National Championships 16-17 September 2017
by Queen Bee
KLFA Roving Reporter & Crossbow Queen
As I packed the camper for Wales I felt less than perky after driving over 1,200 miles during the previous week on a holiday in Cornwall with my sister, and having had to deal with estate agents in the days leading up to the Nationals. I was also decidedly ‘squishy’ from overloading my breakfast cereal with dried fruit and nuts so I set off for the shoot, slightly later than normal through necessity, at 10.30. If I didn’t stop, the journey would take 3 hours and 1 minute.
Having previously visited most of the NT properties in the area through which I was driving, there were only three that were new to me. I headed for Hanbury Hall, a beautiful pile near Worcester, on an overcast and unsettled day.
I’m always nervous and suspicious when I see anyone standing on a bridge across the road for no apparent reason. One such bridge had about a dozen people on it, but they were no threat because as I drove under them a beautiful dark green steam train, a huge plume of white smoke pouring from its stack, chugged proudly on a track alongside the road. What a magnificent sight, and what a magnificent way to travel – leaning out over the top of a door getting smuts in your eyes and a blackened face. Great memories of my journeys from Paddington to school in Wiltshire a hundred or so years ago.
I arrived at Hanbury Hall about 1pm and managed to shoot quite a few photos of the beautiful building before the sun disappeared for the rest of the day. On Tuesday my hairdresser and I had chatted so intently that neither of us had paid much attention as to how much of my hair she was chopping off. The half inch I’d asked her to take off finished up about 2 inches. As I stood photographing the house a woman behind me said to her companion, “Wait there until this gentleman has taken his photo.” I thanked them in a deep voice. On entering the house I was greeted with a, “Good afternoon, sir.” My explanation went straight over the woman’s head and she turned away totally disinterested.
On the border of Monmouthshire although people were driving OUT of Wales with no difficulty I was in a 2 mile traffic jam trying to get IN!
I arrived at the campsite, which appeared almost full, around 5 and found a flat spot in the middle. The grass was lush, green, about 15 inches long, and soaking wet. By the time I’d set up camp my trousers were wet almost to the knees. The site was on a huge field surrounded on three sides by trees, and a view of distant hills and fields on the other. I’d been forced to do a four-point turn to get into the narrow lane, stupidly not heeding the advice given on FB about large vehicles’ access.
I have a very small one-drip leak from the outside pipe from the water tank. So, thinking myself very clever and wanting to spoil myself with a full tank instead of an irritating plastic water container, I cable-tied a strong plastic bag over the end of the pipe thinking that it would only leak enough to fill the bag then it would stop. What I hadn’t thought about was the physics. When the bag was full it might actually be so heavy it would pull the tap off. This is what it did and the tank was empty by the time I arrived, but I managed to pinch a few empty milk cartons from catering to keep me hydrated. If I’d left it uncovered the leakage would have been minimal over three days. I was fortunate not to have lost the tap – thank goodness for cable ties. Lesson learnt.
There was a very fine drizzle when I breakfasted the following morning and I was careful to avoid fruit and nuts. Just after 9 I was still faffing around putting plasters on my feet, Deep Heat pads on my knees, and stuffing my pockets full of Paracetamol for the rest of my body when the loudspeaker heralded a group attendance. I hate being rushed with a crossbow, there are so many essential things I can leave behind. We walked out almost immediately.
I was on B course which contained a huge pen housing a thousand young pheasants. Because of foxes there was a low electric wire on the outside. Suddenly there was an awful yelp from a dog that had inadvertently backed into it. We were told we had to finish shooting by 5 as the game keeper needed to coral all the pheasants that were roaming in the woodland before dark.
I was relieved to discover that the ground was more or less flat although there were many ponds and ditches. It seemed a young wood as the numerous trees were thin and closely packed. The paper faces ranged from a water buffalo to the weasel – which incidentally was about 12 yards distance!! There were 14 3Ds and it was a relief to occasionally be able to tell whether we’d hit the target or not. The paper faces were between 10 yards and about 50, but some of them were so dark it was difficult to see where the animal ended. There were also some of those very ungenerous ones with two thirds of the animal outside the line. Most of the time, unless we’d hit somewhere in the middle, we had to shoot three arrows just in case.
