nor contribute to wildlife and conservation. I feel that I’m devoting my life to the conservation and understanding of animals in a way that will hopefully educate, inspire and prolong the existence of specimens that may cease to exist.”
She thinks that, as a taxidermist, “it’s not necessary to hunt but [she] completely respects those who do and [doesn’t] begrudge them”. With clear views on ethics, “how something dies is not entirely relevant, because my job can’t begin until it’s deceased” and that by using the skin when it’s a byproduct of another industry rather than allowing it to be discarded “encourages a wider appreciation of conservation”.
This is echoed by Fiona Dean, whose work includes sculpture, prints and jewellery cast from taxidermied pieces, who adds that “even vegetarians don’t often think about what pesticides are killing key insect species to produce sunflower oil or the destruction of forests for soya”.
Like Kaye and Latimer, it was “a fusion of science and art” that led Dean to taxidermy, though this time it was biology and zoology for which Dean had a passion. This passion has seen her exhibiting at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, while the rest of the time she operates from her Edinburgh studio and her online shop.
Such views on ethics are reiterated by Kim Wagner, a Swiss taxidermist who has been working here for the past nine years but is in the process of moving back. She says that while none of the animals she has used in the past have been killed in order to be taxidermied, “some of them have been killed, usually by gamekeepers who would kill them anyway, so I might as well use them. I do not have an issue with controlled and regulated hunting as long as the animals are ethically and legally killed.”TAXIDERMY, NOT ART
In contrast to Kaye, Wagner is adamant that her work is taxidermy and not art; but like Kaye, says that her work is born out of her love of animals. “My work is merely done out of a fascination with nature and an appreciation of natural beauty and trying to preserve that. I do not create the animals – nature has done that for me – so I do not see that I add much creativity in it. You can decide how to mount it and what scenario to mount it in but I’m not sure I consider that ‘creative’. Art requires a concept, an idea, a language, a meaning, a certain something – taxidermy on its own is not art.”
Not that that detracts from “the impeccable skill that took years of hard work to perfect” that is displayed by many taxidermists. Wagner herself trained with Polly Morgan and the two of them once
collaborated on a baby giraffe. Morgan found herself working in a pub in East London in her early twenties, just as the YBAs were thriving, and says that, for her, “it was being in the right place at the right time with access to the right people”. Like Wagner, she praises the technical skill of successful taxidermists as being “extremely studied”.
Morgan has strong views on the provenance of her subject matter and finds a tension between hunting and wanting to display the kill as a trophy afterwards. “It’s absurd to kill something and then to try and make it look alive,” she says.
But what do female taxidermists bring to their craft that male taxidermists don’t? Opinion is divided. Dean thinks such a distinction is largely spurious and “cannot detect any differences” as she has noted the “incredibly fine detail” of work by some male taxidermists. What interests her, rather, is “the character of the artist”.
Kim Wagner concurs, musing that a small animal or bird perhaps requires “a lighter touch” and “a delicacy” that some men might find difficult. However, she’s quick to point out that there are, equally, certain animals – large mammals, for example – that she “would not have the strength” to do by herself and that for all the recent female involvement, “the best taxidermists in Britain are [still] men. They demonstrate an extremely delicate eye and handiwork to mount the most exquisite little birds that I’m yet to see any young female taxidermist produce – including myself.”
Elle Kaye is more forthright and says that women “in her experience, generally pay more accurate attention to detail” and that she herself uses her “femininity to project a softness, a kindness onto [her] work”.
However, she warns that “it’s not always a good thing to be a woman in the industry because others are still getting used to the idea of it, so it’s a distraction”. Kaye says that she still encounters hostility: “On occasion, when I’ve complimented an older man on some aspect of his work, I’ve got the cold shoulder from him. Some of them are simply not prepared to discuss their work as if they want to keep their secrets.” She believes that “as the industry is so small, shouldn’t we want to build each other up, rather than isolate ourselves?”
One man who doesn’t exhibit such froideur is Edinburgh-based George Jamieson, who has taught Polly Morgan, Kim Wagner and Fiona Dean, among many others. Maybe it takes an external observer, as it were, to analyse the rise and the role of female taxidermists. He observes that “about nine out of 10 of my students are young females from the art world”. He’s been doing taxidermy for more than 50 years, so perhaps with this wealth of experience he’s best placed to judge the role of women. “Women are better at spotting social trends,” Jamieson says. They have responded to the fact that, “over the past 20 years or so, people have had less and less to do with the outdoor world. Artists pick up on changing trends and have tapped into a desire to reconnect to the real world through taxidermy.”
Kate Latimer offers individual tuition, which costs between £80 and £140 depending on the animal, as well as group courses for £65 to £125 per person. Contact her on 01608 432649 or 07886 188751; katelatimer.co.uk
Elle Kaye: www.ellekayetaxidermy.co.uk or www.queenofthejungle.co.uk
Fiona Dean: www.fionadean.co.uk
Kim Wagner: firstname.lastname@example.org
Polly Morgan: www.pollymorgan.co.uk
George Jamieson: www.scottish-taxidermy.co.uk
A female association with stuffed animals has a long history in this country as well as overseas. Indeed, the earliest stuffed bird believed to be in existence in this country belonged to a woman: Frances Teresa Stewart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (1647-1702). Famed for her beauty and her silliness in almost equal measures, she was the model for the idealised, female Britannia that continued to appear on coinage until decimalisation in 1971. She proved impervious to the charms of Charles II, who had contemplated becoming the first monarch to divorce since Henry VIII, and who remained besotted even after smallpox had wreaked havoc with her once legendary features. The king duly dispatched her husband overseas and, in his place, Frances kept an African grey parrot as a pet for 40 years. It died soon after she did and was stuffed and mounted, and can be found in the Westminster Abbey Museum, next to her wax effigy.
One of the founders of modern taxidermy was an American woman, Martha Maxwell (1831-1881). An artist and naturalist as well, she paved the way for other seminal, male figures in the taxidermy world, such as William Temple Hornaday and Carl Akeley, using pioneering techniques in terms of preservation and setting. Using plaster moulds and iron frames under the skin, rather than simply sewing and stuffing, and creating natural habitats for displays, she laid the foundations of taxidermy as we recognise it today.
Charlie Flindt hits the road for his son’s graduation in Alfa Romeo’s new executive class offering; he’s pleasantly surprised when it takes top honoursSomething wickedly stylish this way comes.
Beautiful, lively and with bags of character – Charlie Flindt is impressed by the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, despite its slight quirks.
For more on motoring, read Charlie Flindt’s review of the Skoda Kodiaq – an impressive new SUV.ALFA ROMEO GIULIA
It has been some time since Alfa Romeo showrooms had a D-segment car for sale. “D-segment” is otherwise known as “compact executive” and accounts for nearly 10% of car sales but Alfa has had nothing to take on the hordes of BMW 3-series, Audi A4s and C Class Mercedes. The small Mito and small-ish Giulietta have lurked unconvincingly at the bottom of the range, and the barking 4C at the top, but not since the demise of the 159 have you been able to get a motorway fastlane hogger. So the new Giulia was the perfect test car for a 500-mile round trip to Yorkshire for a boy’s graduation.
My first impressions were mixed. Yes, the styling is stunning (a lot of Maserati Quattroporte in there) but plain white is not the best colour and the black/tan interior is a tad Abigail’s Party. And I did worry about those seats; to me they looked a bit low-slung and unergonomic, and I was only a couple of days off the physio’s couch after a popped facet joint. I mentally pencilled in a return visit for when we got back.
So it was a joy to reach Leeds feeling fit as a fiddle and fresh as a daisy. The Giulia had settled down on the motorway to an almost silent cruise, lapping up the miles. It had taken a bit of time to get used to the steering and brakes, which occasionally seemed to have minds of their own. The same applied to some of the electrics on the Giulia. The front left proximity sensor had had too many spliffs and was paranoically convinced there were things and people everywhere; the wipers were connected to a rain sensor but it sure as heck wasn’t the one in our car; and the sat nav was actually run by a little man in the dashboard consulting an old atlas – very slowly. Not much use in the dense grids of Leeds back-to-backs.
We blubbed pathetically through the graduation ceremony, as you do, enjoyed the best burger in the world (the Old Bar of the Student Union, if you’re interested) and then set off home. And just as we were in danger of not giving the Giulia a proper outing, fate intervened in the form of late-night closure of the A34 and the world’s longest diversion. It was an utter joy to hasten through the sleepy villages of south Oxfordshire, testing Alfa’s “DNA” driving settings (Dynamic/Natural/A – bit contrived) and paddle-shift change but ending up longing for a simple manual gear change with a clutch instead.
