We must be one of the closest driven shoots to London, said Anthony Collier, who, with his father Donald, owns Trumps Farm, situated close to Chobham, in Surrey.In fact, from the highest point on the farm you can see the city centre and the London Eye. Under the flight path from Heathrow and close to the M25, with its constant background roaring hiss, one could hardly describe the setting as one of remote rural calm. Despite the noisy intrusion of the 21st century, however, the farm is still a peaceful oasis in an area that is rapidly being transformed from countryside to suburbia.
The changes are startling and irreversible. I know this area well for I lived near Chobham for 20 or so years. Where once I would have thought nothing of hacking to a meet of the local foxhounds, the Bisley & Sandhurst, now I would scarcely dare cross the bustling road. Fields once used as cattle pasture
are now equestrian paddocks and erstwhile cottages have been gentrified and upgraded for London workers.
The fact that a successful driven shoot is now established on the 365 acres of Trumps Farm is largely down to one man, Richard Mumford, who lives nearby in Chobham. He had the good fortune to be brought up correctly in the ways of shooting and the country life by his father Dick. Indeed, Dick, now 90 but very active, still shoots every week and has been able to help Richard with practical advice when the shoot was first started three years ago.
Pigeon were the catalyst. Richard told me that nine years ago, while passing the farm, he noted large flocks of pigeon attacking some rape and decided to call on the farmer, Anthony Collier. He was given permission to shoot and was then invited to take part in a farm walk for the odd wild pheasant. The concept of a shoot was discussed and a few birds were put down, but after a year the minishoot folded and Richard lost contact with Anthony for five years. However, following a chance meeting, the idea for a driven shoot was again raised. As a result, three years ago the Trumps Farm shoot was established and, from a modest beginning, it is now thriving.
When Richard first took on the shoot there was only one old pen and little else. In that first season he and his father erected a release pen, put down a few hundred birds and invited some friends along to test the water. It worked and with Anthony Colliers enthusiastic cooperation and support the shoot is now well established and has a bright future.
Though a part of the ground has in the past been used as a landfill site, long-established oak, silver birch and ash woodland provides several good drives, supplemented by gamecover in the shape of jumbo sorghum and maize. While the latter was not very successful last year, the sorghum was, said Richard, fantastic. Plans are in hand to increase the gamecover next year and, as Anthony explained, to expand on tree planting to provide more cover and drives. There are several pools holding duck and a lake, which, though not currently shot, will be brought into the equation next season.
The gamekeeper is Richard himself. Using a small private rearing unit with incubators near Shepperton Studios and assisted by a shoot member Jason McCarthy, some 2,500 pheasants, 200 partridges and 1,500 duck, together with 170 guineafowl, were reared from eggs last season. Other shoot members, including Tony Matthews and Mark Neil, help out on the shoot and assist with the never-ending battle to control foxes, magpies, squirrels and crows. Surrounded by suburbia, the shoot is vulnerable to foxes and only constant vigilance by lamping keeps the situation in hand.
An all-inclusive shoot
On a raw grey day before Christmas, the syndicate of nine Guns and a dozen beaters, including several youngsters, gathered for a pre-shoot coffee and roll. This is a shoot that, quite rightly in my opinion, takes a democratic approach to the sport. The beaters, pickers-up and the Guns are a team who mingle together and have one aim in view, good sport. Picking-up on this day was Michelle Athey with her two very efficient Labradors.
This is a driven shoot in the making and several of the drives have been created virtually from nothing. The first, Landfill Hill, was once a council landfill site, but now, by judicious blanking-in to a high brush-and-tree-covered bank in front of the Guns, a modest number of birds can usually be sent over the line. Next year, covercrops will be planted here to improve the holding cover, but on this occasion only a handful of pheasants and partridges were flushed, though none provided safe shots. On then, in a drizzle of rain, to the second drive, Landfill Lake.
Again, the beaters blanked-in a long stretch of silver birch, oak and ash to send over the line a dozen or so good birds. I was standing with Mark Neil, who comes from Leigh-on-Sea, near Southend, in Essex, and who has been shooting for 25 years. The rain had ceased, blue sky and sunshine brought light to the day, and as a jet hissed overhead, Mark killed a neat pair of hens, while Guns to my right dealt with a sudden flurry of birds from the copse in front. This, as I discovered when I sent my yellow Labrador, Jodie, for a bird, is clay country, for she was plastered with mud when she returned.
From a relatively slow start, the shooting and the birds grew better with each drive. The next, Dickens Wood, consisted of a small spinney with a overcrop to one side and a stream running through the middle. I seldom handle a gun when reporting on a shoot, but on this occasion Richard insisted I take his 28-bore hammergun. The Guns stood with their backs to a dense wood, with the spinney, some 200 yards away, driven towards them. Now, as the clouds cleared, a low sun offered a dazzling hazard, causing us to squint as birdss tarted to climb from the drive. I noted several neatly shot on my left by Stuart Lawrence and Ben Bailey, while I managed to miss three relatively easy birds, each of which I should have killed. I put it down to a strange gun.
On then to what was to prove one of the best drives of the day, the Fern Pen drive. The Guns were enjoined to silence as they lined out with their backs to woodland and a small stream and pool behind them. Some 300 yards in front, coppiced trees and bracken were slowly brought forward by the beaters and, as
birds broke cover to climb over a row of oaks in front, the first shots sent a flush of mallard from the water behind high into the air. I stood with Anthony Collier and his nine-year-old son Jack, who was using, under instruction from his father, a Lincoln 28-bore with a cut-down stock. Jack started shooting with a .410 when he was six. He is regularly taken to nearby Bisley for clay instruction and, as I noted when he killed a neat mallard drake, has the makings of a useful Shot.
Getting an early start
The shoot lays great emphasis on encouraging youngsters, whether as beaters or in the line, so that on the next drive, the Bluebell drive, I noted one of
the Guns, Dick Tomlinson, instructed his grandson, 12-year-old Charlie Caulfield. Charlie had been shooting for only six months and he and his grandfather were thrilled when, using a 20-bore, the lad brought down his first duck. On this drivet he Guns had to deal with pheasants and mallard, all flying fast and high, to the background cackling of guineafowl, most of which retired to the surrounding oak trees to watch the action.
After lunch, the team retired to the Bog Wood drive, a long arm of wood
surrounding a pool. Standing in fields set back from the woodland and despite a low sun in their eyes, the team dealt more than adequately with a steady stream of pheasants and mallard. Dick Tomlinson killed two high-flying duck, while Dick Mumford dropped a cock in front and then winged a hen, which my dog quickly retrieved. To my right, Michelles two Labradors were kept very busy as Jason McCarthy and Mick Kavanagh dealt with a steady stream of birds. I drove home with a tired dog, a brace of birds and the satisfying thought that, while it still has some way to go in terms of development, the Trumps Farm shoot is providing good, traditional sport in a most unlikely setting.
The shoot is seeking one or two new Guns and also beaters for next season. For further information, contact Richard Mumford, visit www.fourseasonsshooting.com.