Red7 , July 9, 2013
I’m not into guns, I’m a pacifist, a vegetarian even, and having learnt to drive at 18 I haven’t driven an auto mobile of any breed since, so naturally, I was a little hesitant when I was sent to the Southdown Shooting Club, West Sussex, to try my hand at clay pigeon shooting and quad biking! But as I discovered, I needn’t have given it a second thought…
In Friday morning traffic, myself and Redseven commercial manager Steve set off from Brighton for the sprawling countryside estate housing the Southdown Shooting Club just outside Worthing. We arrive, throw on some clothes we don’t mind getting mud-spattered and head up to the office café to be greeted by the very lovely general manager Helen and her dog who’s clearly used to the constant stream of guests. A quick coffee later and we’re ready to get the guns and get down to the real mission of the day: shooting flying saucers AKA ‘clays’ out of the sky. The gun of choice is either a 20 or 12 Bore shotgun, which roughly translates as ‘heavy gun’ and ‘less heavy gun’. I opted for the lighter option…
Our instructor, Ben, begins by talking through the safety side of things before moving onto the technical stuff, such as how to stand correctly when shooting, how to hold the gun comfortably, and most importantly, how to knock speeding clays out of the sky. After a few failed attempts and Ben whispering encouragement and advice I finally land a shot! The key, I found, is tracking the clay as it passes through the air, anticipating it’s trajectory and then shooting into the space in front of the clay in the hope the faux pigeon and shot pellets collide, resulting in a descending ball of dust and a smug sense of satisfaction.
Grant it, it took a few goes before I hit the bugger but when I finally did it was epicurean: there’s something very fulfilling about squeezing a trigger and seeing the immediate effects in front of you. It’s also potentially addictive as you move up onto new challenges and keep yelling ‘pull’ and keep trying to hit the clay.
For some, it’s a competition, for others, a chance to try something new and tell their friends back home about their new skills. One thing’s for sure, if you are planning on trying clay pigeon shooting at the Southdown Shooting Club for your hen or stag party, which I recommend, you’ll probably have the word ‘Pull!’ aptly reverberating around you brain for the rest of the trip, which could be misconstrued in a bar or nightclub!
A popular choice at Southdown Shooting Club is to combine a shooting activity with quad biking so you get an adrenaline kick as well as the thrill of pinpoint accuracy. So, next up, quad Biking!
Again, we’re given a quick safety talk on how to handle the quad, pop on our helmets and then with the guidance of our trained marshal Scott, we’re taken around a beginners course to see how we go. Luckily there weren’t any major mishaps, although, the recommended ten meter gap between quads gets a little shorter than I intended when I press the accelerated a little too quickly. On to bigger things and the first question Scott asks is ‘Are you scared of heights?’ I said no but wondered what was in store to warrant the inquisition, and soon found out…
We speed around the first field, then meandered around the weaving sharp corners and ditches of another and eventually come up against the steep hills Scott refereed to to really get our teeth into. In total, we drove for a good hour and what impressed me most was the sheer size of the trail, having revved up and down new tracks every five minutes, and never knowing what was coming next.
Also having gone shooting with the club and experienced the variety of traps and had the benefit of the my expert instructor, I can easily see why, this year, the Southdown club won the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (CPSA) award for the best shooting ground in the country. I can also see why so many people love coming out to the Southdown Shooting Club to get their quading and clay shooting kicks; it is a winning combination for stag parties in Brighton!
I also caught up with the aforementioned lovely general manager, Helen, for a chat about the awards winning Southdown Gun Club, quad bikes, mankinis and plans for the future…
Hi Helen, can you tell us a little about the history of the club?
Yeah, we’ve been running as a gun club for 30 years now but only three years ago now our current directors purchased the club because sadly it was going into decline. So, when our directors took over it was pretty shabby but we’ve spent 3 years ploughing money in, and although there’s a way to go, we’re continually improving all the time. For instance, I don’t know whether you noticed the marquee outside but that’s permanently here now and available for hire. So, we’re looking to expand the business in a few ways, in particular, the corporate side of things, which is why we now have a meeting room which is fully equipped.
That all sounds very exciting, what has been your biggest event to date?
It would have to be what they call ‘the worlds’ which is a clay shooting competition with people from all around the world coming to the centre. Also, last year we also ran the English Open which saw 600 people, over a week, shooting with us. So, we’re used to all sorts of events but whether they’re twenty pounds or hundreds of pounds, we treat them all with equal importance.
What would you say makes Southdown Shooting Club different to other centres?
Well, in terms of our staff we’ve got some really great, friendly, personable staff and all of them have had great training and have a focus on health and safety. But in terms of our activities, for the shooting, we obviously use some very skilled instructors and we have a wide variety of targets which others don’t always offer. On the quad side of things we have such a lot of space out there that we can offer groups a lot of different trails and tailor them to the group on the day. I would say the most unique thing about us is that, whether there’s one person or twenty, we never pair you up with other people so if you’re motor bikers coming to quad you won’t be stuck with a granny!
How do you cater for Hen and Stag parties in particular?
Well, we can take big or small groups and we certainly don’t mind if they dress up. The only thing we do say, for safety reasons, is wear sensible shoes or trainers for quads. We have had someone turn up in a mankini in the past which is when we do have to ask them to pop on some shorts just so ‘everything’ is safe when you go shooting and on the quads!
Sounds sensible! What are your plans for the future?
We’re always looking at expanding and adding more activities and at the minute we’re looking at getting more archery in house so we can cater for smaller groups. We’re also looking at different targets for the shooting and different equipment to shoot with; in fact, we’re currently looking at a rapid fire rifle which looks like a machine gun which should be interesting!
Lastly, why do you think you’re so popular?
I think it’s the price, location and what we’re offering which is probably why we get such a lot of repeat business.
Great! Thanks for such a brilliant experience today and for taking the time to let us know more about the club!