For the last bit we were back onto the A34, which was dry, empty and, at twilight on Midsummer Night, motoring heaven. It made a mess of the excellent fuel consumption figures but there we go.
What a refreshing change the Giulia is. It’s beautiful (go for the dark blue), lively and with bags of character. There’s a niggle or two to remind you who’s built it, and I’m still in shock at the fact that Alfa Romeo seems to have cracked ergonomics; I never did book that second physio’s appointment.
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA 2.2 DIESEL
♦ Engine: 2,143cc diesel
♦ Power: 180hp
♦ Max speed: 143mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 7.1 sec
♦ Combined fuel economy: 67.3mpg
♦ Insurance group (0-50): 26
♦ Price: £33,235
Despite rampant urban sprawl and the proliferation of motorways, it is still possible to head out of the capital to enjoy a day with hounds says Michael ClaytonThe Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent Hunt heading to Chiddingstone Castle in Kent for a day's sport.
Heading to the metropolis doesn’t mean having to do without riding to hounds. London hunting is tremendous fun, says Michael Clayton, as he recounts using the capital as a hunting box.
From the big smoke to the emerald isle, hunting in Ireland is not for the faint-hearted. Read hunting in Ireland: touring three Irish packs for tales of imposing walls, deep drains, double-banks – and great days.LONDON HUNTING
So that’s it, I thought. I had secured a job in London – reporting for a Fleet Street newspaper 60 years ago. It was a great opportunity but it seemed I would have to give up my passion, nurtured in my native Dorset, for riding to hounds.
I should have remembered the plot of one my favourite books, Handley Cross. Jorrocks, a successful grocer in St Botolph’s Lane, every Saturday during the season drove a chaise from the City through South London to enjoy riding to hounds. “His great chestnut horse, with his master’s coat-tails flying out beyond his tail, will long be remembered in the outline of the Surrey Hills,” wrote RS Surtees. Jorrocks’ view on sport from the capital was simple: “Doesn’t the best of everything come from London, and doesn’t it follow as a nattaral consequence that the best ’unting is to be had from it?”
I was fortunate to enjoy my first seasons from London subscribing to the Old Surrey and Burstow in the hunting country used by Surtees as a setting for Jorrocks. He and his friends would gather at the Greyhound Hotel before sallying forth.
The politician Enoch Powell travelled by London Underground in full hunting kit, with his top hat on his knees, to hunt with the Surrey Union. He told me this when we exchanged hunting stories after I had interviewed him on rather more serious matters for the BBC.
I had the greatest fun using London as a hunting box from which to enjoy sport with packs at all points of the compass.
Despite the huge development of the Home Counties and the advent of the iniquitous Hunting Act, it is a remarkable sign of the sport’s resilience that hunting in all directions from central London is still possible within just about an hour’s drive or a 40-minute-plus train journey.
Masters and huntsmen of the packs I first visited well over 40 years ago would be delighted that amalgamations and some redrawn boundaries have enabled hunts to survive into the 21st century, and they are still receiving enthusiastic support from mounted and foot followers.
Go to the annual South of England Hound Show, held in conjunction with the South of England Show at Ardingly, Sussex, and you will still see dedicated hound lovers appreciating packs with as high a standard of breeding as you could find anywhere. Hunting people throughout the UK should be grateful that the affluent, highly populated South-East has continued to support hunting so close to Greater London. The packs have survived and flourished despite especially active gangs of hunt saboteurs long before the 2004 Hunting Act, and continue to show great resilience, and courage, in standing up to intimidation and threats of all kinds still sporadically encountered.
Because of the pressures, the South-East’s hunts learned to cope well with vast changes in road layouts and building developments. London business and professional people can give their local hunts an extra advantage in organisation and management.HUNTING SOUTH
The hunting man’s traditional advice to his son – “get your hair cut once a week, and never hunt south of the Thames” – was mistaken. I hunted with all the countries in Surrey, Kent and Sussex and had tremendous fun. I never met more friendly and dedicated foxhunters. There was plenty of grass, enclosed by many jumpable fences.
Suitable countryside was already shrinking 50 years ago but tremendous efforts were made to maintain coverts and keep the country rideable. Jack Champion, veteran huntsman of the Old Surrey, was adept at “keeping the tambourine rolling” on the grass of the vale country around Lingfield or eastwards near Edenbridge. Some meets were less than 20 miles from Charing Cross; I recall hunting as close to London as Biggin Hill.
The southern hunts nearest Greater London have survived major developments, such as the M25 and the spread of Gatwick Airport, foxhunting south of London. They are still easily accessible from the centre.
Amalgamation has produced the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent, while the Surrey Union remains independent with a remarkable history going back to 1799. Farther south, the Crawley and Horsham, the East Kent with West Street, the East Sussex and Romney Marsh, and the Southdown and Eridge – the historic home pack of Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man author Siegfried Sassoon – all survive today due to keen local support.HUNTING WEST
The M4 motorway scythed through the Dauntsey Vale, spoiling some of the Duke of Beaufort’s best country, but it did provide easy access to many hunts from the London Hunting Box. The M3 made it possible to drive to Wiltshire or even North Dorset for a day’s hunting and return that evening.
It remains much easier, however, for many to enjoy the remaining historic hunting country immediately west of London that has for so long enjoyed the patronage of the capital’s sportsmen, including royalty. King Edward VII, as Prince of Wales, hunted carted stag with the Royal Buckhounds all round Windsor, once finishing a run in Paddington Station goods yard, from where the Prince and his friends hacked on to Buckingham Palace for tea.
Today, one remarkable hunt, the Kimblewick, encompasses a huge swathe of country, 60 miles by 40 miles, in parts of six counties just west of London: Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire. It’s roughly the size of Cornwall.
The Kimblewick, an extended form of the former Vale of Aylesbury Hunt, is extremely well organised for the 21st century, and welcomes newcomers. Several hunts amalgamated to form the Kimblewick: the Garth and South Berks, the Old Berkeley, and the South Oxfordshire, and the Hertfordshire. The hunt holds four point-to-points each season and has a highly effective fund-raising supporters’ club, which makes a major contribution to overall costs. Hunting’s resilience was truly demonstrated last season when the Kimblewick hounds contracted bovine TB and the pack was put in isolation, some hounds being put down. Visiting packs entertained Kimblewick followers in January and February, and the hunt expects to hunt a full pack in the season ahead.HUNTING NORTH
You hardly had to journey far out of Hampstead before you entered the Enfield Chace Hunt, formed in 1935 by Major Smith Bosanquet. He knitted together some country from the Old Berkeley and Hertfordshire Hunts, and used to say his country comprised “most of London, except the Zoological Gardens”. They hunted Piccadilly Underground line near its northernmost station, Cockfosters. The TV commentator and show organiser, the late Raymond Brooks Ward, was a Master and huntsman of the Enfield Chace, and despite urban build-up insisted: “We have a lot of fun.”
The Enfield Chace moved farther north, escaping the grip of the M25 circular motorway, to amalgamate with the Cambridgeshire from 2001, another example of hunting’s extraordinary resilience despite massive increases in roads and encroaching urban sprawl.
I was fortunate to subscribe to the Whaddon Chase, which deserved its nickname “the Londoners’ Leicestershire”, with the original showjumping commentator Dorian Williams as senior MFH and the great Albert Buckle hunting hounds. An example of Home Counties’ enterprise and acumen was the formation by Williams of Britain’s first hunt supporters’ club.
Hugely enthusiastic support could not, however, defeat the loss of crucial country to the growth of the new town, Milton Keynes, and the Whaddon Chase amalgamated with its neighbour, the Bicester and Warden Hill, in 1986. Since then, it has flourished as a fine hunt close to London with every reason to be proud of its record.
The M1 and A1 made it possible for City magnates to drive up to Leicestershire for a day with the Shires packs but far fewer do that nowadays. The residential packs in the affluent and highly populated South East provide so much fun for all the family, with so many associated events, such as hunter trials and social parties, plus the huge advantages of local Pony Club membership.HUNTING EAST
City of London businessmen in Edwardian England loaded their horses onto special trains to head out for days with the Essex packs, keeping up the tradition of Londoners who rode out to follow hounds in Epping Forest from medieval times. Farther back, Soho earned its name from the Norman huntsman’s shout “so-ho” to rouse his quarry. There has long been plenty of plough in Essex but there are still four
packs bearing the county name, testifying to the enduring support of local sportsmen and women.
