The sense of history and the distant past is palpable. The manor of Trelowarren, set on the Lizard Peninsula and hard by the Helford estuary, is recorded in the 11th-century Domesday Book, but was doubtless farmed and hunted over long before the Normans arrived. Indeed, the first recorded owner was Earl Harold, the victor at Stamford Bridge but the loser to Duke William of Normandy, at Hastings. Doubtless, this explains why ownership of the estate passed to Robert Mortain, half-brother to the Conqueror, when spoils were being shared out.
In 1427, the manor was inherited through marriage by the Vyvyans and, since those distant days nearly 600 years ago, it has remained in the same family. It is now under the ownership of the 13th baronet, Sir Ferrers Vyvyan, who inherited the 1,000-acre estate in 1995. Today, Trelowarren is renowned for leading the fi eld in sustainable tourism. The superbly appointed houses on the estate, used by visitors for self-catering holiays and as timeshares, the large swimming pool, the offices and the locally supplied restaurant are all heated by the largest biomass system in the south-west, which is fuelled by home-grown wood chips and waste from the local sawmill. This is an estate that, while retaining its character and sense of history, has creatively moved into the 21st century in order to hold on to its values and to thrive in an era so very different from its historical past.
Plans to expand
The pheasant shooting at Trelowarren is run on commercial lines, with 12 driven days, mostly in November and December, providing bags of up to 250 birds. It was started around five years ago under the stewardship of its keeper, Alan Peters, and though there are at present only seven drives, plans are in hand to employ further drives and to expand the shooting. Incidentally, all the game shot is utilised on the estate and much of it goes through the restaurant. There is one main valley, with side valleys coming in to it, and covercrops are sown to try to keep birds in the centre of the shoot, so that they can be driven over the valleys.
Trelowarren is also noted for its woodcock shooting and though not perhaps on the same scale as Lanarth, the renowned woodcock shoot that marches with the estate, Guns can usually enjoy some sport with these inland waders, especially on the walked-up boundary days that are so popular. It was on one such occasion that four Guns met to enjoy a good old-fashioned day?s roughshooting at the end of the season, with the invaluable aid of three energetic beaters. Two of the Guns, Roger Kipling and Tony Ellerbeck, from Dorset and Somerset, were staying with their wives in a cottage on the estate, while the other two Guns, Mike Deacon and David Radmore, were local to the shoot and knew it well. The valiant beaters were Mark Williams, Nigel Thurley and Lisa Sharrington.
In search of woodcock
On a mild but overcast morning, the team, plus their dogs, including my own Labrador, crammed into two vehicles and set off for Pond drive, a half-acre pool at the head of a shallow, wooded valley. The Guns, set back 100 yards, quietly lined one side of the water, on which we could see a dozen or so mallard. Suddenly, they were airborne, climbing high before crossing the line. Tony missed with his newly acquired Beretta 20-bore, while Mike and Roger each dropped a duck. Then we simply turned round and walked a short distance up the shallow valley to line out in a semicircle, while the beaters and their dogs brought down some dense scrub and woodland. A woodcock flitted out, but was too low. Over the next 10 minutes, half-a-dozen pheasants broke forwards, climbing swiftly over the gnarled, twisted oaks to one side, their branches green with ferns and lichen. Roger, in the pound seat, dropped three birds, two of which were to be neatly collected by his young and promising Labrador, Simba, though they had fallen into dense cover.
The last bird from the thicket was a woodcock that flicked over Mike Deacon. He fired, but was not sure of the outcome. He thought the bird might have dropped behind him into a boggy patch of ground, but was not certain. The springers, cockers and Labradors hunted hard, but there was no sign of the bird and we were about to give up when Jodie, my Labrador, suddenly emerged from some reeds holding a dead ?cock. It was, for me, one of those moments that cannot perhaps be explained to someone who does not understand shooting and dogwork.
We got into the steamy dog- and human-crammed environment of a Land Rover cab. Somehow, the dogs, dripping and mud-spattered, always seem to come off best in these situations, using their owners as cushions or springboards. For the next three hours, the Guns and beaters enjoyed a series of mini-drives in dense boundary woodland and thick scrub. From each, a handful of pheasants erupted, a rabbit was caught by a spaniel and, almost without exception, one or more woodcock flitted ahead of the dogs and beaters, usually to evade the Guns.
Striving for glory
On one drive, I thought that, at last, I was going to witness a right-and-left at woodcock. It is a rather pathetic fact that, having founded the Shooting Times Woodcock Club, I have never achieved the membership goal, nor have I witnessed any Gun do so. Thus, when a woodcock flicked over a clear ride to give Roger Kipling a clean kill, to be closely followed by a second bird, which he also downed, I was almost on the point of cheering. Almost, except for the fact that he lowered his gun between shots ? a right, pause, and a left, but not quite within the club rules. Ah well, another time, perhaps. Roger, incidentally, uses, to good effect, a 16-bore boxlock by J. Needham. On this same drive, Tony Ellerbeck also neatly despatched a tricky woodcock darting through woodland.
A sound system
Lunch was taken at the Gweek Inn, in the village of Gweek, and a fine repast it was, too. I can thoroughly recommend the steak-and-ale pie. Before we sat down, I had a chat with Alan, who rears about 6,500 day-olds. He catches up hens, assisted by Mike Deacon, then exchanges each hen for seven-day-olds, to be released as seven-week-old poults, a system that works well. He is also endeavouring to create further drives and to build up the shoot. In addition, there are plans to fell some woodland in order to make more attractive cover for woodcock. ?The problem is that these birds don?t like tall, dark trees,? he told me. ?They prefer short, thick cover and that?s what we?ve got to create.?
As for vermin, foxes are dealt with by lamping, and buzzards and sparrowhawks simply have to be tolerated. There are now a few roe deer, which are left alone to build up their numbers, but no muntjac have as yet been seen.
After lunch, one further drive was taken out of a large acreage of woodland, with the Guns standing in a field of sticky plough. Roger killed two good birds, one of which flew several hundred yards before suddenly dropping dead, while Mike, on his right, had two corkers. Tony, on the left, had only one bird over him, which he also killed. It was very white and, as we drew closer, the ?pheasant? turned into a guineafowl.
For further details about shooting at Trelowarren, tel 01326 222105 or visit www.trelowarren.com.