Jonathan Irby of the Royal Berkshire takes Jasper Fellows back to school for a taste of simulated game and a legendary bacon roll.
My school memories consist of missing homework deadlines and sitting in detention, not an experience I would be willing to re-live in a hurry. Nestled in the beautiful West Berkshire countryside, however, sits an entirely different kind of school, where report cards are replaced with score cards and the teachers encourage you to break things.
Founder Dylan Williams and his team first opened the shooting school in 1991, with the aim of providing expert tuition to all. His groundbreaking approach to the sport of simulated game shooting led to Royal Berkshire becoming a favourite of both clay and game shooters alike.
In 2018 James Purdey & Sons Ltd jumped at the chance to own this one of a kind shooting venue. “Evolution not revolution has been the philosophy since Purdey took over,” says Jonathan Irby, who now serves as managing director at the shooting school, having moved across to The Royal Berkshire last August from his role as head of gun sales at Purdey’s.
“We have recently added a fantastic new ten-trap grouse complex and a new high tower to complement the two grouse butts and seven towers already in place. These, alongside our huge array of English Sporting and flush stands, allow us to offer tuition across a wide range of targets for
both clay and game shots.”
Tuition is the name of the game at Royal Berkshire. “We’re proud to employ five full-time APSI qualified instructors who are able to offer first class shooting tuition six days a week, twelve months of the year,” says Jonathan. “We believe our instructors are the very best in the business.”
“For us, quality instruction is all about understanding the experience and ambition of the client. What do they want to achieve from their lesson? Each of our instructors has a level of experience that allows them to understand and help clients reach their individual goals.”
You don’t need to have a lesson booked to make the most of your visit, however. “From novices through to the most experienced shots, everyone can enjoy challenging themselves on our grounds,” says Jonathan. “Each session is accompanied by a fully-qualified member of staff to help you make the most of everything on offer.”
With more grouse butts, towers and flush stands than nearly any other
shooting school in the country, the team at Royal Berkshire clearly take their game simulation seriously. “The Royal Berkshire Shooting School is often credited with having pioneered both the concept and sport of simulated game shooting, having hosted our first ‘Really Wild Clay Day’ in
1994,” explains Jonathan.
“These days are set up to mirror the events of a game shoot out in the field.
By taking advantage of our stable of five beautiful local estates, and our knowledge of the local topography, we are able to present the most realistic game shooting experience possible.
“Our days really are everything but the feathers.” Jonathan continues “As well as our Really Wild Clay Days, we offer a wide range of corporate and charity events – including our new ‘Conference & Clays’ experiences,
where a morning business meeting is followed by a fun afternoon of shooting for all. Our catering supplier, The Wild Fork, offer bespoke catering for all events.
They operate our on-site café too, serving up a seasonal menu to our visitors – their bacon and black pudding roll is legendary!” Being owned by one of the UK’s premier country brands means there’s an impressive country clothing store on-site too.
Jonathan explains “We stock Purdey clothing and equipment, as well as carefully selected products from Schoffel, Musto, Le Chameau, Barbour and more.
“Then there’s The Royal Berkshire Gun Room, offering fine new and second hand shotguns, rifles and air rifles from all the major manufactures, alongside cartridges from Hull and Gamebore. We are also able to offer gunsmithing services for gun-fitting, alterations and annual servicing.” Everything at RBSS oozes quality; a visit to this beautifully kept ground is an experience not to be missed.
The standard one-hour adult lessons start from £110, with one-hour junior
lessons beginning at £60, exclusive of clays and cartridges.
Calibre club membership
Membership starts from £25 per month for adults and £12.50 per month for
juniors. Members enjoy access to exclusive events, invitations to join club shoots and a variety of significant financial benefits.
Jonathan Irby is the managing director. Wendy Dixon and Amber Taylor welcome guests at reception, with Wendy also looking after the members’ club. Robert Cross, Nigel Muir, Steve Turner, Peter Wilkins and Ed Allen are the instructors.
Katie Absalom looks after corporate and charity events, Alastair Phillips and Michael Carter head up the Gun Room, with Jessica Evans and Mel Harvey looking after the Country Store.
What’s on offer?
English Sporting, eight high towers, three grouse butts and flush simulation stands.
When is it open?
Where is it?
The Royal Berkshire Shooting School
Hook End Lane
Berkshire RG8 8SD
Tel: 01491 672900