The Essex Farmers and Union, going back to 1822, has the Thames as its southern boundary, and amalgamated as long ago as 1984. All the county’s hunts have illustrious histories: the Essex formed in 1785; the East Essex in 1820; and the Essex and Suffolk in 1794. They have avoided modern amalgamations and can be proud of their long records of providing sport and social events in busy commuter-land.
With beagle packs operating throughout the Home Counties, and famously hard-riding draghound and bloodhound packs, such as the Mid-Surrey Farmers and the Coakham, the region around London remains plentifully supplied with opportunities to follow hounds, on your feet or mounted.
So, despite all that “progress” and urban attitudes can do to the shrinking South-East countryside, a modern Jorrocks would find that central London is still a hunting box.
As Jorrocks said: “Bliss my ’eart, wot a many ways there is of enjoyin’ the chase.”FACING THE CHALLENGE
Guy Allman returned from hunting the Blue Ridge country in the US to hunt the Bicester with Whaddon Chase two seasons ago. “I really enjoy it here. We get tremendous support from followers and many landowners and farmers. Potentially, we face a big challenge if the HS2 rail link north really does go ahead but it won’t defeat us. We are already making big efforts to bring back pieces of country we hadn’t hunted so much.”
Gerald Sumner, who hunted the Kimblewick for 11 seasons, said: “I could see Chorleywood tube station while I was hunting part of the country. The Kimblewick has some very good patches and travels a long way to each area where it has mounted fields of local people, some taking out short-term tickets.”
Julia Caffyn, senior Joint Master of the Southdown and Eridge, said: “Our country is 70 miles long north to south, from Shoreham up to Tunbridge Wells, all in the commuter belt. We offer hunting in terrain varying from downland to woodland. Sometimes we lose a bit of country but then we recover another bit. Often we will phone as many as 60 people to arrange one day’s hunting. It is still well worth it.”
For autumn on a plate try Philippa Davis' hare loin with wild mushrooms, pancetta, ricotta and squash gnocchi with two of the season's biggest stars - squash and wild mushroomsThis gnocchi is autumn on a plate with two of the season's biggest stars - squash and wild mushrooms.
For an impressive supper party starter, Philippa Davis’ hare loin with wild mushrooms, pancetta, ricotta and squash gnocchi uses up the best of autumn’s bounty. Ricotta gnocchi is also lighter than potato, perfect for a light lunch.
If you have guests that have never tried hare, serve up hare ragout with pappardelle pasta to create a legion of converts.HARE LOIN WITH WILD MUSHROOMS, PANCETTA, RICOTTA AND SQUASH GNOCCHI
This dish is autumn on a plate with its earthy rich flavours and bright colours. Ricotta gnocchi is lighter than potato so overall the dish doesn’t feel too heavy.
For the hare, remove any sinew and slice the fillets into 2cm pieces. Season then mix with the thyme and olive oil. Leave covered in the fridge.
For the gnocchi, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Cut the squash in half and roast on tray until soft (about 1½ hours). Allow to cool then discard the seeds and skin.
Mash 350g of squash (you can save the rest to use in soups, stews or risottos). Using a fork, mix the rest of the gnocchi ingredients into the mashed squash and season.
Lightly dust a surface with flour and roll the mix into approximately a 1½cm diameter log. Cut into 2cm pieces and press each one gently with a fork. Lay them out on a lightly floured tray.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi in two or three batches by dropping them in (they will sink) then timing them for three minutes once they start coming to the surface – the water should only boil gently. Scoop them out when cooked and let them drain in a colander.
To serve, in a large frying pan, sauté the pancetta and mushrooms in the butter and oil for about five minutes then add the gnocchi and cook for two minutes more. Add the wine then take off the heat before stirring through the chopped rocket.
Serve hot with extra parmesan on top.
The dress code, that is. As fashions change and informality vies with tradition, what does constitute appropriate attire for a shooting day?Is fancy dress, comfort clothing or business attire ever acceptable in the field?
When considering the proper dress code for a day in the field, should one follow tradition or trend? Robert Gibbons advises on what to wear for shooting.
Looking to add to your sporting kit? Read what to wear when shooting to discover what kit top shots wear in the field.WHAT TO WEAR FOR SHOOTING
I do not think any of us could have failed to notice the recent upsurge in interest in dress code, supported by features in magazines and comments in the press and media generally. A typical headline on the subject drew my attention: Tory ball no longer for elite as black ties are axed. There is no doubt that, for the dress conscious, we are living in interesting times, which begs the question: is there a dress code for shooting? There is undoubtedly a dress code expected for special occasions, exemplified by those engaged in certain jobs or professions – the military, the Navy, the Church and Court all have long-established standards of dress. However, how we dress, when we dress and why we dress as we do is dependent on a number of factors, not least of which is to keep warm in winter and cool in summer.
In our modern environment, a lot of people dress just for comfort regardless of those around them, even making a point of not conforming. Comfort dressing can take many forms, of which not wearing a tie or jacket seems to be top of the list. This is typified when, on entering a restaurant, a meeting or just sitting down in the office, the jacket is immediately removed and if a tie is worn at all, it is loosened. It is now so commonplace that people no longer ask permission to do so.
The general mood nowadays seems to be in favour of dressing down rather than dressing up. I fear this has crept into the shooting fraternity, too. Dressing down at work, or in the office, on Fridays I believe was an American innovation. The idea being that the wearing of casual clothes would improve staff morale and increase productivity. Whether this is the case I am in no position to judge, but I doubt it does either. For the more mature individual who has come to terms with dressing down if it is optional, it presents no problem; if it is obligatory, that is a different matter.
There used to be an expression, not much used now, that an individual was “dressed to kill”. It had nothing to do with shooting but meant somebody who was dressed very smartly and in the height of fashion. According to the dictionary, the general idea behind dressing this way was to make a conquest, or a “kill”, of one of the opposite sex.
Then there were those who were said to be “dressed up to the nines”, which the same dictionary describes as being “dressed elaborately”, typically by those who are deemed to be overdressed. And we should not leave out “fancy dress”, a way of dressing usually employed by those who attend a party or a ball, which requires as part of the condition of attending a fanciful costume. Fortunately, this is a rarity in the shooting field despite some incidents having been noted, such as the Boxing Day shoot in Surrey at which one of the guns turned up dressed as Father Christmas.
No article about dress can ignore “The Full Monty”. This expression has come to mean everything, the full works, and I suppose it could, in some instances, be applied to those sportsmen who take that line on a day’s shooting. The origin of the expression is said to be attributed to the late Field Marshal Montgomery, nicknamed “Monty”, who began each day with a full English breakfast during his campaign in North Africa during the Second World War.PYJAMA PARTY
All of the foregoing gets further muddled when an invitation states at the bottom of the RSVP: “Dress casual” (whatever that can mean). This is, in my view, confusing. Invitations should be a bit more precise. “Black Tie”, for example, is understood to mean evening dress. There was once serious confusion when a host stated “Evening Dress” in his invitation, which resulted in the guest coming down to dinner in pyjamas and dressing gown. This really did happen, the guest being a foreign visitor on his first visit to England.
And then there’s “White Tie” (rapidly falling out of use, even on State occasions; few of us possess the right jacket that accompanies it). Of course, there are those who deliberately dress incorrectly just to make a point. We will all remember our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, who did just that by ignoring the accepted dress code and turning up at the Guildhall – where everyone else was in white tie – wearing just a plain blue suit and a red tie.THE COMPLETE KIT
So what, the reader may ask, has all this got to do with shooting? Looking back through old pre-war photographs (and even further back than that), I have not come across any guns on a formal driven day who were wearing anything other than what was referred to in some of the old adverts that appeared at the time, even in this magazine, as “the complete shooting kit”, which typified what was the correct dress for the shooting man. One of the adverts indicated the shooting suit as being “designed by sportsmen for sportsmen”, stating how the wearing of such a suit, and I quote, “assists skill by ensuring absolute freedom of movement, keeping the wearer dry when it rains, warm when it is chilly, yet naturally ventilating it is delightfully cool on the hottest day”.
