Traditional country pursuits reimagined for a modern world
Here is all you need to know about the great British institution that is The Game Fair, which takes place Friday 28 to Sunday 30 July at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. This year, the much-loved festival is celebrating its 65th anniversary so expect even more attractions than usual!
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A handy A-Z guide to The Game Fair
A is for airguns - visitors of all ages can have-a-go at shooting .177 BSA airguns under the watchful eye of instructors from Walton Lions Air Rifle Club. Test your accuracy by shooting a paper target from 10m and a vintage bell target which rings if you hit a bull’s eye. BASC will also have five seated have-a-go lanes for all ages with qualified instructors using BSA .177 airguns aiming at paper targets placed at 15m. ‘A’ is also for archery – visitors of all ages can channel their inner Legolas at The Game Fair by picking up a bow and quiver of arrows. Run by Stratford Archers, visitors can experience using a recurve bow to fire arrows up to 15 yards into a traditional straw target under the watchful eye of an instructor.
B is for British Association for Shooting & Conservation whose 150,000 members receive complimentary entry to The Game Fair as well as guest discounts on advance bookings.
C is for Country Food Trust which is The Game Fair’s official charity for the second conservative year. The CFT provides free, nutritious game-based meals to those in food poverty. Donate to them at checkout when buying tickets online.
D is for Declan Boyle, captain of the Irish gundog team. Will they be able to defend their title as Home International champions this year? Held every year since 1969, the Home International sees England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales compete against one another in a series of demanding tests designed to test each of the dog’s abilities. Each team works five spaniels and five retrievers during the event, with their points contributing to an overall final team score.
E is for eating and drinking your way along the Totally Food aisles where more than 100 small-scale artisan producers will be selling home-produced delights such as brownies from Gower Cottage, scrumpy from Chucklehead Cider and venison from Warwickshire Wild Game.
F is for fishing - whether you’re a seasoned angler or someone who has only recently taken up the sport, there’s plenty for visitors in the Fishing Village. Comedian Paul Whitehouse from TV show Gone Fishing and actor Jim Murray from Activist Anglers are set to appear alongside key brands like Shimano, Rapala, Dynamite Baits, YETI. Plus Angling Trades Association, the official voice of the UK tackle trade, will be launching a major initiative to encourage more people try fishing. Dubbed ‘Get Into Fishing,’ top angling brands will join forces with key organisations to give people the chance to catch their first fish on the estate lake with coaches from the Canal & River Trust and AAPGAI’s experienced instructors. Visitors will be able to get up close to some of our native fish species in the Environment Agency fish tank, listen to talks in the Landing Stage theatre and watch angling demonstrations beside the lake. The British Fly Casting Club is also running three categories of fly casting competition - a trout casting distance challenge, a trout casting accuracy challenge and a double-handed (overhead) casting distance challenge.
G is for gundogs which are a focal point at The Game Fair - as well as displays and world-class competitions there are exhibitors, breeders and trainers on hand ready to share their words of wisdom on anything from feeding a new puppy to ironing out training issues. Watch out for chef James Martin in the Main Arena on the Friday and Saturday taking part in a gundog demonstration with his beloved spaniel Cooper with leading trainer Jason Mayhew and former international cricketer Matt Prior. ‘G’ is also for Ineos Grenadier – the official 4x4 partner of The Game Fair.
H is for hounds…there will be foxhounds, beagles, minkhounds and basset hounds from hunts across Britain showcasing lawful hunting activities, including trail hunting, as well as teckles and bloodhounds. Each day three hunts - both foot and mounted packs – will parade in the main ring along with informative commentary from the Countryside Alliance’s Polly Portwin and other local hunt representatives, where hunt staff will demonstrate how they work the hounds when following a trail. Each day will conclude with a cavalcade of hounds from all three parading packs when visitors are also invited into the main ring to greet the hounds and listen to the sound of the huntsmen’s horn blowing.
I is for Investec Enclosure where TV chef James Martin will be overseeing the restaurant. By upgrading to one of three VIP packages available in silver, gold or platinum, visitors will have exclusive access, food and drinks plus a chance to chat to James and possibly even take a selfie. Packages start from £99 per person.
J is for Jim Murray who will be appearing in the Carter Jonas Game Fair Theatre on Sunday 30 July. The actor, who is best known for his role as Prince Andrew in Netflix drama The Crown, is a mad keen fisherman and river conservationist. He will be chatting about his ambitious new initiative Activist Anglers, that encourages anglers to to hold polluters to account and effect real change.
