Marrying keepingering experience with exemplary teamwork, good food and an accommodating local pub, the Wymondham Shoot in Leicestershire creates the atmosphere many of us game Shots yearn for.
"Our aim was to establish a professionally run family shoot,” explained Vernon Moore. It would be fair to say that he has succeeded with the help of Brian Elson and James and Sarah Watchorn.
Shooting is his passion and it all goes back to his childhood when he had a .410 as soon as he was old enough to carry a gun. And, more importantly, he spent endless happy hours with his grandfather Jack Moore, a true countryman who to further his career left a ’keepering job at Sandringham and moved to Wartnaby, in Leicestershire, as headkeeper for Lord King.
He bred and trained flatcoat retrievers, and spent a lot of time picking-up with Ron and Colin Wells on the Belvoir Estate. He also undertook gunsmithing work for John Green at his Melton Mowbray gun shop. Whenever possible, young Vernon would be at his side shooting crows and building pigeon hides. Happy times.
“That’s why I was keen for our two sons, William (15) and Max (14), to start shooting,” continued Vernon. “I am happy to say that they are both good Shots and they too know that there is so much more to the sport than pulling the trigger. Having the shoot is excellent in this respect, in that the boys can be back Guns.”
Vernon’s father was also a keen Shot and enjoyed his sport mainly in Yorkshire, but the bulk of Vernon’s shooting education came from his grandfather, particularly when it came to the organising and running of days.
His career as an estate agent started with Frank Innes, then a partner with Newton Derry Moore which they started in Melton Mowbray and grew to 17 offices. His shooting career progressed through a variety of days as much as time permitted.
Having married Jenny, the couple moved to Wymondham where they built a house on the edge of the village. It had sufficient space for his growing menagerie – everything from capybara to rare-breed geese, ducks and rheas (which look like emus), not forgetting Leo the ring-tailed lemur, a cute creature who is mostly to be found in the kitchen. Birds of prey, too. Jenny has been very supportive with the family shoot and now enjoys coming out to watch the boys with Purdey the dog, rather than with a gun.
Vernon clearly has a penchant for doing things differently and his professional career took another twist when having launched Moores Country & Equestrian, specialising in the country house market, he opened a very attractive office at Grantham railway station, aimed primarily at the commuting market. Another at Peterborough station followed shortly after, and then Market Harborough. He is the first in the UK to have a sales office in such a location and it is working well.
Meanwhile back in rural east Leicestershire, he had already started the Wymondham Village Shoot and was then offered the opportunity to expand into the neighbouring commercial shoot. Instead, Vernon opted to change it into a family affair which he could see was going to work well as his sons became keener Shots and had friends that they would want to invite and carry the tradition on. When the neighbouring shoot looked to be closing with Brian Elson retiring, he had the opportunity to expand Wymondham Shoot and take in some excellent drives.
Brian is a vastly experienced shoot organiser and his Hooby Lodge shoot was well known for having over 100 days per year. With happy coincidence his son-in-law James Watchorn, formerly the headkeeper at the GWCT project shoot at Loddington, was moving back to the farm with his wife and family.
So between them, Brian’s daughter Sarah and James would run the shoot and the farm together. Brian looks after the Guns on shoot days, while Jenny’s father Graham Madeley picks up, and James’ father, Brian Watchorn, is in the beating line, along with his granddaughters (Polly, Georgie, Pippa and Lily) and son Peter Elson. “And my mother Rosemary makes the legendary shoot pie which is a star turn at elevenses.” So it really is a family affair and has all turned out as they would have wished.
“We don’t run it as a syndicate. It is easier to have it as a family shoot – I have some shooting for friends, James has a couple of days, and we have a couple of regular Guns, Andrew Nelson and Andrew Wilson, who are very supportive. Our sons’ friends too – I see that as vital.”
It is primarily a partridge shoot, but most of the drives have some pheasants. “We try to do everything properly and there is a great emphasis on bird presentation, utilising Brian’s know-how of using the wind, gained over the last 25 years.”
The final piece of the jigsaw is the Berkeley Arms, a pub which has received a Michelin Bib Gourmand for the past six years, and another family affair run by husband and wife team Neil (chef) and Louise (front of house) Hitchen. All the shot game appears on the pub menu where recently pheasant Scotch eggs have featured. “I sometimes think that Guns come for the shoot meal just as much as the shooting – they are a great couple and the food is fantastic,” Vernon explained. “It makes for a perfect end to a happy day.
“Running a shoot is more than just turning up on the day - it’s having the satisfaction of entertaining all your guests and family. I have paid to take days elsewhere and however good they are, there is still not the same feeling of everybody pulling together all season to create some memorable days.”