The best made shooting suit should have a jacket with pivot sleeves, with either plus-fours or knicker breeches, made out of the best tweed available. The socks should be woollen and the garters tied, not elastic, the reason being that elastic can, apparently, affect circulation. In those days, nobody attended a shoot in Wellingtons; stout shoes or ankle boots were always worn. I have never succumbed myself to the wellington boot fashion or French equivalent for the following good reasons. Such footwear may be waterproof but it is uncomfortable for walking in for long periods, is a hindrance to footwork (so important to a shooting man) and is not at all smart or stylish if that is important. Hoggs of Strathmiglo, Fife, made excellent shoes and Norwalls’ Perth Boots and Shoes were described as being “wear and wet repellent for the moors” and featured a special “dri-ped super leather for soles”, the wearing of which, according to the advert, “defied the destructive nature of the heath and bracken, boggy ground and brackish water, leaving the feet absolutely bone dry in the wettest of weather, wears like veritable pin wire and, above all, gives perfection to the foot and comfort”. The shoes at the time were priced at 18s 6d a pair.
So there you have it. The above is a clear indication of what the shooting man should wear, albeit in another era. With more and more women shooting, from my experience, little guidance is needed when addressing what the lady gun should wear. I may be fortunate but I have never witnessed a lady gun who dressed inappropriately or let the side down. That, I regret, has been the monopoly of the male of the species.WELL TURNED OUT
A significant number of those who shoot still happily wear the shooting suit as described – or as near to it as current fashion dictates. The suit, accompanied by a shirt and tie, is still for many de rigueur. Frankly, for my money, there is no better sight than on a beautiful pheasant day, or a clear sunny August day at the grouse, than to see a line of guns well turned out in what I have described as traditional garb.
A soft hat, trilby or tweed cap should be worn as a practicality, keeping your head warm and dry in winter and the sun out of your eyes in summer. Some readers will remember another old advert, “If you
want to get ahead, get a hat”. Well, that certainly no longer applies. If you look around any airport lounge, station, street or supermarket, nobody appears to wear any headgear at all, except for a smattering of hoodies or those who have adopted the balaclava look or the dreaded baseball caps. It is now not uncommon for those who attend a shoot to do so hatless.
It is worth pointing out that, to some degree, how we dress depends on the location. I, for example, in the Highlands always wear a kilt on a grouse moor and have done so on hill pheasant and partridge days. I would not dream of wearing a kilt on a pheasant shoot in Gloucestershire. All of us who shoot regularly have witnessed people who have turned up in outfits that grate. I do not think jeans and trainers are acceptable. All of us can recall having been on a shoot where some of the guns, quite literally, have turned up dressed like tramps, tie-less, in dirty Wellingtons with a torn, patched and grubby Barbour and a cartridge bag that hasn’t seen polish since its purchase. Not a pretty sight. Despite the casual nature of life today, cleanliness should never go out of fashion. If they want to dress like one of the beaters, perhaps they should go out with them.
There are always exceptions to the rule. An acquaintance always wears a pair of brown, co-respondent golf shoes, old-fashioned ones with spikes, as he says it gives him a better footing. Otherwise his dress is immaculate. Then there is the occasion I shall never forget some years ago, on an ultra-smart driven shoot in Hampshire. One of the guns turned up late, just as we were about to leave for the first drive, in a blue pinstripe suit, no hat, carrying some cartridges in a plastic carrier bag. He had also arrived without a gun and was obliged to borrow one. I have to say it did not enhance my morning and frankly put me off having been drawn next to the fellow. I couldn’t for the life of me think what he was playing at, only to be told at lunchtime by my host, who had noticed my discomfort, that his guest had flown in from New York earlier that morning. The car that was meant to have collected him had not arrived with all his kit and, rather than let his host down, he turned up for the shoot, despite looking more like a bank manager than a sportsman, to enjoy the day’s pheasant shooting. Given the circumstances, he was applauded for his initiative and I felt guilty for having misjudged the man who, in my book, did the right thing, even stopping off en route to the shoot to buy cartridges.
In summary, it is no part of mine or this excellent magazine’s job to dictate what a shooting man, or woman, should wear or not wear on a formal or informal shoot and lay down hard and fast rules on the subject. I have a friend who dispenses with plus-fours and in their place wears a pair of well-tailored trousers in his estate cloth and looks very smart. A day’s shooting, formal or informal, is not the Centre Court at Wimbledon. However, given the scope and choice, I would point out the options available. Those who have the fortune to attend a good driven day might, as they decide on their mode of dress and out of respect to their hosts, consider wearing a shooting suit. I do not think it is out of place to suggest the desirability of doing so on such an occasion. I, personally, don’t think that trousers are particularly practical but it could be argued they meet the criteria of a shooting suit well enough. After all, part of dress is style, a subject we don’t seem to hear much of nowadays. By style, I do not necessarily mean following fashion – it is just looking the part.
The lifelong adventurist, ace tennis player, fieldsports enthusiast and now an outdoor clothing supremo shares her family’s love of sportLady Melissa Percy has just developed and launched a vibrant, outdoor clothing line.
Brought up in Northumberland and introduced to fieldsports at a very young age, sport is a family affair for Lady Melissa Percy. From a surprise catch aged seven to launching her new outdoor clothing line, Lady Melissa Percy shares her sporting story.
Our new column celebrates seriously sporting ladies and offers encouragement and advice. For more, Zara Tindall shares why a career in eventing was a natural progression for her. And Rachel Carrie is taking on her greatest challenge yet, tacking the misconceptions surrounding fieldsports.LADY MELISSA PERCY
I was brought up in Northumberland, one of the largest counties in the UK with the smallest population, blessed with stunning beaches, craggy moorland, rolling hills and plentiful wildlife. My father is a passionate countryman and being taught to fish and shoot was part of our basic education from a young age. He never differentiated between his sons and daughters and we were all given equal opportunity.
Fieldsports were not pushed on us. Dad always wanted us to enjoy our days outside and never forced us to stick out a whole day in torrential rain. Mum would pack a big bag of sweets, a flask of hot Ribena and our Game Boys so we could sit in the car with the heater on if we were too cold to shoot. This kind of encouragement is rare in my experience. My parents always just wanted us to enjoy the day.
As a result of this relaxed attitude to country life, we all appreciate and love our days together. Shooting as a family, with assorted badly behaved dogs, are the days we all love best. My father always says he loves having us all in the line and he organises his shoots around our availability, which is pretty amazing.
At the age of seven I caught my first salmon on the Spey. Unbeknown to me, I had fished all week with a piece of Sellotape on my line instead of a fly because my parents couldn’t cope with the four of us catching each other. On the last day, Mum insisted I have a fly put on my small trout rod and I went out in a boat with a ghillie holding it while ducking furiously as I thrashed the pool with huge enthusiasm. Suddenly I felt a pull and remember saying I thought I might be stuck on the bottom when the rod was almost pulled out of my hands. I had hooked an 18lb salmon.
Sport runs in the family (my mother’s great uncle, Max Woosnam, was an extraordinary man who won at Wimbledon and Olympic gold at Antwerp in 1920; captained Manchester City and England; scored a century at Lords; was a scratch golfer and an ace ping-pong player). From the age of four, with no tuition, I showed an aptitude for hand/eye coordination. I learned a lot about sport from watching Dad playing with my older siblings and he taught both Katie, my older sister, and me to throw overarm from a young age. As a result, we can both throw as far as most men. These skills and practice at a young age helped me out fishing so much, as I found that casting a line was much the same as throwing a ball and I quickly learned to Spey cast. Basically, it’s all about timing, which is probably my motto in life.
In a nutshell, my sporting career flourished after this early introduction. I played county hockey and tennis, and won a sports scholarship to Millfield School. Aged 14, I was given the opportunity to train in Florida to become a professional tennis player and from that went on to become number one in doubles and number two in singles in the under-18s in England. Later, I played on the WTA circuit. I loved the work ethic but missed my family and a normal life so when I reached 20, I spent a year at Leith’s School of Food and Wine and retrained as a chef. I also worked as a coach at The Queen’s Club.
I returned home for weekends and holidays at Alnwick, where I quickly picked up where I left off and loved being with my very special Norfolk terrier, Frank. Frank was my constant companion on all my outdoor adventures. He retrieved, adored watching me fish and would sit on my grouse butt watching grouse building in the distance and marking them as they fell.
I have always been an adventurist, as have my whole family, and currently on my wish list is Canada for its salmon fishing.
I now try to keep a balance between London life and country life. After 10 days in the city I long for fresh air and the space to breathe and play. I know that almost as soon as I walk through the door, Dad will challenge me to a game of something. Competition is always part of our life at home.
