Organisers report that the 51st Game Fair, which was held last weekend at the Duke of Rutland?s Belvoir Castle, in Leicestershire, went exceedingly well.

Director of the Game Fair, David Hough, said: ?We have been delighted with the exhibitors? reports of good business that has been done over the course of the show. The number of bags being carried back to cars has been far greater than anticipated in the present climate.?

He added that Gunmakers? Row and the clay line were also packed throughout the three days with enthusiasts creating strong business for the gun trade.

Organisers said the caravan park was full throughout, with more than 7,000 visitors.

?This year there was more comment than ever on the number of overseas visitors from Europe and beyond,? added Mr Hough.

Following criticism that no senior Labour ministers had attended debates on rural affairs held on Friday, DEFRA minister Huw Irranca-Davies visited on Sunday and toured the site with CLA president Henry Aubrey- Fletcher.

?It?s been a fantastic experience seeing the diversity that happens at The CLA Game Fair,? said Mr Irranca-Davies.

Clay shooting events were one of the major highlights of the Game Fair this year.

The inaugural Champion of Champions clay pigeon shoot was won by Chris Biddlecombe, from Gloucestershire, who notched up an impressive score of 34 out of 40.

The Pro Gun Professional Shoot winner was multiple world champion clay shooter Ben Husthwaite after a strongly contested shoot-off between him and Graham Stirzaker, a former FITASC World Cup Winner.

The two celebrity clay shooting contests, which raised money for Help For Heroes and the Children?s Trust, were won by cricket star Liam Botham and Claire Young, who appeared in the television show The Apprentice last year.

Mr Botham, who was also promoting the Game Fair?s campaign, Get Into The Countryside, which encourages families to visit rural areas, said: ?Fieldsports are for children from every background, urban as well as rural. Elitism does not figure at all.?

Pro-shooting groups commented that the weekend had been an ideal opportunity to showcase new research and talk to members.

The Countryside Alliance?s Robert Gray told Shooting Times magazine: ?The final figures are not in yet, but it has been a fantastic year for signing up new members. This year?s Game Fair has seen a change in political climate. We were extremely pleased to welcome the DEFRA minister to our stand. Similarly, we feel encouraged to see so many shadow ministers and supportive politicians here.?

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers? Organisation commented that the atmosphere was great: ?We received a lot of feedback and people were genuinely interested in what we had to show them. We sold £5,000-worth of raffle tickets. You do not achieve that unless the organisation is doing something right.?

BASC?s Christopher Graffius added: ?It was a real tribute to the rural community that during a severe recession they are able to mount such a magnificent fair. The BASC coaching line may have set a record for the number of shooting lessons given and the number of people joining BASC far exceeded my expectations, given the state of the economy.?

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  • Nick & Kate

    What a superb day we had. Visting the fair on Saturday we probably had the best of the weather which only added to a thoroughly enjoyable day.
    The setting was beautiful. Belvoir castle was stunning overlooking the fair. It was extremely well organised and the journey there was easy and smooth despite the hundreds of vehicles arriving.
    The Clay Line and Gunmakers row were of particular interest but there were many other areas the we enjoyed. The food section was a firm favourite as we enjoyed, from Welsh farmers, one of the tastiest lamb and beef burgers we’d ever had.
    Several hours later and our bank accounts a fair few pounds poorer, we carried our bags back to our car. Tired and a little sunburnt(must remember the sun cream next time) we drove back to our hotel and started planning the visit to next year’s fair.