It was a well-set course, and apart from the few crack shots most archers found it challenging. I didn’t shoot particularly well as I had 5 third and 5 second arrows but I still managed to creep in over 700. I’d shot with three lovely archers and thoroughly enjoyed the day. However, I learnt yet another valuable lesson. Don’t be silly and don’t show off when you’re not very good – especially when points count. A thin-bodied raptor had everyone aiming a safety shot at the thigh and legs. I’d gauged it at about 50/55 yards, which meant I had to use the second spot on my scope. As I aimed at the thigh I went silly and said, “Sod, it, I’m going for the kill!” Everyone chuckled, I altered my aim and fired at the kill. The arrow went neatly under its chest. I’d forgotten to use the second spot. How thoroughly stupid was that? Because I was livid with myself I ended up with a 4 instead of what could have been 24.
My early administrations turned out to be a waste of time – the plasters melted into my socks, and the heat pads had slipped down to my ankles after about half an hour!
We finished shooting just before 5 by which time we could barely see the targets, and a couple of hours later the rain set in.
The rain had fallen solidly most of the night and the grass was now greener, longer, and wetter. As I staggered bleary-eyed to register at 7.30, scores of mosquitos rose from underfoot slavering over the knowledge that they would be well fed yet again.
Cruising through my preparation I sauntered over to the target butts at 8.10 to hear someone shout, “last arrows please!”!!! I just had time to pop off one and by 9 we were on our pegs waiting for the shotgun.
The rain had made the ground like a skating rink and although I didn’t actually see anyone fall over there were a few very fancy footsteps during the day, and at one target my back foot began to slip away as I fired. Not a nice feeling. However, the sun was out, the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds, and a light breeze. Perfect shooting weather.
I was with a different group, one of which was an enthusiastic arrow-puller. Again, there were 14 3Ds.
My first 10 shots were 7 x 24s, 2 x 20s, and 1×16. Although they were reasonably close I felt I was on a roll, and because I’d shot poorly the previous day I relaxed as I knew Sheron would have done better. I scored 412 for the first 40 forgetting that they had been fairly straightforward. They became harder throughout the day though, with a 62 yarder, and a couple near 50. There was more dead ground and slopes to contend with and a couple of lakes where the only measuring point I could find was a floating leaf.
Suddenly, as we passed a dead tree, there was a loud cracking sound as a branch gave up and headed south. Three of us scrambled sideways as the projectile dropped. Luckily it wedged across a bigger branch about 10 feet above our heads and we breathed a sigh of relief as we were peppered with small bits of wood. I had no idea I could move so fast!
The weasel, our penultimate target, was at a sensible distance this time but as I took aim I suddenly became frightened of it and pulled a 16! How stupid was that? My near misses on the second part with 20’s instead of 24s began to affect the score and I finished with a 376 which normally I would have been pleased with, but this was the Champs and it was not a good score.
Although I only had six second arrows I was STILL 12 short of 800!! Will I EVER get there. I finished up with 1492 and 25 spots.
I sat at the medal ceremony shaking with cold and nerves, and desperate for the loo. For some reason – probably because crossbows are not considered ‘proper’ archery by many – we are always called last under X when we should really be under C. The wait was interminable.
Gentleman’s XB came and went and I held my breath. Even when Sheron has told me she’d shot rubbish I never believe her because her ‘rubbish’ is always better than my rubbish. This morning she’d told me that she’d shot rubbish on the Saturday and this time she wasn’t exaggerating – she was called first, in third place. I had no idea there had been another Lady XB so knew I was at least second again but had actually beaten my nemesis. Then when my name wasn’t called for second I was gobsmacked and nearly fell off my chair. I’d actually won! This was the only important competition I had entered and not won last year and although it was a year late I now had the full set so could retire.