K is for kids - The Game Fair is the ideal event for families wanting to get kids off screens and doing something wholesome outdoors. Kids can have-a-go at numerous activities including archery, fishing, airgun shooting, clay shooting, gundog handling, mini Land Rovers, and ride the big wheel with views of the entire site. Remember - kids under seven get free entry to The Game Fair.
L is for LAPADA Pavilion which will showcase an exquisite range fine art, furniture, jewellery and antiquities in a dedicated marquee. Hosting 25 exhibitors, this popular area is sponsored by The Royal Mint, the UK’s oldest company and official maker of British coins.
M is for Main Arena where there’s a jam-packed itinerary to ensure there’s always something to keep visitors entertained. The action will include educational demonstrations and thrilling displays, with confirmed entertainment for 2023 including the Shetland Pony Grand National, hound parades, scurry driving, mounted Pony Club games and gundog demonstrations.
N is for night vision from Pulsar - the Lithuanian brand is once again sponsoring Gunmakers’ Row. Designed to be a one-stop-shop, this popular attraction has numerous heavyweight gunmakers exhibiting including Holland & Holland, Beretta, Blaser, David McKay Brown, William Powell, John Rigby & Co, Longthorne, Boss, E.J. Churchill, Rizzini and AYA as well as specialist auction house Bonhams.
O is for owl – the Falconry Mews is run by Charlotte Hill of CJ’s Birds of Prey, who will hold exciting demonstrations in the Main Arena showing the capabilities of different birds of prey. They will be bringing 30 different birds in total.
P is for Pugs & Drummers which is hosted by Britain’s best-known rabbiter Simon Whitehead who is set to bring his highly popular team of ferrets and lurchers to The Game Fair once again. As well as watching his entertaining and informative displays, visitors can interact with the ferrets and buy his new book, Pugs & Drummers: A Ferreter’s Fable.
Q is for queue – save time when you arrive at Ragley Hall by buying tickets online and taking advantage of the early bird discount which ends at midnight on Thursday 27 July. On the gate prices will be 20% more expensive at £35 for an adult, one-day ticket.
R is for retail – over the three days of The Game Fair the site becomes one of the biggest retail areas in the UK with around 1,000 stands. All the big country brands will be in residence, with exciting new product launches and unbeatable show-only deals, alongside a number of small independent retailers and artisans.
S is for the Shooting Line which will attract top ranking clay shooters from all over the world. Run by E.J. Churchill, visitors can take part in numerous competitions, such as The Game Fair Challenge – a 50-bird English Sporting clay layout, The Game Fair sportrap – a 25-bird sporting competition and the pool shoot with daily cash prizes for the Top Gun. The CPSA will also be running its hotly contested 50-target Champion of Champions, have-a-go stands and the nail-biting Colts Challenge which is open to the top 10 ranked under 16s who shoot English Sporting.
T is for the theatre – the Carter Jonas Game Fair Theatre where effervescent host of Fieldsports Channel, Charlie Jacoby, will compère three days of lively discussions and TV-style chat shows, which will include some meaty political debate plus a smattering of talks and book signings.
U is for uniform – Warwickshire Police will be on hand to answer questions about shotgun and firearm certificates as well as make variations.
V is for Vaynol Gunroom which will be exhibiting at The Game Fair for the first time this year. Based in Gwynedd, proprietor Keith Jones will be showcasing an enormous range of second hand shotguns.
W is for Welligogs’ Ladies Day which takes place on the first day of The Game Fair - Friday 28 July. Scouts will be scouring the site to find the most elegant-looking visitors, just make sure you are wearing flats as the event spans 450 acres! Prizes will be awarded to three places, with first prize being a £1,000 Welligogs voucher.
X is for X Sight Sport, a clay shooting and archery eyewear brand that’s back exhibiting after a successful event last year.
Y is for Sussex Yeomanry who will be delighting visitors with impressive displays of equestrian skill with an historical twist. During a thrilling 30-minute display in the Main Arena on all three days, six experienced riders and horses will showcase the challenging manoeuvres used to develop the skills of the cavalry in times gone by. They include tent pegging, removing a three-inch-wide peg from the ground with a lance or sword, shooting balloons with air pistols, and perfectly timed drill riding and jumping.
Z is for ZooBells glamping which is located just a short walk (or hop on the tractor trailer) from the main event. There’s a canvas bell tent for every budget - from an unfurnished classic tent sleeping up to six people, moving up to a traditional tent with some glamping essentials, and then a luxury tent which comes with everything you need for a perfect night’s sleep.
Traditional country persuits reimagined for the modern world
Volume VI Issue IV is guest edited by Tiggy Pettifer, the fishing enthusiast in charge of fundraising and events for the Atlantic Salmon Trust
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