Head up the tree-lined lane from the gates of RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk and you’ll find yourself among the open skies and grassy fields of Eriswell Lodge Shooting Ground.
After Barrow Heath’s sad closure, its regular competitions have been taken on by Eriswell, which was formerly the Lakenheath Clay Target Centre.
Following its reopening in April 2015, the ground now has a new lease on life and is making a serious bid to become the centre of Suffolk’s shooting community. It’s recently become a premier ground and it’s entering a team to the CPSA Premier League in a bid to retain the cup for the county. What better time to take a tour of the ground and find out what it has to offer?
Eriswell is owned by father-and-son team Nigel and Stuart Smith, both keen shooters with 12 years of experience apiece. Nigel is more of a game shooter, but his son Stuart is a competitive clay shooter, regularly shooting abroad at World Championship Sporting events and turning his hand to most other disciplines on the domestic scene, too.
Nigel and Stuart haven’t hung about since opening and have hosted countless notable events including the National Inter-Counties Sporting Championship, the East Midlands Inter-Counties Skeet Championships and the BSSA State Championships (an American Skeet event) to name just a few. They also have lessons available from CPSA, BASC and APSI qualified instructors for beginners up to advanced levels of ability.
Facilities-wise, Eriswell has all the boxes ticked. First and foremost, there’s plenty of shooting to be done with four Skeet fields, two with DTL layouts on and two with ABT, plus a separate DTL/Sportrap/Compak layout.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are two more Sportrap layouts on top. Sporting shooters have 16 stands to get around, including two raised shooting platforms and multiple traps on platforms and lifts.
Shot restrictions are pretty simple and sensible – you can’t shoot anything bigger than a 7 shot or a load heavier than 28 grams. Plastic wads or fibre doesn’t matter.
Over in the clubhouse, the café serves hot and cold food and drinks, while the shop has a wide range of stock from such names as Jack Pyke, Alan Paine, Baleno, Croots, Bisley and Napier.
Disabled shooters are well catered for, with all access either flat or ramped and the appropriate WC facilities. All that said, the ground isn’t resting on its laurels and plans are in motion to construct a new clubhouse early next year.
Overall, Eriswell certainly feels more like a club than a commercial ground. Staff often get to know their members by name and when time permits, they’ve even been known to sit down and share a cuppa with them. Even at busy times, you can be assured of a warm welcome.
The dynamism that has changed Eriswell’s fortunes hasn’t gone away, either; Nigel and Stuart are always developing and reinvesting into the facility.
They regularly change the targets on their Sporting course and they’re now hosting two Sporting competitions each month with the targets set by Phil Moss, formerly of Barrow Heath Shooting Ground. The Skeet and Trap layouts aren’t neglected either, both being checked regularly to make sure the targets are up to snuff.
With all this on offer, it seems fairly safe to say that Suffolk’s shooters can rest easy in the knowledge that they’ll have access to a quality shooting experience for years to come.
Shooting is a sport, but in the end it’s also community, and that’s why it’s so important that the team at Eriswell have stepped into the breach to keep the flame of that community alive.
It’s tempting to describe it as a phoenix rising from the ashes but although it exists on the grounds that were once Lakenheath and preserves an important part of the spirit of Barrow Heath, it’s really something brand new. The future isn’t more of the same, it’s yet to be written – but it’s looking bright.
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