Jasper Fellows explores the story behind the popular Eriswell Lodge with director Stuart Smith
Opening a shooting ground can a daunting experience. Staff need to be hired, clubhouses built, kitchens filled, coaches found, grounds prepared and traps loaded – the list goes on. But Stuart and father Nigel Smith have succeeded in creating a world-class venue in just a few years.
“Dad and I were looking for a new challenge, following the sudden passing of my stepmother in 2012,” says Stuart. “When we heard about the possibility of a shooting ground being available for lease, we jumped at the opportunity. We finally agreed terms and moved onto the site in January 2015, opening our doors four months later.”
Though four months might seem short, Stuart and his father had been preparing for a long time. “We have both been shooting for about 15 years,” Stuart continues. “We have shot across the UK, US and Canada, and have seen lots of fantastic shooting grounds.
“We’ve tried hard to take the great ideas we’ve seen and create a professional facility that will rival the best in the country and hopefully further afield. We’re driven by a desire to push clay shooting into a more professional era.”
This passion to create something great has led the Smiths to continually improve Eriswell Lodge. “The work we have done to the grounds and facilities have been extensive,” says Stuart.
“We’ve fully covered our DTL and one Sportrap/Compak layout, installed a full floodlight array on our Skeet fields and DTL layouts, built a simulated game area, built two raised shooting platforms and installed dedicated training stands.”
The additions made here have allowed them to start hosting bigger and better events, including the World Skeet Masters 2019. “This was one of our first shoots on this scale,” enthuses Stuart, “our team spent months planning to make sure that everything ran as smoothly as possible.
“We had a fantastic weekend – it was amazing to see shooters from all over the UK having a great time. We enjoyed it so much we have already pencilled in some dates for the 2020 competition.”
For competitive shots that can’t wait until next autumn to get stuck in, there are weekly Skeet competitions held every Wednesday night. “It’s only £7 a round, or free for under 16’s accompanied by a paying adult.” Says Stuart. “With cash or trophies on offer for the winners, they’re well worth entering.”
You might need a spot of coaching if you are looking to walk away with a trophy. Luckily there are plenty of opportunities to use your visit as a learning experience.
Stuart, an APSI qualified instructor himself, leads the team of fully qualified instructors. “With our diverse team we can find the best placing for our clients based on their current ability and goals,” says Stuart.
Alongside its team of in-house instructors, Eriswell Lodge also plays host to a number of top-level independent coaches, including World FITASC Champion Sam Green.
“Following on from his fantastic 2019 season, we’re pleased to announce that Sam will coaching at Eriswell Lodge, under the banner of The Sam Green Shooting School,” continues Stuart.
“We’re very pleased to have this additional layer of coaching to call on.”
Once you’ve had suitable coaching, and have started to dominate the competition stands, you might be looking for an opportunity to spend your winnings.
Luckily, Eriswell Lodge has you covered, with a fantastic selection of clothing, cartridges and accessories available in their on-site shop. “We also have our café offering a range of drinks and home-cooked food,” adds Stuart.
At its core, Eriswell Lodge is a family run business, with a big heart and even bigger plans. Their dedication to pushing the industry into a new era will help to shape the future and continued survival of the sport.
“Soon we will be opening our new clubhouse, with a larger shop and gun room,” says Stuart. “We will be hosting world-class competitions and working hard to be the best that we can be. Watch this space!”
Tuition starts from £35 per hour for non-members exclusive of clays and cartridges. Member’s tuition starts at £30 per hour exclusive of clays.
Individual, Joint, Junior, Veterans and Family memberships are available. Individual membership starts at £65 for 12 months and offers discounted clays, tuition, buggy hire and 5% off in the shop.
Stuart and Nigel Smith are the directors. Stuart is head coach and runs the business from an operational standpoint, while Nigel runs everything behind the scenes. Jon and Melissa keep are the shift supervisors. Rebecca and Karen K can be found on the front desk handling bookings and welcoming shooters. Karen S and Kirsty keep clients well fed while Richard and his team keep the traps full and the grounds looking immaculate.
WHAT’S ON OFFER?
English Sporting, FITASC, Sportrap, Compak, DTL, ABT, a simulated game area and a large selection of Skeet layouts.
WHEN IS IT OPEN?
Open: Wednesday 9am-9pm, Thursday-Sunday 9am-4pm
Shooting: Wednesday, 9.30-dusk, Thursday-Sunday 9.30-3.30
WHERE IS IT?
Tel: 01638 534045
If you love Eriswell, why not vote for it in the 2020 Nation’s Favourite Shooting Ground? To find out how just head to our online voting form