I had been privileged enough to experience the hospitality of Vaughan Smith and family earlier this year when attending a Simulated Game Day on this lovely Norfolk Estate in May.
I had been privileged enough to experience the hospitality of Vaughan Smith and family earlier this year when attending a Simulated Game Day on this lovely Norfolk Estate in May. On arriving at the Hall for our mixed Game Day this October the reception was equally as warm. The sight of children’s Wellington boots by the front door and the warm feeling of a large country house that is actually lived in by a young and happy family was a pleasant experience.
Two young children eating their breakfast cereal greeted us with warm smiles as we were ushered into the family kitchen for tea or coffee. One of the guns was asked to hold little Henry, infant number three and the apple of his two sister’s eyes. Young Henry is a very relaxed and laid-back character and will clearly follow in his father’s footsteps as master of the family estate. In 1864 the Hall was inherited by Colonel John Smith of the 2nd Madras Light Cavalry and has remained with the Smith family ever since. The Estate has been run as a shoot for at least four generations and long may it continue under the stewardship of Vaughan and perhaps young Henry in years to come.
Introductions complete, tea and coffee consumed and pegs drawn. Safety brief covered and boots on, then onto the shoot bus for the first drive.
"The second drive continues in a similar vain as the days bag starts to accumulate"
The day's sport of 200 birds gets off to a steady start with the first drive producing some good sporting birds. The second drive continues in a similar vain as the days bag starts to accumulate.
We stop for elevenses of sausages and slow gin. This is clearly a welcome addition to the day as some of the guns have had a long journey to the shoot and are more than ready for refreshments.
Vaughan explains that virtually everything that will be eaten today will be sourced from the Estate.
On to drive number three and the action starts to heat up as large numbers of Partridge followed by Pheasants rocket over the waiting guns. The liquid “barrel straightener” we had at elevenses seems to be working it's magic as birds tumble to the ground all around. A really good drive and the sound of appreciative comments all around from the guns.
Drive four produces another good contribution towards the bag but now to what makes Ellingham Hall a special venue.
Lunch with home reared lamb, home grown vegetables and a delicious desert of apple crumble – yes, you guessed it - home grown apples, all prepared and served by the Lady of the house and enjoyed by all present.
Hospitality is the key word at Ellingham Hall, you really are made to feel like a friend of the family.
Tummies are now full and we're all feeling very relaxed but it's time to get moving again and the team climb aboard the gun-bus. Cartridge bags are replenished and the guns are ready for a busy afternoon.
Two wonderful drives ensue with high flying pheasants racing over the waiting guns, who by now have their eye on the targets.
By drive number six it's clear that we've made the bag of 200 birds with ease, but quite frankly, had we fallen a little short no one would have complained. The team were all chatting enthusiastically about returning next season for more of the Ellingham Hall experience.
Fortunately I don't have to wait till then, I've booked another day for this coming January and I can't wait.