the last shoot of the season

the end of our line of guns

The shooting season has now drawn to a close and we have enjoyed our last pheasant shoot. As a result, we have also enjoyed our last fresh pheasant dish until later in the year.

Our last shoot was great fun.  All friends and family and a hearty meal together afterwards.

ready and waiting

It was an interesting day with a young working dog still being put through his paces but who did incredibly well, a few foxes that will not doubt hear the sound of the hunting horn and the screech of an eagle soon. We saw lots of hares and my sister’s terrier at regular intervals (he had a fabulous day but also kept appearing exactly where he shouldn’t have been)!

a young spaniel being put through his paces (with help!!)

The young spaniel who was enjoying a bit of a training day out was a bit hesitant but enthusiastic and I’m sure his confidence in his master’s instructions will eventually come. His kennel buddy is another spaniel but a very timid bitch who doesn’t work but insists on ‘helping out’. I’m sure she was as pleased with herself as he was!

a big dog fox breaks cover and then panics when he sees the guns

There were a number of foxes that were driven out of the cover by our motley crew of beaters who were made up of friends, neighbours and teenagers.  They lost concentration at times while chatting, leaving gaps in the line that you could drive a train through but these final family shoot days on the farm are not about numbers or ratios, they are about fun, fun, fun and with those rules in place and kept up by the farmer himself (who was also beating), everyone had a great day.

what do you call a gathering of beaters?

Even though it is a fun day, the guns still hand over their beater’s tips and the kids all go home with quite a bit of spending cash.

The weather was a bit damp and overcast with a chill that most of our winter has so far been without but it wasn’t as wet and sticky underfoot as it has been known to be. The marked lack of rain this year ensured dry fenland silt and although we were grateful not to get wet, it was a real shame that we didn’t actually get the sun for our last day.

a bit of crack between drives

There weren’t a lot of birds about and I think the final numbers were similar to the previous shoot when the family and friends got together.  None of the guns is really interested in numbers (probably just as well!!) and some drives saw no lead leaving the barrels of the guns but that is the joy of a wild pheasant shoot on the fens; nothing is guaranteed.

We always take our terrier with us as he loves it. He doesn’t have the soft mouth of the breeds used as gun dogs but he has a good nose. He will find a bird in cover and he will get it up in the air for you. He will find a pricked bird but you need to get there quickly on his heels to make sure it is despatched without his help. He watches our shot birds so he knows where they land and will go off to retrieve them but only picks them up and gives them a bruising squeeze before leaving us to pick up our dead birds.

max waiting on his peg

We’d like to take him beating but I think we’d need to do some work first!

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lovely grub

hot chocolate love

I was in Borough Market last week looking at a new premises for a client. I was treated to a luxuriously creamy and tasty hot chocolate in our subsequent meeting in Le Pain Quotidien on Winchester Walk. With my appetite wetted for all that the market has to offer, I made the most of my walk back to London Bridge station and did some shopping!!

london rye bread

I could have gone mad on cured meats, olives, cheeses, baked goods and almost anything else you might want to out in your shopping bag but I limited my purchases to some wild beef, london rye bread and some natas (a particular favourite of my lovely husbands).

natas

I hope the client takes the premises because I will get to make a weekly pilgrimage to this fabulous part of my adopted home as well as the chance of lunch with one of the girls lucky enough to be working there.


spring bulbs

moss covered hyacinth bulb in a cup and saucer

One of my close friends, Vicki had a birthday this week and after all the present buying for Christmas, it is sometimes difficult to find ideas for an event so soon afterwards.

I found these lovely vintage tea cups and saucers planted up with bulbs last year but missed my chance then. This year, however, I made sure I got around to it in time and here they are.

hyacinth bulb peaking through the moss

Vicki’s gift is a hyacinth in a rose decorated vintage tea cup and saucer. She has a delightful workroom in her house which I admit to begin incredibly envious of. It is lovely and understated with white bent wood furniture and lovely clean white surfaces.

I love the smell of hyacinths and I hope, when it flowers, it is a white one to go with the decor but whatever colour it is, I know the smell will add to the lovely atmosphere in Vicki’s workroom.

narcissi in a cup and saucer

The thing I like particularly about these is what you can do when the bulbs have died back and need to be put away in the dark until next time:  You can use them, because you are left with a pretty bone china cup and saucer for your very favourite tea. I wish I could find a tea plate to complete the ensemble and to hold the all important biccies!

narcissi in a pair of cup and saucers

My only mistake with these is that I don’t have one myself!!


the one that got away

I’ve talked about this before and I am very aware that it is not to everyone’s taste, but we shoot game and we do it because it is challenging, it takes us to some wonderful places and it puts food on our table.

Not only does it put food on our table but we do it ourselves and face the difficulties that come with the decision to kill our own food. There is an honesty to it that I find acceptable in the pursuit of what is considered by most to be an unattractive sport.

casual pheasant (bottom right)

We were on a shoot recently, where I was very much amused to see a very nonchalant pheasant wandering about in the background of a line of guns on that very day.

There was definitely an air of caution about how it was sneaking around in the background, and it certainly looked at one point like it was saying to itself “there’s nothing to see here’ out of the corner of it’s mouth as it sidled off into the woodland.

This is in stark contrast to the fate of others as can be seen in the following shots.

a direct hit

these birds are often dead long before they hit the ground

beautiful and graceful even when falling

It isn’t nice to witness but a clean kill is good to see and everything we shoot gets eaten.  I don’t agree with it if all it is to you is sport. I won’t kill if I am not capable or inclined to clean, prepare and eat what it is whether that is a fish, pheasant, a pigeon, a deer, a mushroom or berries from the woods.

 


the shooting season

'I'm ready!'

we go on a particular pheasant shoot every year at the end of the year and although these things are not for every one, there is no doubting the beauty of the surroundings that we find ourselves in.

It is under the feet of the white horse outside of Thirsk and it is stunning. We have been on this particular shoot about 5 times now and we have never been disappointed with the weather.

We have had snow and glorious sunshine, atmospheric fog and pure bright sunlight.

This time was no exception. Apart from a brief but freezing downpour, we had another glorious day.

off they go

One of the things that I love most about the day is watching the beaters, picker uppers and the dogs particularly, working.  They are a nice bunch and we know them pretty well now.

One particular picker upper has a ‘pack’ of dogs that seems to increase in number every time we see them and this year he is up to 6 in total.

Unlike our own mutt, who is now referred to as ‘that bloody terrier’ having disgraced himself last year by taking off towards a cover of pheasants (I have to jump to his defence at this point as he wasn’t heading for the cover at all but had sniffed out a pricked pheasant and was simply ‘tidying up’), these 6 working dogs are immaculately well behaved.  He has such a gentle but complete control over them, it is nothing but impressive.

To further defend the terrier and increase our love of the people on this shoot, we were introduced to a lovely young lad and a lovely small and very lively terrier in the line up of beaters.  He tended to be a bit wayward occasionally but was earning his reputation as a worthy contributor to the line of beaters.

There are some lovely dogs and some lovely people and it is somewhat vindicating to hear the occasional shout from these semi professionals to their marvellous working dogs of ‘come here!’ rather loudly and not without a hint of frustration.

I really could watch them all day.