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Date added: 28 August 2006

Clay Pigeon Shooting- a SwindonWeb Adventure 

Nothing to do in Swindon? Think again!

In this the third part of a series of SwindonWeb adventures, we've been out and about continuing our search for things to do that are just a little more exciting than the usual.
Things that are a: not neccessarily the type of fun activity you may associate with our lovely home town and b: something which (most importantly) we can film some hilarious (hopefully, humiliating) video of someone trying out.

Part Three: Clay Pigeon Shooting

with SwindonWeb's own Donald Rumsfeld, Leigh Debbage
Three missions into our SwindonWeb Adventures series and I continue to be surprised.

Growing up in Swindon, the idea of a grand day out was a game of MegaBowl and an All You Can Eat Buffet at Pizza Hut, followed by a trip to the cinema if we were feeling really extravagant. Anything grander warranted at least a trip up the M4.
How little I knew back then! In the last two weeks I've been waterskiing, quad biking and now clay pigeon shooting, with much more still to come. I've sometimes had to pinch myself to be sure I'm so near home.

Next stop: Barbury Shooting School - yet another well kept secret and somewhere I would have enrolled at years ago had I known about it.
Nicely hidden in the rolling Wiltshire Downs between Swindon and Marlborough, just ten minutes from Junctions 15 and 16, it has been a feature of the beautiful surrounding countryside for some years.
Clay pigeon shooting, or for the purpose of political correctness, 'Clay Target Shooting', is something I've always had the desire to do, but the furthest I've gone is shooting my dad's air rifle at targets in our garden (I took aim at a rabbit once but didn't have it in me to pull the trigger!).
Four hits from my first four shots was a pretty good start, and I was starting to think the disks were fitted with self-explosives to make me feel better, until John stepped it up a tad.
But a few misses made it all the more satisfying when the targets did shatter above me, punctuating the tranquil Wiltshire skies with shards of shiny black clay.

Meeting Barbury Shooting School's very friendly instructor, founder and principal John King, I soon knew this was the real deal.

"I'm John King and you're very welcome," said our host as he met us in the attractive wooden reception area, which has a certain Centre Parks feel to it.

"You must be the guinea pig," he said to me, with a serious lock on his face.

Now maybe it was just the excitement of the moment, but being asked that question out in the middle of nowhere by a shotgun-wielding pro in full hunting attire, my first instinct was to run as fast as my little guinea pig legs would take me.

But I was soon assured that he was speaking strictly metaphorically and even if I was a real guinea pig he wouldn't shoot me because they're household pets and not generally regarded as game. I guess I just panicked!

After a welcome cup of coffee and biscuits (never shoot on an empty stomach), I was kitted out in my shooting gear.

With a full shooting jacket, ear muffs, Barbury Shooting School baseball cap and protective glasses, not to mention my own 'Lonely Hunter' t-shirt that I wore specially for the occasion, I must say I looked the business.

A short hike over to the shooting area and I was soon equipped with an ornate looking shotgun. To be precise, a Beretta 20 Bore (When you absolutely, positively gotta nail every last clay in the sky - accept no substitutes!).

With James Bond's shotgun of choice and in no doubt that I looked the part I assumed my Rambo pose and got ready to unleash fury on the pesky clay disks.

It's at this point that for the purpose of a witty, self-deprecating article I'd like to say how pitiful my attempts at shooting the targets were, how I couldn't hit a cow's backside with a banjo and how I became the laughing stock of Swindon's pigeon population.

I'd like to say that, but boringly enough, I was actually quite a sharp shot for a first-timer.

In a one hour lesson with John I shot fifty cartridges (starting with single driven targets, before stepping up to on report doubles), I learnt a great deal about the sport itself, and had a thoroughly bloody good morning out in the countryside!

And to think all those days I stayed in and played duck hunt on my Super Nintendo!

I left in high spirits, keen to have another go and, of course, ready and waiting for partridge season on 1 September. A-ha!
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