Keeper pro­file

Sport­ing Gun speaks with Ruth Weir, keeper on the North Craw­ley es­tate.

Sporting Gun - - CONTENTS - IN­Ter­vIew Tom VeiTch

Why did you be­come a keeper?

Now this is a long story, it has a bit of a twist. I was brought up in it, my dad was a game­keeper, so I knew the world of keeper­ing. For my sins I mar­ried a keeper, we were mar­ried for around 10 years, but we split up – and this was the es­tate he was work­ing, where I am now. When he did his mid­night dis­ap­pear­ing act, he just left ev­ery­thing. I love where I live and I love this es­tate and I just wanted some­thing to do. So I asked the boss to let me look af­ter the pheas­ants while

I sorted my­self out – so that’s how I got into this job, it was a lit­tle un­con­ven­tional. I took it on and it worked, so I’ve been here for 11 sea­sons now.

So there was no for­mal train­ing?

I knew what the job was and what it en­tails from when I helped out my ex-hus­band. Most game­keeper wives get drawn into the world some­where. But I just learned on the job, re­ally. When I took this job on I was lucky enough to have a lot of other peo­ple and other game­keep­ers around who gave me plenty of sup­port and ad­vice. They were all very sup­port­ive. Es­pe­cially for a woman com­ing into this sort of job, there’s peo­ple who turn around and laugh and say ‘Oh, that won’t work’.

From the ad­vice you’ve been given, what stands out the most?

To be vig­i­lant and to not cut cor­ners. Just to do the job prop­erly. This is the sort of job where you can’t ig­nore prob­lems or leave things to chance. Also, there’s al­ways some­one you can talk to. Keep­ers are a closeknit com­mu­nity – they al­ways like to chat about ev­ery­one but they’ll al­ways help you out if you need it

What’s your favourite time of year on the shoot?

I sup­pose it has to be the sea­son. I like all times of the year. Some are qui­eter than oth­ers as we don’t have chicks, but it has to be the shoot­ing sea­son. I like the win­ter, I like get­ting out there and ev­ery­one hav­ing a good day – that’s what you do the job for. It’s a nice so­cial side of the year as well.

Which piece of kit couldn’t you live with­out?

You need to have some­thing to get about on, es­pe­cially when you’re work­ing on a big es­tate – so prob­a­bly my mule. I’d be a bit lost if that broke down.

What ad­vice would you give a young keeper, es­pe­cially a woman keeper?

Stick at it; don’t let any­one tell you that you can’t do it. You need to be de­ter­mined and you’ve got to love it and that way of life. Just do what you do and try and do it as best as you can and there’s no rea­son why a woman can’t do it.

In your opin­ion, what’s the great­est threat to our sport, if any?

I’d say ed­u­ca­tion. Peo­ple not be­ing ed­u­cated on what we do and what goes on in the coun­try­side.

Dur­ing your time as a keeper, which breed of dog have you found best as a work­ing dog?

I’ve only got one spaniel at the mo­ment, a springer spaniel, I used to have cock­ers, too. I have five Labradors, all dif­fer­ent ages and abil­i­ties – three are work­ers and two have re­tired. I also have a lurcher and two ter­ri­ers. I’ve al­ways loved Labradors, but I’ve had a springer for the last six years. This springer spaniel has a char­ac­ter that I’ve never seen be­fore. He’s a good all rounder and comes ev­ery­where with me. But I couldn’t go pick­ing-up or any­thing with­out my Labradors.

So what guns to use on the job?

For my shot­gun I use a 12-bore Winch­ester, it’s quite old but does the job per­fectly well.

As for my ri­fles I’ve got a .22, a .22-250 and .243 – handy for despatch­ing and that sort of thing.

“You’ve got to be de­ter­mined and need to love that way of life”

Which do you pre­fer, wellies or lace-up boots?

When I’m work­ing it has got to be Aigle wellies, they are the com­fi­est boots – I could wear them all day.

un­con­ven­tional path Ruth Weir, North Craw­ley Es­tate keeper, with her trusty mule and her springer spaniel

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