Recently, I’ve developed a collection of vibrant, outdoor clothing that can be worn in both an urban and a rural setting. I saw there was a gap for affordable, flattering and fun country clothes, which could be worn anywhere by anyone and hence the brand was born. It’s called “Mistamina” and building the brand has been a fantastic experience and journey so far.
TOP TIP: The best tip I can give as a sportsman is practice, practice, practice… it’s a lot more enjoyable when you are good at something. And from an outdoor country girl’s perspective “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad kit”. I always take out a few jackets with me as waterproof doesn’t always stand the test when up against the elements.
Make use of the last of the summer's bounty with this boozy pud. Try Philippa Davis' cinnamon and saffron poached figs with amaretto sabayonIt's not too early for this figgy pudding.
Figs are at their very best right now, having had the benefit of a longer time in the sun. This boozy fig pudding is the ideal supper party pud for this time of year, and guaranteed to impress your guests. It also doesn’t last more than a day, so best served when you have a crowd to feed. Try Philippa Davis’ cinnamon and saffron poached figs with amaretto sabayon.
It certainly isn’t too early for figgy puddings, though best keep the Christmas variety on hold for Stir-Up Sunday. But our peach, fig, plum and croissant pudding transports excellently up the hill, making the perfect final flourish to your shoot lunch.CINNAMON AND SAFFRON POACHED FIGS WITH AMARETTO SABAYON
Light and mousse-like, this sabayon (the French name for zabaglione) is a boozy treat for when figs are at their best. The fennel and saffron add a wonderful and exotic fragrance to the syrup.
For the figs, place the wine, sugar, fennel seeds, saffron and cinnamon stick into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the figs to the syrup and poach with a lid on for 8 minutes (less if the figs are very ripe). Leave to cool in the liquid.
For the sabayon, in a bain-marie, whisk the yolks, fig syrup and amaretto until it reaches 76°C or is thick and at least doubled in volume (about 10 minutes).
To serve, crush one biscuit into the bottom of each glass then spoon over the sabayon. Place a fig cut in quarters on top then crush another biscuit on top. Decorate with a few petals and some shards of the cinnamon stick.
The sabayon can be eaten warm or cold but won’t last more than a day.
Smart, stylish and entirely practical, gilets are the perfect defence against the vagaries of the British climate – no jacket requiredWhich gilet will you don in the field this season?
Whatever the weather, a gilet is essential kit. Smart over a shirt in the summer and an invaluable mid-layer for chilly days in the field, gilets are both practical and timelessly stylish. And there are plenty to choose from. Schöffel are thoroughly popular, but have you considered a quilted, tweed or even padded option? Here are The Field’s top 12 best shooting gilets.
Need some style inspiration for the season? Take a sartorial lesson from David Beckham, who looks effortlessly stylish in the line. Find out which gilet Mr Beckham opts for, read dress like David Beckham in the field.BEST SHOOTING GILETS
There was a time when the heady hues of scarlet, cherry, ruby and claret coloured the countryside, when red strides strode around the Game Fair, Burghley, point-to-points and race meetings. But as vermillion lost out to lime green and sky blue, the Schöffel gilet slipped into the vacuum. Ruddy faces gave up matching slacks and zipped up their fleeces.
In a swift online poll, voters opted for the Schöffel by a furlong (its design, quality, colours and style make it thoroughly popular both on and off the field). But the field boasts a number of great alternatives, too. From quilting (most of us of a certain vintage will have owned a Puffa jacket during our formative years) to fleece and tweed, the gilet acts as an essential sporting underlayer, a useful counterbalance to the British weather and is, therefore, a crucial piece of kit.
Here is The Field’s pick of the best shooting gilets to wear this season.
Alan Paine, Aylsham Fleece Waistcoat
With a robust front zipper, handy zipped pockets and smart contrast piping, the Alan Paine Aylsham Fleece Waistcoast comes in a variety of colours at a very reasonable price.
Tel 01623 415760
Purdey, Fleece Shooting Vest
Made from highly durable, non-pilling Italian fleece, the Purdey Fleece Shooting Vest is soft, warm and comfortable.
Tel 020 7499 1801
Darzi, Tweed Darzi
Made from 100% mid-weight Shetland tweed, the Original Darzi is soft to touch but extremely durable. Interior made from British fleece for an extra layer of warmth.
Tel 07808 204900
Lavenham, Mickfield Quilted Gilet
Slim-fit quilted gilet which is usefully water resistant and comes with a fun, bright interior.
Tel 01787 379535
Schöffel, Oakham Fleece Gilet
Fast drying, durable and timelessly stylish, the Schöffel Oakham is a hugely popular option for sporting sorts both on and off the field.
Tel 01572 772480
Illann Cashmere, Reversible Gilet
Get two gilets for the price of one with this fully reversible cashmere gilet. Comes with pockets on both sides, a funnel neck and contrasting suede trim.
Tel 0121 227 2950
Musto, Melford Fleece Gilet
This anti-pilling fleece gilet has a drawcord hem to lock in body heat. A fantastic mid-layer for those extra chilly days in the field.
Tel 01268 495824
Barbour, Finn Quilted Gilet
This quilted gilet features two handy pockets and cord to the inner collar with a stylish extra-large tartan lining.
Tel 0800 9173000
Jack Pyke, Countryman Fleece Gilet
This thermal fleece gilet is the bargain of the bunch, and comes in a variety of colours with a smart trim.
Tel 01234 740327 (for stockists)
John Field, Tweed Body Warmer
This padded gilet has a fitted feel, with a durable tweed outer layer and warm and breathable lining. Comes in static grey or navy blue tartan.
Tel 01886 822079 (for stockists)
Harkila, Sandhem Fleece Vest
This fleece vest is warm and wind resistant, with a fun check lining and extremely useful inside zip pocket.
Tel 01844 237944
Blaser, Argali Quilted Vest
This noiseless and light gilet comes with a two-way zipper and handy pockets, and is fleece-lined for extra warmth.
Tel 01483 917412
A backcross project has successfully reduced congenital conditions in dalmatians, says David Tomlinson, but once again the purists are complainingDalmatians, though classes as a utility dog, are incredibly sporty and bred to run all day.
One ground-breaking project has nearly eliminated dalmatian health problems, though breeders are refusing to accept the outcrossed dogs. Surely health should be more important than breed purity, asks David Tomlinson.
But dalmatians are not alone. Genetic diseases are the product of decades of selective breeding and you would be hard pressed to find a breed without problems. Read gundog hereditary diseases for our advice. And the dalmatian is a utility dog like the hugely popular French bulldog. Read dogs with breathing difficulties to find out why you should think twice before buying a fashionable, flat-faced dog.DALMATIAN HEALTH PROBLEMS
This column, you may note, is called Sporting dog, to reflect the gundogs and terriers that largely feature here. However, watching a dalmatian trotting behind a two-horse phaeton at a coaching Concours d’Elegance reminded me that though the Kennel Club may classify the breed as utility, lumping it with the couch potatoes of the canine world such as the French bulldog, the dalmatian is one of the most sporty of dogs.
The long history of the dalmatian is complicated and though there are rumours of Indian ancestry most people believe that the breed evolved in Croatia, hence its name. It’s certainly old: there’s a splendid, 17th-century painting of Francesco di Cosimo II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, accompanied by a heavily spotted dalmatian. By the late 18th century, these distinctive, spotty animals were well know in Britain and Thomas Bewick featured one in his book, A General History of Quadrupeds (1790), calling it the dalmatian or coach dog.
The breed’s development took place here, where it became established as the carriage dog, trotting obediently behind the back axle where it added a touch of class and elegance. They also fended off fetlock-nipping attacks from cur dogs that might run out and chase the passing carriage. In the stables, the dalmatians would live with the horses, again protecting them and the carriages from theft. Even today, dalmatians still display a natural affinity with horses.
Dalmatians reached America in the early 19th century and soon gained a reputation as firedogs, frequently employed to run alongside the fire-fighter’s horse-drawn waggon. Fire-fighters took pride in their waggons and dalmatians provided a much-admired complement to the groomed horses, polished leathers and brasses and gleaming paintwork of the rig. Dalmatians remain popular in the USA as a fire-house mascot.
