What keeps guns coming back to the nation’s favourite shooting ground?
Set in the beautiful West Sussex countryside, the venue for the Clay Shooting Classic will be familiar to most readers, but for those who haven’t given it a try, Southdown Gun Club should be a priority visit.
First opened in 1983 by Dave Peckham, the ground enjoyed many successful years but began fall into decline towards the end of the last decade. Current co-owners Shaun Miller and Greg Swan took on the ground in 2010, and with it the challenge of reversing its fortunes. Seven years later, it’s fair to say that their hard work has been amply rewarded. Shaun and Greg are keen shooters themselves, and their passion and commitment has been instrumental in restoring the ground to its former glory and making it an inclusive facility for shooters of all standards.
The ground is open from 8am Wednesday to Sunday, with shooting starting at 10am. Closing is at 5.30pm in summer and 4.30pm in winter, with last entries an hour and a half beforehand. Almost every discipline is well catered for, with 12 Sporting stands (including driven targets) changed every two weeks, as well as FITASC, Skeet, DTL and ABT layouts. Southdown has a dedicated shooting school area which includes 100-foot high tower, grouse butt and dedicated training stands. This area is fully adaptable to meet the needs of all skill levels from complete beginner to seasoned game shot and competition shooter. In addition to being used by Southdown’s on-site coaches, the school can be booked by independent instructors. The area is also available to host private competitions and corporate events.
On top of that, there are try stands, pattern plates, and have-a-go targets. If it floats your boat you can even nip over to their air rifle range to take on a different type of target. Every type and level of shooter is welcome, with lessons for everyone from complete beginners, to game shooters and competition-level guns.
Lessons are the province of head coach and ground manager Simon Arbuckle, a CPSA level 3 qualified coach who presides over a team of qualified instructors, ably backed up by senior coach Iain Stirling. Simon also makes sure that everything ticks over during competitions, more often than not multitasking to run more than one event at the same time. Targets are set by Bob Clarke, who prides himself on creating courses with something for everyone so that B and C shooters enjoy their day even as technically challenging shots separate the AAs from the AAAs.
As well as the Classic, Southdown has many other impressive competitive fixtures in its calendar, having hosted the Southdown Sporting Masters, the Benelli SP Auto and the FITASC British Grand Prix & European Cup this year – and they’re showing no signs of slowing down, with the Christmas spectacular and New Year’s Day competition still to come. Added to that, as Clay Shooting goes to press, the FITASC Winter Series, comprising five shoots between November to March, will be kicking off. The ground also regularly hosts county-level competitions in Sporting, Sportrap, Fitasc and Compak. All in all, it will have seen a calendar-busting 51 CPSA registered events by the end of 2017.
Last but not least, they have two young shots days each year, ensuring that the sport of clay shooting doesn’t want for new blood to bolster its ranks in the future. Everyone at the ground is strongly committed to supporting new talent and as such, registered events at Southdown offer free entry to Colts and are half price for Juniors.
Southdown’s commitment to nurturing talent is further underlined by their sponsored shooter programme. The scheme is targeted at local shooters and includes a Talent Pool event supported by Zoli and NSI, now in its second year. The programme has representatives from most classes but they are currently seeking a Lady sponsored shooter – women in the Sussex area who feel that they have the competitive edge should get in touch. The sponsorship package includes Vario hearing protection, shooting apparel, discount lessons, 5,200 practice clays, free competition entry at Southdown and reimbursement of entry into other competitions.
Plastic and fibre wads are both welcome at the ground, although steel shot is off limits. Southdown does its bit to make sure it’s eco-friendly as well, recycling over three million cartridges each year at its own expense.
Great targets, great competitions and great support for shooters is all very well – but what about the important stuff? Can you get a decent lunch on-site? Southdown’s café is run by a gourmet chef and offers everything from a cooked breakfast to a grand banquet.
Effort has also been made to accommodate disabled shooters, with an accessible platform layout on the barn (which is near the car park). The ground can also provide transport to and from the Sporting range for less physically mobile shooters.
The final jewel in the crown is Southdown’s well-stocked gun room and shooting supplies shop where big brand guns jostle for space alongside a wide variety of cartridges, clothing, safety wear and accessories.
With all this on offer, it’s not hard to see how Southdown came to enjoy the title of the nation’s favourite shooting ground. Balancing the sense of community that sits at the very core of shooting with a fierce, no-holds-barred competitive scene, and offering unsurpassed facilities, it really is the best of all worlds.
Southdown Gun Club, Muntham Farm Findon, West Sussex BN14 0RW 01903 877 555 | southdowngunclub.co.uk
If coming from Brighton or Portsmouth, travel east on the A27 until you can pick up the northbound A24, going via the A280 if driving from Portsmouth. If you’re coming from Horsham, head south on the A24 before going round the Findon roundabout to join the northbound carriageway. Once heading north on the A24 dual carriageway, keep left. Approximately 200 yards past Worthing crematorium, take a left onto the concrete road signposted Southdown Gun Club/Muntham Farm, following the signs through the farm and turning right after just over half a mile.