Ampleforth College is set on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. It's been offering both driven and rough shooting and enthusiastic but ad hoc gamekeeping for several generations, pastimes which are more popular than ever today.
In the past five years the school shoot has grown in both extent and professionalism. Student-led and supported, with guidance by staff and parents, Ampleforth is putting down around 800 pheasants and partridges each year in three pens across the valley, shooting a good 10 days in the season.
Eight Guns are all drawn from the Sixth Form and have to work hard to earn their pegs, beating and keeping from their first year at the College to earn a coveted place on the gun line.
Both novices and more experienced Guns welcomed
Although the majority of students taking part will have some experience of shooting, those new to the sport and wishing to learn are warmly welcomed too.
Going out feeding and beating provokes a stewardship and responsibility, and an appreciation for this area of outstanding natural beauty in North Yorkshire. After a three to four drive day, and somewhere in the region of 50 to 70 birds in the bag, students return to school refreshed, almost as if they’ve been away for a long weekend.
Despite being born in Lagos and spending his early childhood abroad, Edward Stourton was educated here at Ampleforth, North Yorkshire,…
“Crack your flags on the right, boys…push on 20 yards… stand still… flags up on the left.” Familiar words to the ears of beaters…
A sense of achivement
The end of a good shoot day is marked by a real sense of achievement, to match the interest of the now 30-odd students involved, and the need for high standards of gun handling, game etiquette, and team work. Of course, an activity of this size and extent requires careful and dedicated management on the part of staff at the college, so that it is demanding in its expectations, as well as safe and enjoyable. The annual end of season dinner is always a very special evening celebrating the season’s success and thanking supporters.
The school shoot, unique in the UK for its size ‘on campus’ location, occupies a prominent place within the wider picture of country sports at Ampleforth, including clay pigeon shooting, beagling and fishing, also available to students and staff alike.
David Holt, the current student Captain of the Shoot says: “The shoot has been an integral part of my Ampleforth life. Most notably, the number of close friends I have made all through a common interest and passion for country sports. The feeling of teamwork cannot be matched by any other activity – older and younger years work together, balancing strengths and weaknesses, particularly in the beating line and a high level of commitment and communication is imperative. All those involved in the shoot would agree that it is a true privilege to have access to a school shoot of this calibre and it should be treasured for other years to enjoy, as I have. Thanks must be given to the members of staff who are essential in allowing us this privilege, something of which we are all greatly appreciative.”
Ampleforth College was established in 1802 when the monks returned to England following a 200-year exile in France following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.