Country mouse goes shooting

The approach to Belvoir Castle, which will host next year’s Game Fair, is delightful. The roads lose their markings and the landscape becomes steadily more wooded. Eventually, the castle appears, standing proud, towering on a rocky outcrop high above the Leicestershire landscape.

As I drove closer in the gloaming, a barn owl swooped across the road like a ghost and hares hunched against the chill air. Belvoir is home to the famous dark-coated old-English foxhounds of the Duke of Rutland’s hunt, which are kennelled at the foot of the slope below the castle.

However, I was a weekend guest at the castle for that other great winter field sport, shooting. As it was my first day of the season, I had earlier had a shooting lesson at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School to blow away some of the cobwebs-when other guns have had their reflexes sharpened by days spent on the grouse moors, it’s easy to feel inadequate.

As it turned out, one lesson wasn’t nearly enough, but that was due to the quality of the partridges that swept over the grassy wolds and the pheasants that towered over the ancient woods. But it wasn’t the grown-ups who made me feel inadequate. It was the children brandishing their .410s.