As a coach dog the dalmatian had to have great endurance, which explains its physique. It is a dog that was bred to run all day, hence its long legs and deep chest. Its proportions are similar to those of an English foxhound: its body is the same length from ground to withers as it is from chest to haunch.THE PROBLEMS WITH THE SPOTTED COAT
Though the spotted coat might please the human eye, it comes with a number of genetic disadvantages, one of which is congenital deafness. A significant number of puppies are born deaf or partially deaf, a problem common to many albino or piebald animals. According to the Kennel Club, “not enough is known about congenital deafness to be able to offer any firm breeding advice. However, scientists at the Animal Health Trust have suggested that it may be possible to reduce the risk by only breeding from bilaterally normal hearing parents.” Owners are encouraged to have their dogs BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) tested.
Sadly, deafness is not the dalmatian’s only genetic problem. Equally serious is hyperuricosuria, a condition in which the dog’s liver has difficulty in breaking down uric acid, leading to kidney and bladder stones. This is an inherited condition and one that all pure-bred dalmatians can suffer from, though it particularly affects older males. In a ground-breaking attempt to solve the problem, the Dalmatian-Pointer Backcross Project was started in 1973 by Dr Robert Schaible, a medical geneticist then at the University of Indiana. He used a champion English pointer sire on a pure-bred dalmatian bitch in a bid to eliminate the faulty gene. Just one of the offspring of the original litter was bred to another dalmatian.
Today, 18 or 19 generations on, the LUA (low uric acid) dogs descended from the pointer are visually indistinguishable from a pure dalmatian and the high uric acid gene has been eliminated (though not other faults, such as congenital deafness, but selective breeding can largely eliminate this). However, one major problem soon emerged: show enthusiasts in the USA refused to accept dogs from the Backcross Project.
There was equal resistance on this side of the Atlantic. When the Kennel Club allowed dalmatian enthusiast Julie Evans to exhibit a backcross bitch called Fiona at Crufts in 2011, the two British dalmatian clubs condemned the Club’s decision, calling it arrogant and unacceptable. Breed purity, it seems, is more important to many people than the health of their dogs. Despite this, Evans’s Tyrodal kennel remains dedicated to breeding what she calls “the total dog… show quality, healthy genetics and with sound temperament”.
Today, there are LUA dalmatians in the UK and Europe, all descendants of the Backcross Project, though sadly the majority of dalmatian breeders still put breed purity before health. The project remains a classic example of how carefully considered outcrossing can be hugely beneficial to a breed. However, it is also a sad reminder of the resistance pedigree-dog enthusiasts display to any animal they consider to be a mongrel. Surely sound health should be every breeder’s number-one priority?
The once humble shooting sock is enjoying something of a renaissance, thanks to a certain breed of sporting gentleman as Lucy Higginson discoversA hand-cranked sock loom is put to good use at Emma Willis's factory in the heart of Gloucester.
There are few opportunities for flamboyant attire in the field, but the humble shooting sock is one. Demand for handmade shooting stockings in bespoke colour combinations is on the rise, as Lucy Higginson discovers.
Shooting stockings may offer the opportunity for bright colours and some personality, but so too does evening wear. Previously a simple affair for men, times are changing and smoking jackets, jazzy shoes and midnight blue are now all acceptable for the hunt ball. Read evening wear. How will you cut your dash?HANDMADE SHOOTING STOCKINGS
There are few areas in a chap’s life in which he’s permitted to be properly flamboyant. Cufflinks and waistcoats top the list but these do not materially improve your comfort like those other great collectables: shooting stockings.
For who has not had their day marred by too-short stockings from which your breeks escape infuriatingly every time you flex a knee? This is the chief complaint to emerge in my entirely unscientific preparatory poll of stocking connoisseurs, closely followed by “razor sharp heels or toes fatally holing them after one or two outings”; and sons “pinching my socks when they can’t find theirs”.
The solution to many of these problems is either: a) copy George Vestey and “stop at House of Bruar every trip North and buy inexpensive ones for about £15, knowing they will last about a year”; or, b) (and more stylishly) commission a bespoke pair, lovingly knitted on four needles “in the round” by one of a shrinking number of exponents of the art. They can be made to your dimensions, in whatever colours you choose (helping to resolve ownership disputes) and with reinforced toes and heels.
As Josephine Blake of Antidrift puts it: “Handmade stockings look and fit so much better, with much more interesting colours and patterns. It’s like comparing a Savile Row suit with an off-the-peg one.”
The downside is that they typically cost upwards of £90 a pair. This, explains Wendy Keith, is because it takes up to three weeks to produce them: “It’s hard on the eyes and the wrists, and knitters are generally of a certain age — I have several in their nineties.”
Hand-knitting socks with four needles (to avoid a seam) dates back to the 14th century, explains Keith, though she has only been involved for the past 35. Having commissioned one such knitter to make a pair “with a crazy design for my husband”, King Juan Carlos of Spain saw them one day and ordered a dozen pairs. In due course, Holland & Holland approached with an order for 500 more, and the hunt was on to find more knitters. Keith is now the undisputed queen of hand-knitted shooting stockings, selling in a discrete way direct to the public as well as creating seasonal designs for leading fashion houses, such as Purdey and William Evans.
“I find a lot of my knitters in Wales – the mining communities were great knitters – but I have them from Land’s End to John O’Groats. They are fantastic but they work to their own timescales,” she points out.
Recruiting and retaining these deft-fingered craftsmen is key to any superior sock company. Lucy Blackmore of Almost Unwearoutable socks makes a 200-mile round trip around Durham and Northumberland every fortnight visiting hers to collect finished socks and deliver measurements and yarns. Most of hers are hand-knitted not with four needles but “a Victorian sock loom; a person-operated crank handle machine”, of which she owns half a dozen. These socks therefore cost around £55, with her Argyle Kilt Hose (also good for shooting), the ones made on four needles, £145.
Wendy Keith’s knitting tribe generally works to 16 different designs using 25 yarns; the gorgeous colours and textiles of the stockings and their cuffs can be enjoyed online. There are all kinds of interlocking colours, stripes and patterns with names like “classic chessboard” and “hot stripes” but my favourites are the “double barrelled cuffed”, the colours and texture of which remind me of stone walls mottled with protruding heathers. With local yarns in decline, Antidrift’s Blake, whose handknitted socks start from £77, misses the mottled tweedy four-plies she used to find and from which her knitters made finer, well-tailored socks.
Premier stocking makers aim for perfection: the yarns and time invested are too costly for mistakes. The fit is vital and all sorts of measurements are required.
“It’s impossible to find machine-made stockings to cover really wide calves and it’s amazing how many people have that problem,” says Blake; Wendy Keith supplies one 6ft 9in gun “who has very thin legs and likes to look the part”. Almost Unwearoutable also specialises in serving those with very slim or well-developed calves (there is a small surcharge for extra wide or long ones). And they’re all mindful of the real length a stocking needs to be: “I’ve always made mine long so there’s no nasty gap,” says Antidrift’s Josephine Blake.
A sock’s durability hinges on the yarn it’s made from, the way it’s knitted round the heel and toe, and even the boots you wear them with. Blackmore declares that “Neoprene boots are a killer for going through feet — they are slightly sticky on the inside and grab hold of the fibres.” Usually it is barbed wire or moths that inflict most damage, however. Happily she offers a darning service or can even “re-foot” your socks.THE JOY OF SOCKS
Though pure wool sounds appealing on paper it’s important to mix it roughly 75/25 with a manmade fibre if the socks are to last – such as polyamide. Some makers will put double-thickness toes and heels into their socks but Almost Unwearoutable and Antidrift’s trick is to weave reinforcing thread into the wool when it comes to these pressure points.
Everyone agrees that cashmere socks are really for those with more money than sense. They may feel orgasmic – “out of this world”, says Sandra Morton of Perilla – but they will wear through quickly, even if made with the heavy-based cashmere Wendy Keith has spun especially for her in Scotland (from £145). “But Purdey sells them for almost £400 a pair — and they walk out of the shop,” she points out.
Alpaca is perhaps a sensible halfway house for those craving a super-soft sock. Morton’s firm, Perilla, specialises in it – “we’re the biggest dyers of Alpaca yarn in the country”. Her 100% baby Alpaca hand-knitted stockings (£185) she says are “just pure art”. Alpaca is reputed to beat cashmere for warmth and durability, and there are other benefits, too, she explains. “Like merino, it’s more like hair than a wool and the way these fibres rub against each other removes gathering bacteria – they don’t absorb odour, so become self-cleaning,” she attests. “You can wear them for a month without washing them. Perfect for blokes with smelly feet.”
Another option is Almost Unwearoutable’s wool and silk mix, a blend it also uses for bed socks. “The result is much softer and thinner – they’re not quite as hard-wearing but they’re good for shooting in August and some people find wool itchy,” says Blackmore. A silk and merino mix is in the pipeline, too.
