Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake has made an extraordinary contribution to shooting, both on and off the field, not least as chair of the committee that oversees the Code of Good Shooting Practice and in the management of his glorious home shoot, Bereleigh. This Hampshire estate exemplifies the finest traditions of driven shooting in England, showing the bestquality birds while maintaining the relaxed atmosphere of a family shoot.
Teams lucky enough to take a day may stay in the Georgian elegance of Bereleigh House, hosted by Bill and his wife, Philippa, also a keen shot. We joined them for one of two late-October partridge shoots held each year for family and friends. Guns assembled in front of a crackling fire in the cosy entrance hall and after a cup of coffee and a chance to catch up with old friends, Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake announced the off.
The briefing was clear: “Gentlemen, we will start slowly because they are doing a bit of blanking in. We’re numbering eight and moving up two from the right, all of you know the form; at the end of the drive there is a horn, which I find I hear awfully well. And we are shooting partridges only today, please.” And we set off to the first drive through the beautiful park and rolling Hampshire countryside.
“I love partridge shooting at this time of year, the autumn colours are stunning,” Tyrwhitt-Drake told me on the way. He is a passionate supporter of all fieldsports, delighting in their history, culture and community. “We’ve got the Hursley Hambledon Opening Meet at home next week and the sight of horses and hounds with the backdrop of the woods on the other side of the valley makes a wonderful picture.”
We passed the site of the Country Sports Day, the ‘mini game fair’ TyrwhittDrake, a long-time board member of the Countryside Alliance, has put on in aid of the organisation for the past 40 years. He was also a trustee of the GWCT and he and Philippa have organised countless charity fundraising events, including the well-known Lobster Shoot, now in its 38th year. Inspired by a friend who suggested that clay-busting could be enjoyable for game Shots, it culminates in a sit-down lobster dinner for 300 with a sporting auction. Tyrwhitt-Drake said, “The secret is the clays have got to simulate a real shoot, and it’s a great social gathering with likeminded people and convivial dinner at the end of it. I don’t know why we thought of lobsters but we had a good supplier at the time and it stuck.”
We pulled up at the first drive, Michael’s Mount, on the farm of Tyrwhitt-Drake’s friend Michael Langdon. I joined Nigel Hadden-Paton on his peg in excited anticipation of the opening partridge. Best known as the founder of exclusive online noticeboard Radio H-P, Hadden-Paton also started one of the first businesses in the UK inoculating trees with truffles, which can fetch up to £400 per kilogram. These days, it’s more of a hobby and he is thrilled when his plantations bear fruit. “I was delighted to put one in for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at Sandringham,” he told me. “We planted another near here five years ago and this season the owner has been able to have truffles at every shoot lunch.”
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