Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner writes: Today I have the pleasure of judging our Young Countryside Writer competition, alongside Alastair Balmain of Shooting Times, Tracey Allen of Countrymans Weekly and Michael Clayton, author and former editor of Horse & Hound. I am looking forward to it immensely and have been impressed both by the number of entries we have received and the calibre (and passion) of our young correspondents. I look forward to reporting back on the outcome, but this seems an appropriate moment to update you on all we are doing to encourage and inspire the younger generation to love our countryside.
Our “Introduction to Fox Hunting” booklet has received an enthusiastic reception, with hunts, school teachers and students all ordering copies. It is an excellent resource, clear, concise and factual, and I would encourage everyone to read it. What we in the hunting world must continue to do is to make our case beyond our own constituency, and to communicate the role hunting still plays in our countryside despite the Hunting Act’s best efforts. The booklet has been a good launch pad for other “Introduction…” titles which will now be going into production – the “Introduction to shooting”, while a wide topic, will be the next one we tackle.
We are currently in National Shooting Week, one of our flagship initiatives, and I am pleased to report that it has already been a huge success. Over 70 shooting grounds have welcomed newcomers, including many youngsters, and guided them through their first shots. We have been exceptionally fortunate to have had Olympic Double Trap Champion Peter Wilson as our spokesman for National Shooting Week this year – his enthusiasm, charm and ability to connect with all ages makes him a great ambassador for the sport, and I am sure many youngsters will see him as a role model to try to emulate.
Our Angling Consultant Charles Jardine has been at Belvoir Castle this week, enthusing the young participants in the first ever Fieldsports 12-20 Club camp and introducing them to the art of fly casting. Charles continues to run The Countryside Alliance Foundation’s Fishing 4 Schools initiative, offering youngsters an opportunity to try their hand at fishing (fly or coarse, depending on the schools needs). For many of the children this is their first experience of fishing and the effect is magical, as the pupils at the 30+ participant schools will attest.
Falconry for Schools, led by Judith Wrighte, is having a similarly magical effect on youngsters. Judith has delivered her short course in over 20 schools in England and our first course in Wales will be held before the summer. What is exceptional about the fishing and falconry courses is the way they can hold the attention and interest of youngsters with a variety of behavioural, social and emotional difficulties. Judith was told by a literacy co-ordinator at one of the schools she visited: “The empathy and respect the boys showed towards the birds was incredible to see; the degree of engagement from the boys was extraordinary – 100 per cent involvement, rarely seen in pupils with these difficulties”.
While there is no substitute for the real thing, for getting outside and hands-on, we are also extremely proud of our teaching resource, the Countryside Investigators website, which has recently been refreshed and updated to include the Scottish curriculum. The website contains different sections, following Countryside Investigator twins Felix and Milo as they travel the countryside learning about farming, falconry, river keeping, bee keeping, forestry and estate management. It is interactive, informative and has been well received – indeed, over 10% of primary schools in England have used it. Please do show the site to youngsters and mention it to teachers as well.
We have so much more to do as we seek to inform and engage the younger generation – our beautiful countryside is surely the best sort of classroom.