Colour combination is up to you. One shoot puts all its keepers in striking purple socks: “We call it ultraviolet,” says Blackmore. The colour and pattern may come entirely from the yarn rather than the knitting pattern. Almost Unwearoutable’s Fair Isle patterned wool socks are popular, too, with a plain top. Socks are often ordered in corporate, school, regimental or racing colours, and Blackmore believes flamboyance is on the rise. “We introduced two neon colours last year and it’s amazing how many I sell. I’ve just done some socks for a man that were raspberry pink with lime green around the top.”
While guns logically steer towards muted browns, golds and greens for walked-up or stalking, elsewhere you may show off your finer feathers. “Really it’s only the stocking, tie and a waistcoat that you can ever show off on a grouse moor,” reflects Keith. “It is a unique, treasured item to have.”ROYAL ASSENT
Purists will be alarmed to hear that stocking-top slogans are regaining favour, according to Blackmore at least. Her list of popular options – “Hot shot” and “Air shot”; “Champagne” and “Sloe gin”; “Bang bang” and “Bugger” – do little to persuade me that guns are growing any wittier. More stylish to my mind are the hand-embroidered motifs Wendy Keith offers, though she warns that they are time-consuming. Some sport a Welsh dragon and “we did warthogs for one shooting club”. A particularly big project was embroidering the Arms of every royal family in Europe on socks for the Danish Royal family, who planned to make gifts of them. Keith’s firm also has the Prince of Wales’s Royal Warrant for shooting stockings and works with organic Duchy of Cornwall wool.
Despite a bank of “regular” patterns and yarns, hand-knitting specialists all relish special requests and chat about them readily. Many have also adapted their product to new markets and I’m struck by Almost Unwearoutable’s snazzy “festival stocking”. Thigh-high socks were originally worn under waders but now they’re more often found paired “with tiny shorts and wellies at festivals”, explains Blackmore. Those with daughters won’t be a bit surprised to hear that one client is extremely specific about length, “to show a certain amount of leg”.
Blackmore also makes socks for beaglers and has one sock loom capable of producing small socks for younger children: “We made some for pageboys at one country wedding to wear with plus fours and sleeveless tops.”
If you do decide to buy splendid socks, have a care how you wash them. Wool/manmade blends generally do well in a machine but hand washing or special “wool wash” cycles are recommended for finer yarns such as cashmere, merino and alpaca. “It’s not heat but agitation that ruins the fibres,” points out Perilla’s Morton. “Rub them together and you get felt.” And if you leave them to your wife to clean and they come back doll-sized, sporting agent Mark Firth has a word of advice: “You’re probably shooting too much: take the hint.”COSTS AND CONTACTS
Loom-knitted socks start from £55. You can upgrade their thickness from 4-ply wool to 8-ply for £15. Hand-knitted Argyll Kilt Hose are £145. Garters £17.50.
Tel: 08445 044 054.
Wendy Keith designs
Many prices on application but the Flags of the World socks are £90 and 100% thick cashmere start at £145.
Tel 07768 805365.
Hand-knitted, 100% baby alpaca shooting stockings, £185 (including matching garters). Offers many other machine-made ones for very much less.
Tel 01886 853615.
All handknitted and prices start from £77.50.
Tel 01476 585855.
Although the car’s eco-credentials look good, Charlie Flindt’s Belgian shepherd is the only member of the household excited by the arrival of this new SUVThe Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has slab-sided external styling.
Charlie Flindt discovers nothing in the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid to make you cross, but his Belgian shepherd is the only member of the household to find the new SUV exciting.
For another new SUV on the block, Charlie Flindt finds himself impressed by the Skoda Kodiaq.TOYOTA RAV4 HYBRID
Back in 1994, when Toyota launched the first RAV4, it was among the very first small/medium 4x4s with decent car-like manners. That’s why they called it the RAV4: “Recreational Active Vehicle with four-wheel drive” – the acronym “SUV” was unheard of at that time. I remember driving over to the next village to check one out (yes, kids, villages had car dealerships back then) and being amazed at its simplicity and drivability. Mind you, my daily transport was a Land Rover 90 Diesel Turbo.
More than two decades later, the RAV4 is still going strong and the SUV concept has taken a massive grip on the car-buying world. The marketplace is full to the brim with vehicles for the “recreationally active”.
Alas, SUV simplicity has gone and my hybrid petrol/electric test car is a case in point. It follows the modern trend for a petrol engine (an Atkinson-cycle one) and a pair of electric motors working together to cut consumption and emissions, and generally save the planet.
It also follows the new trend for SUVs to be, well, rather dull. The external styling is all slab sided, except for the front, which to me is just a mess. The interior is also bland but practical, except for a strange lip that sticks out of the middle of the centre console and masks the buttons underneath. The gate for the auto gearbox is a bit of a muddle and I have never known a slower electric tailgate. But there’s lots of room inside, everything works nicely and nothing gets you cross.
On the move, it whines a lot in electric mode and is interrupted by an engine popping into action when needed. It seemed to struggle a bit with even half a decent load on board and economy in the mid-40s (according to the onboard computer) won’t save much of the planet. The doors slam with a clang rather than a thump and the road noise levels seem high for the price. It’s all a bit “meh”, as youngsters say. I have to admit that rediscovering the principles of the Atkinson-cycle engine on the internet was more interesting than using the one in the RAV4.
Our highly trained Belgian shepherd dog provided the most exciting moment of the test week just as it was delivered. She looked out into the yard and saw a boxy white vehicle, which had sneaked in silently. She, like everyone else who lives in the countryside, knows what that usually means; she was over the fence and explaining in her fiercest Malinois that we didn’t have any scrap metal or batteries, and our drive did not need fresh Tarmac. Not much of a selling point for the silent hybrid – I do hope the Toyota delivery driver has forgiven us.
The whole petrol/electric thing is lost on me. I know it’s a Toyota but I still shudder at the reliability issues 10 years hence, or when the mice manage to sneak under the bonnet. And even if it is ticking the eco-boxes, the RAV should really be able to inspire some enthusiasm and excitement – and not just in our Malinois.
TOYOTA RAV4 HYBRID
♦ Engine: 2,494cc 4-cyl petrol
♦ Power: 150PS
♦ Electric motors: front 141bhp/rear 68bhp
♦ Max speed: 112mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 8.4 sec
♦ Combined fuel economy: 55.4mpg
♦ Insurance group (0-50): 29A
♦ Price: £33,975
Pulled spiced wild duck with beetroot, pomegranate molasses and cumin coleslaw by Philippa Davis is the perfect shoot lunch for warmer September days on the hillTry pulled spiced wild duck for a shoot lunch on the hill.
While the weather is still warm it’s time to enjoy early-season shoot lunches on the hill. Philippa Davis’ pulled spiced wild duck with beetroot, pomegranate molasses and cumin coleslaw perfectly balances the richness of the meat with the freshness of the salad.
Think a salad isn’t manly enough for a shoot lunch? Think again. The best salads make an excellent shoot lunch for the warm, early-season days. Read the 7 best salads for shooting lunches for The Field’s best recipes.PULLED SPICED WILD DUCK WITH BEETROOT, POMEGRANATE MOLASSES AND CUMIN COLESLAW
This dish balances the richness of the duck with the freshness of the salad. It makes a perfect lunch for those wonderful warmer September shoots on the hill.
Serves 6 for lunch
Wild duck and sauce
To prepare the duck, pre-heat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1. Mix all the cooking sauce ingredients together in a bowl and season.
Toss the ducks in the sauce, then place in a deep roasting dish, breast-side down. Cover tightly with paper then foil and cook for about 3-4 hours or until the duck is tender and falls from the bone. Leave to cool slightly then remove.
Pour the sauce into a jug and remove any fat (you can keep this for roasting potatoes). Shred the duck while still warm, mix with the sauce and check for seasoning.
For the coleslaw, in a bowl, whisk the tahini, molasses and vinegar together then the olive oil. Next, add the allspice, cumin and coriander and mix.
Peel and grate the beetroot and carrots then mix into the dressing. Finally, stir in the pomegranate seeds.
You can serve the duck and coleslaw with some really good bread or wrapped in flatbread or pitta all topped with a spoonful of yogurt, a sprinkling of black onions seeds and a few fresh coriander leaves.
