With the winter weather finally on the retreat, the thought of outdoor pursuits isn’t quite as terrifying now the prospect of frostbite is somewhat waning. For those who might fancy turning a hand to something a bit different from the norm when it comes to weekend activities this spring, you can have your fill of a favourite country pursuit a mere 45 minutes from central London. Every tried clay pigeon shooting?
West London Shooting School
feels a million miles from London life. Just off the A40 (or ten minutes in a cab from South Ruislip tube station), the school was founded in 1901 and took up residence at its current Northolt site in 1931. Walking in to the club house, with its parquet floor, Chesterfield sofas, roaring log fire and shelves of taxidermy, one would be forgiven for thinking you were in deepest darkest countryside, not mere minutes from the central line.
For clay pigeon shooting, its unrivalled. The School specialises in shotgun training on its 100+ traps (for the uninitiated, a machine that fires a clay disc - the ‘pigeon’ - into the air for the shooter to take aim at) and caters for everything from individual lessons to corporate days out, young shot courses and ladies’ days, whilst also putting a big focus on gun fitting.
A drizzly February afternoon and I found myself in front of the aforementioned fire, reading the paper with a cup of tea whilst watching the rugby and awaiting my hour lesson with Head Instructor Mark Heath. Rule one of clay pigeon shooting? Wrap up warm. If it’s cold and wet out it will get to your bones within the hour.
Torn away from the on-screen action, I was introduced to the gun room - lined with every conceivable size of shotgun for every shooter - where I was measure up for the right one, and with a bag of cartridges we were off. Walking down to the first trap it’s clear to see how easy it would be to spend a day there; with dozens of traps to choose from, you could spend hours honing your craft.
I have to admit, though I’ve dabbled in shotgun in the past, as a rifle shooter for the last 10 years I was very
rusty and not only out of practice but conditioned to rifle habits, namely focusing down the barrel to hit my target, a totally useless technique when your target is moving. Under Mark’s expert tuition, I got back into the habit of keeping my eye on the clay and trusting the gun would follow, adjusting my stance from my static rifle pose and allowing much more movement in the body. As I got back into the swing of things and started busting the clays, it all started coming back to me and the immense satisfaction that is hitting a target was there once again. An hour disappeared in what felt like minutes - despite the cold and rain I could have stayed out there all day. I forgot just how much fun it is. Mark’s unfailing patience - despite having to repeat certain things more than once - was a godsend; given the choice of a student stuck in bad rifle shooting habits or a total newbie I’m not sure which I’d choose.
Though the financial implications may not make this a frivolous spur of the moment activity, the investment is certainly worth it if it’s something you’re keen to try out. One particular event worth noting is their Purdy Ladies Course, a day of three one hour lessons followed by a competition for £298, a wonderful value offer and a fantastically social way of getting more ladies into shooting.
Be warned though, you might get hooked.
A one hour individual lesson for non-members starts at £101. For full prices and more information visit www.shootingschool.co.uk