I’m not talking about GCSEs and exams and Maths, Science or English, I’m talking countryside pursuits and management. The future of that is in education.
Anti’s are everywhere, and I can’t deny they have a lot of followers. But it’s usually a lack of genuine education, or understanding, that provokes their tendencies to lean towards the groups of people who are in favour of the fox hunting ban, or who think game farming and shooting is cruel, or culls, pest control… the list goes on. There’s always something to moan about, we are the most emotional species of the bunch after all.
Of course it’s not just about the people doing their utmost to stop us in our tracks, it’s also about piquing interest, welcoming fresh blood, making the countryside accessible to all.
How can we secure the future of our traditional countryside values and events? We need to corroborate, communicate and educate.
An excellent example of how successful this can be can be found in an old copy of Shooting Times magazine from the 28th October 2015. I had remembered reading a really interesting (to me) article about getting a local school involved in fishing, and luckily my magazine filing (hoarding) meant I could go back and re-read it. The article was titled ‘Inspiring the Anglers of Tomorrow’ by David Tomlinson. Tomlinson said:
Ten years ago, fisherman-extraordinaire Charles Jardine had a eureka moment. Why not introduce a whole new generation of young people to the delights of fishing by taking them out of the classroom for a day and giving them the chance to discover fishing for themselves? He discussed his idea with the Countryside Alliance (CA), and, as a result, Fishing for Schools (F4S) was born. The idea was a success from the start, and similar events have been held ever since.
This is exactly the concept I think would work miracles across the board for all kinds of things. Giving our young children access and expert teaching on something they may never normally think about and actually getting them to experience it for themselves… It’s not a new or innovative technique, yet I don’t think the effectiveness could be argued. Of course it does come down to that one, fundamental thing: Money.
The event Tomlinson writes about in his Shooting Times article is a F4S day held at Lenwade Pike Club in Norfolk in September (2015). The day was sponsored by a lady called Angela Humphreys who was the widow of John Humphreys, a columnist for the magazine itself. A collection had been made at his memorial, half of which was to go towards a cause that would have been close to John’s heart – Angela chose F4S due his absolute passion for fishing. Tomlinson states that ‘Her contribution of £1,500 was sufficient to cover almost all the expenses of the day, and allowed some 60 children, ranging in age from nine to 12, to have real hands-on experience of fishing, with many actually catching and landing their first fish’.
It can be made possible, if events such as these are approached properly and championed enough.
Something else that came to me as I was thinking about this issue was that a school nearby to me, Rendcomb College, actually has clay pigeon shooting lessons for it’s pupils. The school received funding which meant they were able to buy a state-of-the-art trap for their pupils, aged 11 plus, to be able to use alongside professional tuition. One way to really get the clay shooting business booming for all is to teach it to children from a young age. A natural (although not necessary) progression from clay pigeon shooting would be game shooting, and with that comes an understanding and appreciation of that sport. Anyone who has had to have actual tuition at a shooting range will know it’s not cheap; gun hire, cartridges, insurance, staff time… it’s a costly thing these days. But children under the age of 18 usually are given a discount – even more reason to start them young!
What it seems to come down to is the partnerships schools can have with organisations that would enable children to have a first hand look into the country lifestyle. They can be taught the benefits of shooting estates on conservation, they can be taught the concept of appreciating your food more by eating what you shoot, they can be taught how amazing the outdoors is on your health, both mental and physical, and general well-being, they can be taught the devastating effects that would occur if culls weren’t in place. But for all this to work they need to actually get out there themselves, or at least out of the normal classroom.
The Gamekeepers Trust website is a must-see for anyone who feels the same. The slogan ‘Nurturing Countryside Knowledge’ says it all. Some jobs in this type of industry were typically passed down, or someone with connections was trained up, but nowadays they are open for all. You can go to college to train to be a gamekeeper, or to learn about farming and there is great interest in it. This also shows that it’s being taken seriously. Exams and assignments… this ensures the jobs are being done properly and our countryside is in safe hands.
We also have genuinely fantastic organisations around: the CA, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) you will of course have heard of, and social media can even have a positive effect if we use it correctly (that is, of course, the crucial part).
There is so much that can be done, and it is already happening in some places, but what I really want is to see it more. I want to see class trips out fishing, real life role models such as shooting teams going to schools to talk to children… the opportunities are there and we just need to take them! It really is in our interests.