About an hour west of the ShootClay office, Barbury Shooting Ground is beautifully situated – just South of Swindon – in rolling Wiltshire countryside (Bing Maps link).  I was booked in for a lesson with friend of ShootClay John King, and with great fortune – I had a bright and sunny April day for my session. I’ll cover the lesson with John in another post, but I won’t pass up the opportunity to review Barbury and it’s facilities. I’ve included some photos below.

I was shown round the ground by Huw Stephens who has been in charge for the last few years – he is rightly proud of the work he is doing at Barbury, and I was impressed with the activity around the whole site, as well as some of the future plans.

We started our tour in the clubhouse area – a fantastic log cabin affair, with ample seating room and all the safety equipment required for lessons and corporate events all laid out alongside refreshments. There is a lovely woodburning stove surround by chairs and an outside area for relaxing when the sun is shining. A club house definitely designed for talking through those missed birds or highest ever scores!

One thing that impressed me was the amount of information available on forthcoming events – there were notices up of every kind of event possible – English Sporting days, FITASC events, simulated game days, young shots events, ladies days and lessons are all on the calendar. The amount of events available is mind-boggling – luckily, all the events are available on the website – along with regular newsletters which are sent to the growing membership. Barbury certainly feels like a vibrant and exciting ground – with an active membership. Barbury also runs have-a-go days and regular schools and charity events. Huw explained that since taking over, he has really focused on opening up the ground to clay shooters – but ensured that there are always coaches available for lessons and to assist with corporate events. This kind of approach shows a real vision for the future – ensuring that new shooters are always welcome and will continue to join in the sport whilst balancing the experience for the regular shooters.

Huw told me that the regular weekend English Sporting sessions are busy – but the grounds look so well organised and equipped it would still be a pleasure to get down there and shoot the courses. The ShootClay team are planning a trip to take part as soon as we can!

The grounds are split into multiple ‘areas’ – with each area having a number of traps and trap positions in it – the team at Barbury change the layouts every week – so there is always something different to be shot.  Huw explained that the plan is to always have two English Sporting Courses laid out with varying difficulties.  The leaves enough space to have two further areas laid out exclusively for coaching – whilst I had my lesson we had a shooting area and all of the traps exclusively to ourselves – which led to a focused and productive lesson. The training areas are kitted out with cartridges ready for coaches & students to use. There is also a skeet layout which looked well laid out and maintained.

The areas have all the target styles you would expect – there are two cherry pickers which enable the site to have good high tower driven birds which is great for those brushing up on their game skills, and there is a marvellous new Grouse Butt which the team built themselves – including learning dry stone walling!

Huw also showed me the new stands that were being installed throughout the grounds – robust and safe wooden stands that looked excellent – and each of the areas has a wooden shelter which is handy if the weather is less clement that the bright day I had. Simple things like good guns stands, some chairs and good trap release systems were all in place. In my whole time there I think I had one no bird – which is always a good indicator that equipment is taken care of.   All the paths are well made up and accessible, and the car parking area is large enough for a busy site.

All in all – I was really impressed with Barbury – and the team that running it. Against the recession, Barbury has continued to upgrade and improve – including taking on additional staff – which is testament to a business that is looking to the future and well run. As for the future, Huw told me that the site is working hard on a plan to expand Barbury – and as we stood in the middle of the car park – he pointed out where the shooting grounds would extend to, and how he planned to keep to the current ideals of the site – ensuring that clay shooters always had something new and interesting to do there.

It is not difficult to see why Barbury won the IPC Shooting Ground of the Year for 2010-2011 – it’s well run, well supported and well equipped.  The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and have great plans for the future. If you are within reach we highly recommend you take a visit.