Have you ever sat by a fire at the end of the day and wondered what it might have been like to grow up 100 years ago? Fewer people, fewer cars, wild game galore, no internet, no mobile phones, no social media…
Growing up, many of us will have studied bird books, searched for prints in bare earth, hatched frogspawn, got filthy, stayed out until it was dark – the countryside our favourite playground. Today's world is different. Did you know that the words ‘blackberry’, ‘bluebell’, ‘cygnet’ and ‘kingfisher’ no longer feature in the Oxford Junior Dictionary? The word ‘broadband’ does, though, along with ‘chatroom’ and ‘blog’.
So many of today’s youth are missing out. Respect, responsibility, appreciation, empathy – there are so many qualities youngsters can glean from being in the field. It really is a classroom like no other, and a captivating one at that.
But to blame the sorry situation on modern society is too easy. There’s much we can do, and indeed much that many do do to nurture and bring on the next generation of countrymen and women – the future guardians of our sports. It’s so encouraging to see classes of schoolchildren being taken to rural estates, meeting gamekeepers enjoying cookery lessons, skinning rabbits, plucking pigeons and pheasants, gutting trout. To see them begin to understand what happens in rural areas, beyond their day to day lives.
For all this to be worthwhile, however, we must leave our sports and our countryside in a good state of repair for those in the future to enjoy. Just as our woodlands, rivers and moorlands need managing and looking after, so too does the image of our sports – more so now, perhaps, than ever before. Education, fighting our corner, finding common ground and being proactive rather than reactive will all play their part.
Along with reams of other content on game shooting, stalking, fly fishing, food art and sporting history, this issue of Fieldsports discusses much of the above in more detail, and celebrates everything that a youngster getting into the sport today might look forward to. We can only hope that the next generation will be able to escape the trappings of modern life like so many of us do, at one with our natural surroundings, our quarry and the way of life we hold so dear.
A classroom like no other – There's a lot more to building a young Gun than the gun, says Peter Ryan considers the many qualities that fieldsports instil in young people.
High hopes – Part 2 – Simon K. Barr endures the most gruelling hunting experience of his life as he goes in pursuit of Himalayan blue sheep – an enriching adventure he will look back on for the rest of his life.
Reason to return – Steffan Jones revisits the enchanting ‘Minni’ river in the south of Iceland to pit himself against challenging monster brown trout.
Seasonal fare – Embracing what’s on offer in Nature’s larder, award-winning author, food writer and chef Gill Meller shares three simple but sublime recipes for the spring and summer months.
The flagman’s medal – The very thread of rural life that binds people together is under threat. Never before has it been more important that we fight for our freedom of choice and educate those who know no better, says James Percy.
Cohesion is key – Examining prejudices in our own community can be uncomfortable, but by doing so we expose weaknesses that, if addressed, have the potential to make us a stronger, says Julia Stoddart.
Standing the test of time – A syndicate shoot in Suffolk that has just celebrated its 75th season. So, what’s the secret?
Tonkin of trout – Matt Kidd visits Gavin Haywood’s workshop to learn more about split cane fly rods.
Claughton Hall – With pheasants, partridges, grouse, ducks, moorland, woodland, ponds and waterfalls, the Claughton Hall Shoot in Lancashire is about as diverse as it gets, says David Egan.
How times change… – David S. D. Jones offers an interesting insight into how shooting and fishing tuition was conducted in the early 1900s.