At the other ‘end’ of Berkshire from ShootClay HQ is the lovely Four Counties CTC. A group of ShootClay Forum members decided to make the trip for the Berkshire County Championships and to see how the ground measures up to our exacting standards.
The ground is pretty easy to find – accessible from the A34 or J14 of the M4 and situated on the edge of (top secret) RAF Welford – Bing Map here. The ground is entered via a short track, and car parking is in a wide clearing in the middle of a large copse where the shoot is laid out. There is a welcoming clubhouse, with a wood burner and plenty of activity, as well as a small kitchen for the usual refreshments (more later). Booking on was swift and efficient – and we soon had our scorecards ready to head out onto the layout. There is a pool shoot (£2 for ten shots) for those looking to get limbered up (or maybe win a few bob) – we saw two fast crossers being shot at from the five stand layout, and it looked pretty busy.
The 12 stand layout we shot as set on a clearly laid out path around the woods, with a decent mixture of stands shooting inside and out of the woods. Every stand was really competently reffed and a number of our squad were impressed with the way the referees worked – all of them wearing saftey glasses and being well looked after, and also clearly calling out the next shooter (“Last Pair, Mr Smith to follow”, ensuring that everyone was on their toes. We had a trap breakdown during stand one and three of the team were at the stand within seconds to get the rabbit fixed.
One touch I particularly liked was that the trap ‘refillers’ had a sign that THEY hung on the front of the cage to indicate it was being serviced and no shooting should take place, I like the safety aspect of this (like a lock-off system) and also that it let the shooters know to expect a short delay. So – full compliments to the staff and refs at the ground. If I had one wish for improvement here it would be that they have a sign showing the make up of the target presented (std/midi etc), whilst the scorers were happy to show a pair, they didn’t always know if a target was a midi – this is a minor quibble.
Target wise – some testing birds out there, the course was well thought out with a good variety of targets, including a few tower birds, some rabbits and the usual loopers and battues. I liked the use of the tower to through driven, crossers and even a tricky looper that started over your head. There was nothing ridiculous out there, with targets designed to beat you on speed and gun use rather than distance or difficulty to pick-up and see. Targets were in a multitude of colours, important against the woodland backgrounds – I saw yellow and orange targets in use.
After we finished up, it was back to the club house to discuss scores and get refuelled. Four Counties has a large seating area, inside and out with a kitchen serving up decent food at a good price – I highly recommend the burgers, and I saw more than a few full english in front of hungry shooters. The clubhouse is warm and welcoming and a great place to relax after a round.
The team on the front desk were quick to get scores up on the board, and they post scores in the club website within a couple of days of completion. Payouts are clearly marked and the whole days shoot is transparent.
Four Counties is a model of how a shooting ground should be run, welcoming, well organised with good targets for competition. My only (minor) criticism is about the fact the regular shoots are 50 and 70 birds – and whilst I appreciate that caters for local shooters well – I would like to suggest that they run one 100 birder a month for those shooters that like that format. The Championship shoot we attended was busy enough that I think it would be worth the effort and would make Four Counties a more regular stop on the registered shoot rota in the area. If you get down there, there is the added bonus that you might be shooting against a local Olympian!
I (and the ShootClay members with me) really enjoyed Four Counties, and will definitely be making the trip back for more – hope that we see you there. Check the forum for meetup dates. We’re all going back for the County FITASC championship which I’m expecting to be a great day out.
The Four Counties CTC Website is here : http://www.fourcountiesctc.co.uk/