CORNWALL A shoot which means the world to those who run it shows challenging birds to a team that knows where to put its barrels.
Guns and shoot owners with a passion for their sport unite. By Chris Warren.
Mobile phones don’t do Cornwall or rather they don’t do Cornish. I’m not talking coverage here – it is no worse in Cornwall than many other areas of rural Britain – I’m talking auto-correct. Picture the scene. You are in a Gunbus and everyone is talking 20 to the dozen and one of your hosts is telling you the name of the valley and the name of the river that runs through it. Now, spelling has never been my strong point and Cornish is not very phonetic so I ask her to spell the names so I can enter them on my phone. I have to do this three times what with the noise of the Guns’ chatter, the sound of the tractor and the bangs from the trailer as we go over the rough ground. I finally
think I have them down and put the phone away. Later, when I come to look at my phone, I discover that the valley is called the Vale of Lanterns and the river is apparently named the River Ménage. So I have to ask yet again. I now look like an idiot. So, note to self: when in Cornwall, carry an old-fashioned analogue notebook. ( Ed: You know you can turn the device’s auto-correct off don’t you, Chris?)
Cornish names have an air of romance and the Vale of Lanherne and the River Menalhyl sound rather more beautiful than my auto-corrected versions – I hope that Claire Young-jamieson, for it was she, will forgive my seeming incompetence. Claire’s husband Paul has run the shoot at Carnanton since succeeding to the estate in 1995 and he has developed it from a relatively small syndicate shoot to one of the premier shooting destinations in the West Country. They have never advertised and find no problem filling the days they organise. Paul and Claire host every day and as well as helping with the Guns Claire enjoys working her dogs. Three years ago Lee Nobbs, who had been an underkeeper there for six years, took over as headkeeper.
The normal preliminaries of peg drawing, safety talk and getting suited and booted completed, we were off. Cornwall looked stunning in the winter sunshine as I stood looking down the tree-topped slope over the Gun line northeastwards towards the charmingly named town of St. Columb Major. The greenest of greens under the bluest of skies with hints of gold from the dusting of leaves still hanging on the oaks. First drive, first bird out, first cartridge fired and first one in the bag – a good omen for the day ahead. Local restaurateur Jamie Yoki was the
man responsible and very smartly done too. Hanging Wood was a lovely starter, though the bright sun and absence of wind meant it wasn’t as spectacular as it can be. But no matter, the birds flew well enough, the experienced team chose only the tallest and you don’t need to fill your boots with the rest of the day to come. Certainly it appeared that the professional cadre of pickers-up had enough to do. The night before we’d had dinner in Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant and had done rather well, but any lethargy produced by the modicum of fermented grape juice we had consumed was well and truly banished.
Showing their mettle
The Gunbus next deposited us in the beautiful Vale of Lanherne for Mill Lane. A proper Cornish coombe, at this point the valley floor is quite wide between the steep wooded slopes and the Guns get a good view of the birds as they fly high and fast above the trees. By this time the clouds had covered the sun and the birds showed their mettle. Even with good Guns using tight chokes not all hit birds fold in the air and Paul makes a point of calling “mark” from his position somewhere near the middle of the line when he sees a bird shot but not killed, so alerting the pickers-up to possible runners. It is good to see this kind of respect shown to the quarry and it was evident watching the pickers-up that all efforts were made to find every single bird that had been hit. At Carnanton, Paul is very happy to let Guns work their dogs after the horn has gone and the pickers-up obviously respect this. Robert Symons’s dog Elvis, a rather fine fox-red lab, had plenty to do on every drive.
A relaxed elevenses followed. I chatted with Joanna Wilson, who was sharing a peg with her husband Kevin. They travel quite
Jamie Yoki, who lives locally, is well balanced on Young Squires.
Kevin Wilson on Lawreys Mill, a coombe made for shooting.
Gun Charl Oosthuizen keeps his stuffer busy.