As an exception the rule, I will include this account of what happened during the past Cream Tea Shoot held by Kyrton Archers in Devon and I will do so in English, if only to save our generous hosts the trouble of using google translator or other similar tools that might replace arco (bow) with arch among other surprising choices. Also, irony and subtlety in language is often lost when going fully-automated and I don't want to send the wrong messages around what it was a wonderful archery day.
We had been warming up the day before, as we tend to do when we fly over from Madrid to attend to CTS, and we have been picking the same location for such necessary transition to our travel bows for four years now, Wye Valley Archery Centre. A selection of very nice pictures and some mandatory Spanish text can be found in my previous article.
The day before we had stayed at the lovely The Mitre Inn in Witheridge where we had enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Matt & Claire, after they had worked all day to make sure the targets were in place for Sunday shoot. They were exhausted but somehow managed to share a few drinks and food with us, it was wonderful and a perfect ending for a promising eve. We also met Emma, she worked at the Mitre Inn, and she would be joining us the day after for her very first field archery event!
Being so close to the range, we were able to enjoy a good night's sleep, have time for a great breakfast and still arrive in time for plenty of catch-ups with many friends, which was very much needed in the case of Jonathan, whom we had not seen since St. George's Shoot 2018 in April that year. Angela and I really enjoy these gatherings, we feel very welcome both by the people but also by the mood itself. No wonder we make sure to come back every year (budget permitting).
The SPTA was disbanded earlier this year and so Kyrton Archers had taken over this event, an obvious move since they had always been part of the organisation and the field is linked to their activities. According to their website, Kyrton Archers was formed in March 1978, that's months before we were born. They continue to perform beginners courses and they have a fairly active both competitive and non-competitive life. We definitely love their location at Furze Farm in Pennymoore, Devon, with various types of terrain and and a selection of uphill and downhill shots.
The only trouble we had was our need to be hasty. Our flight back from Bristol Airport, the only sensible option if we were not to spend any holidays, required that we departed the place no later than 15.30h. That meant we should have enough time for the whole course but we would have to say no to the delicious Cream Tea from which the shoot took its name. It was a big sacrifice and we preferred not to discuss this matter openly...
At last instructions were given and off we went. We had the pleasure to shoot together with our dear friend Richard and also meet Ronald Venables, a proficient target archer that was lured in by Richard, who proved to be an example of sportsmanship and camaraderie.
This made our group a bit of a mixture, which is fine. Two American flatbows, one English longbow and one take-down recurve, all with the mandatory wooden arrows, though.
Richard, which was wearing his new archery hat after the last one got stolen, said after receiving Ali's direction (thank you Ali, organisation skills at its best and not just for that timely piece of advice!), that we did the long loop first, then stop for a short break (she was conscious of our time constraint), and then do the shorter loop.
That seemed like a great idea and when the whistle was blown, we were soon left alone in the woods with only some faint distant arrow hits (and misses) surrounding us.
The three-attempts scheme, where you stop when you hit (or believe you hit) the target, is a perfect excuse for the three peg (red, white, blue) placers to show off their ability to, let's put it this way, surprise you on every instance. Perhaps, instead the "ooh!" or "wow!" you most probably get the "sh*t!" or "WTF!" out of the archer's lips, and soul. But it's actually very fun to be challenged that way, where clean shots are the exception to the rule and twigs, branches or even tree trunks in the way become the norm.
This has an interesting effect on morale. If you are having a good day and your arrows are flying true and hitting the target more often than not, you feel tremendously lighthearted and cheerful and the very stuff of legends to be sang by minstrels and bards. On the contrary, if you seem unable to master your technique and keep failing miserably with a disproportionate share of unlucky shots, then you have to be mentally strong to overcome these challenging shots every. single. time.
Fortunately for us, we belonged to the former group, and so we could indulge ourselves in many non-archery activities such as gossip. About archery, of course!.
Of all four, though, Richard was the most consistent. Last year, this was not the case at all, as I wrote down in my shoot report, translated and paraphrased here:
Richard, on the contrary, suffered from a considerable low performance. He told us he felt a lack of focus. I later considered if perhaps his new strict diet and physical exercises might have left him, if not exhausted, at least low in energy. And energy is not just a matter of muscles, the brain demands its big share. I'm not an expert so I could not say.
Exactly one year later, that commitment had yielded amazing results and that low-vigour stage had given way to an energy surplus that surely his brain was thoroughly enjoying.
Note: Angela and I have grown aware of the dangers of body-shaming so we are careful not to judge past, present or future physical appearances of other people, which doesn't mean we can't empathise with people's personal achievements in this field.
Back to the course. Ron was enjoying his crash course on field archery. It didn't go without some hmmm!'s and oh, dear!'s , but when distances to the target were around 20m, he would sort out the challenge brilliantly. I'm sure, as well as he is, that with more controlled exposure to field archery, he will be able to broaden his proven ability to hit the gold in non-levelled and short/long distance shoots.
I already said Richard was having a great day but how were we performing? Well, Angela had a strong start and she never faltered. She would sometimes have a low first shot, as you would expect from her travel bow, but would immediately correct on the second arrow. She was consistent throughout the big loop and she showcased his signature technique and release. Low poundage bows, such as hers, work as a bit of a handicap but all in all she was able to more than compensate.
I was doing fine too, not missing much and enjoying some great shots. The new course layout was really great. Some parts remained familiar but some other portrayed a different angle and would change the scene completely.
We finally got out of the big loop and went to order some food. The usual suspects, like bacon rolls and burgers, allowed us to reset our energy levels. We didn't spend much time for the break as it was already 13.30h, only two hours before our hard limit departure time. Still, we spent some time chatting with Hilary and others before we were ready to go back into the woods and complete the course via the small loop. It was then when we were given our Cream Tea rations, put into a convenient aluminium tray and left in the fridge until we had to leave. We would have our Cream Tea after all! That was wonderful! Thanks so much, Liz!
This time Ron decided he would stay. He wasn't feeling great about his right hand, forced to twist it for some shots, and so he wisely called it a day. We look forward to shooting with him in the future!
The three of us resumed the field course and continued with a nice collection of shots. We went at a relatively fast pace but not so much that we would mechanically shoot our arrows upon peg arrival. Score-wise, we were still doing a decent job, I have to say, but most importantly, we were having a great time together.
Angela and I had a strange feeling. We were in the woods, four hours away from flying back to Madrid, where we would have late dinner. It messed a bit with our brains but we managed to stay focused, enjoy the moment (otherwise, why go?) and exit the course with just enough time to throw our equipment into the car's trunk while a sudden shower hit us hard as if to tell us "time to go!".
We were able to rush a few goodbyes still but time was running out and we had to arrive to Bristol Airport in time to check in our archery equipment, so we had to run. Now, once in the car, with no signal, our satnav would not work and we had a moment of panic. I had to make use of my short-term memory and make up for the first 15 min before Angela managed to get data back and shout "to the right!" at the most important juncture.
While I was driving to the airport, Angela would stuff all the arrows plus the arrow rack into our fishing rod case, ready to jump out of the car the minute we arrived to our destination where I would then return the car and join her with the rest of the regular luggage. Part of this regular luggage included our delicious Cream Tea rations and since our flight was delayed, we indulged ourselves with every bit of it while sharing big satisfied smiles :)
One more year, one more Cream Tea Shoot, four in a row and already hoping we will be able to attend a fifth next year! Thanks everyone for such a splendid archery day, specially Kyrton Archers!