COUNTRY SPORTS MECCA
The CLA Game Fair offers top money prizes to top competitors in the shooting, fishing and gun dog championships but visitors will find the emphasis is on participation and enjoyment for all. Tessa Gates previews this years celebration of country sports which will be held at Castle Ashby, Northants
MORE than 100,000 people are expected to attend the CLA Game Fair at Castle Ashby, Northants (July 25-27) and the organisers are keen to make it a real family event.
Children are being made especially welcome this year and will receive a passport on entering with a simple route map to lead them to points of interest throughout the show. Each passport will have simple key messages, a question relevant to the feature they are in and a place for each page to be stamped. They will be rewarded for fully stamped passports and have the chance to win major prizes each day.
To encourage children to look at new hobbies there will be free tuition and have-a-go opportunities throughout. They will be able to try fishing, working dogs, and clay, laser and air rifle shooting. They can even take part in tea-time cookery demonstrations and a healthy eating quiz.
Also new to the show is a Living Countryside feature, spread over 2ha (5 acres). It is designed to inform young and old about life, work and wildlife in the countryside in an interactive way.
Derek Daw, head keeper of the nearby Cottesbrooke Estate, heads a team of gamekeepers who will be on hand to demonstrate game equipment and talk about their work.
"We will have an exhibition of traps which will show the ones that can be legally used today and all the old ones that cant," says Mr Daw. "And we will have pens of pheasants, partridge, ducks and ferrets."
Maureen Basford will be in the Living Countryside area, too, with her captive-reared barn owl. Visitors will be able to see it at close quarters and find out more about owls, including what they eat as shown from owl pellets.
Maureen is actively involved in barn owl conservation and is grateful that many farmers and landowners support this.
"One way is to leave roadside hedges a few feet higher in areas where owls hunt so when they swoop along the hedges they are less likely to be hit by cars," she says.
Angling UK! is the new coarse fishing event which will occupy half a mile of the Grendon Lake. Here five-man teams will fish for the NFA National Team Championship. This offers the top prize money in Europe this year – £5500. The winners of regional heats will be battling for the prize in the semi-finals and finals on Saturday and Sunday.
A host of coarse fishing celebrities – including world champions past and present and Sky TVs voice of angling, Keith Arthur – will give demonstrations and tuition and host competitions.
A range of new competitions has been designed to appeal to all game anglers – river and lake.
Three casting championships will be held and daily open contests for distance casting. For newcomers to the sport tuition is available from professional game angling instructors and the stands on Fishermans Row will have tackle to tempt novice and expert alike.
Of course the CLA Game Fair is one show where dogs are really welcome to accompany their owners, and this year your dog can be weighed by a nutritionist, and have its eyes tested.
Skilled gun dogs can be put through their paces in a range of classes and a new class for local owners has been introduced in several events. Fun events are open to dogs of all abilities.
The Game Fair claims to stage the UKs most complete shooting event and this year a secure free gun store facility is available. Visitors can drop off their guns and ammunition when they arrive and return for them when they are ready to use them. Those looking to buy will find Gunmakers Row has over 50 exhibitors, 70% more than last year.
The clay shooting programme has been reviewed by an advisory group of experts together with the new operator, Herefordshire Shooting School. The clay programme should appeal to all shots – game, rough or clay, expert or beginner. It offers prizes totalling more than £19000.
A major airgun range organised by the National Small Bore Rifle Association allows visitors the chance to try the Olympic discipline for air rifle shooting, and more competitions.
Horse lovers are not forgotten and among the main ring attractions will be a display of classical Spanish horsmanship. Based on the work of the original cowboys – Doma Vaquera – with fighting bulls, lance-work with the 14ft long garrocha has been turned into an art form with the horse almost pirouetting.
The Game Fair promises to be bigger and better this year and for once practical facilities have not been overlooked. The organisers promise upgraded toilet units, overseen by a cleaning service, which is good news, particularly for women.
Tickets cost £12 (Fri) £10 (Sat & Sun) for adults. Children £5; Senior Citizens £8. Family ticket £25 (up to two adults and four children). Parking is free.
Donald Downs will demonstrate the finer points of game fishing.
Castle Ashby, home of the Marquess and Marchioness of Northants, provides an imposing backdrop to this years CLA Game Fair. The Princess Royal will officially open the event on Friday July 25.
Inset: Experts all – some of the professionals who will be demonstrating their skills at the CLA Game Fair.
Danielle Lawniczak of El Caballo de Espana will demonstrate classical Spanish riding. Her horse is a tres sangres – Andalucian x Anglo Arab.
Maureen Basford and her barn owl will be in the Living Countryside area, where visitors can learn more about this lovely bird.