Up Back Lane, beyond the last house in Badwell Ash, past the end of the tarmac, on the right you will see some small white ‘towers' rising up beside some ponds. These are the skeet houses of the Badwell Ash Gun Club, ‘skeet' being one of the many disciplines of the popular sport of clay pigeon shooting.
The Badwell Ash Gun Club has been going since at least 1964. The club offers a place for people to practise, and puts on a variety of shooting competitions as well. It holds sessions every fortnight from mid-Feb/March to October on Saturday afternoons, starting from 2pm (last entrance 4pm).
It is a popular and friendly club. ‘People come whatever the weather,' says June Turp, one of the organisers. ‘In thick snow or heavy rain they'll still come.' The club has a cosy Club House with comfy chairs and refreshments and shelter from bad weather. The Car Park and Club House are on the left of the road, with the entrance clearly marked on afternoons when the club is running.
Safety first: Guns are carried broken, and only loaded once the shooter is in the shooting bay.
The shooting targets - known as clays, or ‘birds' - are thrown from traps at very high speeds. They are biodegradable and break easily when hit by just a few pellets shot from a shotgun. The club uses a mixture of black and fluorescent orange ‘birds' of different sizes - Standard (110mm), Midi (90mm) and Mini (60mm). Having a smaller clay thrown after a big one can confuse the shooter about how fast the target is moving and how far away it is, and so adds skill levels to the sport.
‘English Sporting' shooting is discipline which is available at every session. Several ‘Stands' - areas - provide various challenges, with targets thrown at different angles, speeds, elevations and distances. The clays are let off in pairs, simultaneously or one after the other. To add further complication, the traps are set at ground level, lower in a trench, or higher on a bank, and can be placed so that targets fly away from you, almost towards you, or across your field of vision. For a particularly difficult Stand, two clays of different sizes and colours can be thrown from two different traps at two different angles and speeds.
‘It's all about speed and angles,' comments one gun.
As well as four ‘Sporting' Stands, there is usually another shooting discipline offered too. The club gives members the opportunity to compete for several cups and trophies. One week there might be a special cup for side-by-side guns, the next for 20 bore guns. Other disciplines include skeet (shooting in groups of 5 from different angles at clays shot from two ‘houses' of differing heights), Down the Line (shooting at single targets from 5 different positions in turn), Automatic Ball Trap (using a trap set in a trench, with the trap constantly oscillating in both the horizontal and vertical planes) etc. There's even a popular Easter competition with Easter Egg prizes.
Most of the shooters at the club have their own guns. Modern shotguns have two barrels in an ‘over and under' configuration rather than the ‘side by side' guns you see in old gangster movies. Most guns are 12 bore though some members use the smaller 20 bore. Most shooters wear ear muffs or plugs to protect their hearing, and some wear eye protection too.
To own a shotgun you need a shotgun certificate and special secure storage. But newcomers may borrow shotguns from committee members under supervision without the need for a licence. This lets novices have a go before investing in guns and security.
Anyone wanting to have a try can go along and talk to a committee member. They are happy to lend a gun and offer guidance. The club also accepts junior members if they come with a responsible adult who has a shotgun certificate.
Currently the club has about 50 members with people coming from as far away as Rickinghall and Stonham Parva for an afternoon's entertainment. Non-members aren't turned away but can't compete in the club's cup and trophy competitions.
Membership is £15 per year (£5 for juniors). Members pay £8 per session for 40 clays - 10 clays each on the 4 Sporting Stands. Non-members pay an extra pound.
Members can then enter the other competitions if they wish. A Pool competition, for example, costs £3 to enter. For this, each shooter attempts to hit 5 pairs of clays and the pot is given to the winner.
For more information call June or Tony Turp on 01359 259547, or email firstname.lastname@example.org