Wes Stanton takes to the fields of Beckerings Park to have a shot at some driven French partridge and pheasant
The chirrup-chirrup of the alarm woke me at 5:45am and I leapt out of bed at a speed that’d have Usain Bolt worrying about his top spot in the 100 metres. It’s funny, but had it been any other Wednesday, I would have been more reluctant to rouse. Why is it that a day at work makes me force myself out of bed at 6:45am with undue recalcitrance but if there’s the prospect of a 300-bird mixed French partridge and pheasant day, then I bounce out with all the enthusiasm of an unhinged springer spaniel puppy?
I’d been on the estate at Beckerings Park in Bedfordshire the previous year, though in pursuit of fur rather than feather – the Chinese water deer full cape mount resulting from that trip is now a feature on my wall that I like very much, though my wife doesn’t like, which makes it all the more important to keep it there. Asserting one’s dominance by dragging the missus around by the hair is somewhat frowned upon these days, so a collection of antlers and shoulder mounts in the living room is me tipping my hat to my lost masculinity. Apparently.
“Frenchmen met the guns in ones, twos, threes, fours and more, giving intense, exciting partridge shooting for 15 minutes or more”
I arrived early and met Paul Childerley and his keeper Ollie at the shooting lodge – a converted barn with a heady whiff of Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen about it, such is the flamboyance and attention to detail in the interior. It was cold, so I lit the fire, always keen to do my bit to help, and then the other guns started to arrive, tires squeaking on the drive betraying the touch of frost that still adorned the road surface. Paul is a charming and friendly chap who is immediately likeable, blessed with the constitution and body fat percentage of a World Champion kick boxer (probably because he is one – really). Assembling the guns, he gave us a brief for the day and safety talk, and as we headed back out to the cars, the sun had opted to grace us with its presence and the frost was subsiding.
Onto the trailer with the guns, and a few brief introductions took place as the 4X4 wended its way to the first drive: the French Horn. Paul promised plenty of partridges on this one, and the plan was to fly the birds back down to a plantation and the big wood – but over the eagerly awaiting guns, of course. It’s one of the estate’s bigger partridge drives, and as I’d drawn number five gun in a line of eight, I was reasonably confident I’d see some action – and even more so when Paul digged me in the ribs and grinned: “Fill your boots!”