I'm a freelance writer based in South West London, but i'm frequently travelling. Stay tuned! I pop up in the strangest places.
Finding the Royal Richmond Archery Club proved to be quite a challenge, and on my third attempt I finally succeeded. Tucked neatly behind the Old Deer Park Cricket Club, It's a place that even Google has problems pinpointing on a map. But find it I did, a little flushed, but very satisfied that at least I wasn't the last to arrive.
I'd found this archery club online and with it a beginner course straddling two Saturdays starting at 10am and finishing at 3.30pm. The course included a lunch buffet at the cricket ground, free coffee and tea, and expert instruction and equipment. All this for £85 and I thought it was a very good deal. As I'm usually very bored waiting for my husband to come home from training for a marathon on Saturdays, I thought it would be a great activity to try out. Because, seriously, who do you know does archery?
I was put into a class of 18 students that ranged from age 25 to 82 and immediately I became a bit nervous but it was clear that everyone else was very eager to get started. We were severely warned about the safety procedures on the field and especially the emergency word "Fast!" which meant "stop what you're doing and put your bow's down". Looking around the room at some of the gung-ho expressions on my fellow classmate's faces, I found myself hoping that I wouldn't be the one speared by any stray arrows.
I was lead to the target by my tutor Steve, who could have stepped out of a Harry Potter film. Old and wizened, but very strong, with a wicked sense of humour, he soon had me laughing at stories as I tried to string my bow, knock my arrow and shoot the 'gold' in the middle of the target. Our first attempts were very successful and I felt like a million pounds as I hit the gold mark with four of my six arrows in the second round. I got an approving nod from Steve and looks of envy from my classmates, but unfortunately my glowing success turned out to be my typical beginners luck.
In the afternoon, we retreated back a further 10 yards, and the wind started blowing 'gale force' gusts. I found myself hitting black, white and finally they just sailed over the top of it. I couldn't help but duck my head in shame. Thankfully I wasn't alone in this though, everyone had their problems, so I covered my embarrassment by turning my attention to my practice partner who'd just bounced her arrow off the target. I know it's childish, but it made me feel better.
At the end of the day we were ordered to help dismantle the targets, de string the bows, put away the arrows and clear away the stands. We were then given a debriefing by Barry, the Chairman of the club who gave us instructions for next week, a small pamphlet to read and some 'scarecrow' postures to practice. It had been a fantastic day and I couldn't believe how addicted I already was to archery. Just hitting the target gave me a rush and I was itching to stay and practice some more, but I'll just have to wait until next week.
I've decided that next time, I'm coming away with a membership.