Joining some show-bred golden retrievers on the moors, David Tomlinson is surprised to find that they are impressive workers. So why not try training your show-bred dog to the gun?Show-bred gundogs are impressive workers, and perhaps better family pets.
The rules of the gundog world stipulate that if you want a good shooting dog, you must buy a puppy from working-bred stock. But David Tomlinson finds that show-bred gundogs are impressive workers. And they may even be a better option for families that want a pet first and foremost.
Considering show- or pet-bred stock over working is one thing, but how about considering a rescue dog? Many canine charities are looking to rehome gundog breeds, and you could end up with a fantastic shooting companion. Read David Tomlinson’s advice in how to rescue a gundog.SHOW-BRED GUNDOGS
One of the inarguable rules of the gundog world is that if you want a good dog for shooting, then make sure that you buy a puppy from working-bred stock. Show- or pet-bred animals are unlikely to have the same flair, drive or ability, are going to be harder to train and will probably be less satisfactory once they have been trained.
This is all sound advice that I wouldn’t dream of disagreeing with. However, over the years I have seen many excellent gundogs that were not bred from working stock, so just because your new retriever or spaniel puppy isn’t working bred, don’t give up. The hunting instinct is so deep in the genes of many of our gundog breeds that it is often easy to reawaken. It is also true that anyone who wants a shooting dog for perhaps a dozen days a year and a pet for the rest is almost certainly better off with a dog that hasn’t got any field-trial winners in its pedigree. Ferraris don’t make great shopping cars and, similarly, high-performance gundogs seldom make good pets.
Some years ago I wrote some less than flattering comments about the potential working ability of the golden retrievers I saw reclining on the benches at Crufts. As a result, I received several letters from owners of show-bred golden retrievers pointing out that their dogs worked in the winter and went showing in the summer and they did well at both. As evidence, photographs were enclosed of the dogs at work; I had to admit that they were persuasive.
However, to be convinced I decided that I really needed to see some of these dogs in action, so I asked one of my correspondents, Angie, if I could join her for a day picking up grouse on a top moor in the North Yorkshire National Park, where she had worked her dogs for several years. We met on a bright, sunny day in late August. Angie was accompanied by no fewer than eight show-bred goldens, plus one of mixed breeding and three of pure working stock.THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WORKING AND SHOW DOGS
It was easy to tell the working from the show dogs by their lighter build. Another reliable indicator is that show goldens tend to be much paler than their working cousins. Angie’s dogs, however, were all a wonderful rich shade of burnished copper. I was amused to hear that goldens prefer to be as dark as possible and that between drives they like nothing better than wallowing in the peat hags.
It wasn’t so much colour I was interested in but how they worked. Angie told me: “Golden retrievers are much more air-scenting dogs than labradors, so many people mistakenly think that when they see them working the heather with their noses in the air they are just messing around. They’re not.”
She was right. These dogs were seriously impressive workers, each one scattering at the end of the drive as they hunted for birds that had dropped in the heather, working instinctively with little or no handling. Who said that show dogs can’t work? Golden retrievers certainly can.
Though a working golden retriever would be unlikely to win on the show bench, there’s not such a great difference between working and show lines as there is with English springer spaniels. Few owners of show-bred springers take their dogs shooting but there are exceptions. Some years ago I spent a day with the late Carolyn Muirhead, whose Shipden Kennel was renowned for breeding show springers that worked. Muirhead was picking up on a North Norfolk shoot with four big, handsome springers. They may not have had the pace and drive of their field-trial cousins but they couldn’t be faulted otherwise, hunting with enthusiasm and retrieving tenderly to hand.A DECLINE IN WORKING SHOW DOGS
I’m told that in recent years there’s been a decline in the number of show springers that work, so I was encouraged to hear that last season Scottish-based enthusiast Diane Scott made up the first full champion English springer spaniel in 19 years. Her bitch, Islay, became a show champion in 2014 and went on to win best of breed at Crufts in 2015, before achieving her Show Gundog Working Certificate. To be a full champion, a dog has to succeed in both the show ring and the shooting field. Scott works Islay regularly during the shooting season.
According to Scott, “Islay’s achievement has created quite a lot of interest in the show section and there are efforts being made to encourage other owners of show-bred ESSs to get involved in the working side – I know from experience they would be surprised at just how much pleasure they would get from seeing their dogs doing the job they were originally bred to do.”
All breeds of gundogs were bred to work and, given half a chance, there’s no doubt most of them would like to do so. So if you have a show-bred dog, don’t be put off training it to the gun. You might be disappointed and find that your dog has neither ability nor potential but, on the other hand, you might be agreeably surprised. For further guidance, turn to The Pet Gundog by Lez Graham, which is full of commonsense advice.
Like a triathlon on horseback, three-day eventing requires a variety of equestrian skills, says Zara Tindall, as she prepares to head for the “unmissable” Land Rover Burghley Horse TrialsZara Tindall speaks ahead of this year's Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, an event she never misses.
Growing up surrounded by horses, a career in eventing was perhaps the natural progression for Zara Tindall. From a good grounding at Pony Club to second place in her first four-star competition at just 22 years old, Zara Tindall shares her sporting story.In our new column, seriously sporting ladies write about their lives in the field and offer advice and encouragement. Rachel Carrie explains how she is taking on the misconceptions surrounding fieldsports and for Alexandra Baur, it all began when she got a labrador. ZARA TINDALL
I was very lucky to be surrounded by horses when I was growing up. I always knew I wanted to ride and I can’t imagine what life would have been like without horses and riding. Why eventing? It was probably a natural progression for me, seeing as both my parents had successful eventing careers. But actually it goes deeper than that – eventing is the ultimate test of horsemanship. It combines three very different disciplines and so a horse and rider have to have a variety of skillsets to be successful. It’s quite like triathlon in that way.
Out of the three disciplines, cross-country has always been my favourite. In the UK, horse-trials venues are often at country estates, such as Blenheim Palace, Blair Castle and Chatsworth House, so as a competitor you get to gallop and jump around some of the most beautiful parts of the British countryside. The cross-country at the London Olympics was an amazing experience and one that I will never forget – going round the course I couldn’t even hear my watch beep as the noise from the crowd was so intense. Not only is it a buzz, it’s completely addictive.
The Pony Club gave me a good grounding when I was growing up. You are taught the importance of the horse coming first, which is what eventing is all about. Horses are so good for kids. It’s a great way for them to get outside, get used to animals and have something physical to look after. Competing for fun as a child gave me the foundations to build a career on. As a teenager, I progressed up the levels and I always knew this was what I wanted to do.
The real turning point was competing at my first four-star competition, which was the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in 2003. I was 22 years old and riding what turned out to be my horse of a lifetime, Toytown. I had been going to Burghley ever since I was small, often watching my parents compete. But riding there myself – jumping the famous fences such as the Cottesmore Leap and Discovery Valley – was amazing. I came second and from that moment onwards there was no turning back.
In eventing, you are only as good as your horses and I was very lucky to have found Toytown as early as I did in my career. After we came second at Burghley we had another successful four-star, coming second at Luhmühlen in Germany before going on to win the 2005 European Championships. A year later we won the World Championships in Aachen. I owe him the world.
High Kingdom is my other very special horse. I won team silver on him at the London 2012 Olympic Games and then two years later we went on to win team silver at the World Championships in 2014, which secured Team GB’s place at the Rio 2016 Olympics. He’s 16 years old now but still going strong, having come third at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event earlier this year. There is still plenty more to come from him.
As with most sports, eventing requires a lot of hard work and dedication if you want to be successful. Not just the hours of training but caring for the horses. All those extra bits need to be done not just for their health but to create that trust and partnership.
There are plenty of opportunities to have a go at eventing without having to take it too seriously. There are loads of unaffiliated horse trials for all levels throughout the UK, organised by riding clubs. British Eventing puts on grassroots competitions specifically for newcomers where the jumps start as low as 80cm. If you have a horse, a one-day-event is a really fun challenge to take on and a good way of developing your riding skills.
Whether I am competing or not I never miss the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials [31 August to 3 September]. If I am not competing I will usually be working with Land Rover, for which I am an ambassador. Land Rover has been supporting eventing ever since I can remember and has become synonymous with the sport – not just as a sponsor but through providing vehicles to transport vets, doctors and officials around the cross-country course. It’s great to have a sponsor that gets actively involved.
TOP TIP: Be prepared. Make sure you have thought about the course, your schedule, how you are going to deal with certain elements of the event and so on. But, most importantly, enjoy it and it’ll all flow from there.
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