James Marchington visits the new EJ Churchill shooting ground in North Yorkshire.
A glance at the entry list told you this shoot was something special. The biggest names in Sporting clays, at least in the North of England, had flocked to the new EJ Churchill ground at Swinton for its first ever CPSA registered 100 Sporting.
Shooters in this part of the country are used to travelling. “I generally reckon I’ll have to drive an hour to get to a decent ground,” said noted game and Fitasc shot Dave Carrie. “When it comes to the big competitions it’s often three hours!”
So Dave was particularly pleased that EJ Churchill have chosen this location to set up a brand new ground that’s offering top quality Sporting competitions in stunning Yorkshire scenery. He had certainly enjoyed
“It’s been testing but very very enjoyable,” he said, declaring himself happy with his 88 ex-100. “It’s a really competitive course and every target is seeable. There’s only one target that really caught me out and that was about 15 yards away – I missed them in front, but every target was there to be hit. It’s a lovely setup, a pleasure to be here.”
The course takes you up a well laid path which winds through the valley leading up from the clubhouse. The course-setting team, headed up by EJ Churchill’s Sean Bramley, have made full use of the mixed terrain and vegetation. The first couple of stands showed targets thrown off the steep hillside, covered in bushes and bracken.
Moving on, there’s a stand beside a little pond, a couple set in coniferous forest, and another with a raised shooting platform looking down on a rabbit clay. At the end of the track you step out into open ground for a pair of Skeet-like targets before heading back down the track for equally varied stands along the return leg.
Of course the targets are important, but there’s more to the shooting experience – and here too the EJ Churchill team have done shooters proud. There’s a smart log cabin style clubhouse with lots of comfy seats on the patio – and plenty of umbrellas which were invaluable on this showery Yorkshire day. With Covid-19 restrictions still in place, refreshments were served from a tent beside the clubhouse, but still very welcome.
Shooters were impressed, but they would be more impressed still if they knew the problems EJ Churchill have overcome to get the ground ready. “We’ve been working on it since October,” explains managing director Rob Fenwick.
“We had a gentle opening – and then there was a huge storm which caused a massive landslide that basically wiped out the clubhouse. The stream turned into a river. We closed the ground again to redo all the works. Then we had the lockdown – and that gave us the opportunity to really hammer it. We’ve moved thousands of tons of earth, put in all new roads and paths, new banks to the stream, the new lodge with all new decking, the whole thing.”
After a ‘soft’ opening for practice, the ground gained its CPSA registered status in July and so the stage was set for their first Registered 100 Sporting. “We’re going to run these on the second and fourth Thursday each month,” Rob explains.
“The site is about 35 acres in all, with around 20 stands, and each one has four or five traps with the latest Promatic Claymate system. It’s competition day today so we’ve got the Sporting set up, but we can also offer Sportrap, Skeet and Olympic Skeet. We’ve taken on another 15 acres at the top end too, so there’s more to come.”
Rob is bursting with pride as he describes what they’ve achieved at Swinton. “People are loving it. We’re so lucky down south, but round here people often have to travel two or three hours to shoot 100 registered. They’re really happy to have something like this within a short drive.
“We love our competition shooting, but it’s not all about clays; people can come here to practise for game shooting too. It’s the whole lot. We want to be like we are down south, a universal ground that’s really smart, really tidy, and provides good facilities for everybody.”
Rob runs through the key personnel who have got the ground off to a flying start: “Mark Swires is the shooting ground manager. He was a coach at EJ Churchill for five years, then he was at West London, and Bisley. He’s a Yorkshireman, and now he’s come back up here to run this, together with his girlfriend Julie, who’s worked at Tony Kennedy and William Evans at Bisley.
“There’s Ross Elgie whose parents used to have this ground before, he’s one of the coaches and helps out on the ground. He’s a good coach, and a good shot too. Then there’s Will who trained with us at the World Championships and lives in Harrogate, and Olivia who’s doing sales and marketing. That’s the team here, and then we’ve got the team from down south coming up to help as and when it’s needed.”
Top shot on the day was Mark Winser with 95 ex-100, giving him a clear win. His achievement was even more remarkable as it was only the second time he had shot a 100-birder since a serious fall five months earlier had smashed his shoulder and collarbone. Mark is familiar with the ground and will be coaching here. He was impressed with the set-up on the day. “Rob and the team got it absolutely bang on, as they always do,” he said.
“For its first shoot it was a huge success. Churchill have tremendous knowledge and experience, and they bring quality to everything they do. This place already has a great atmosphere – just look at the people still here after the shoot is over, chatting in front of the clubhouse.
“It’s phenomenal what EJ Churchill have been able to do here in a short time. Everyone in the north is very grateful to them for providing a nice shooting ground for us to play at.”
For more about EJ Churchill at Swinton, see www.ejchurchill.com/home/swinton-estate/
or call 01494 883227