I have been a member of a shooting syndicate at East Dean on the northern edge of the Goodwood Estate for twelve years, and love the landscape in this corner of Sussex, composed of large beech woods with some quite steep valleys, interspersed with rolling downland.
Every time I have driven to a shoot on my syndicate at East Dean for the past 12 years, I have admired the adjoining areas of the Goodwood Estate, especially the valleys on either side of the road from Singleton to East Dean, via Charlton, and beneath the racecourse on the road from Charlton to the top of the Trundle by the racecourse.
I have frequently wondered what it would be like to shoot in one of those lovely valleys, and finally I found out because on Monday 29th October this year my wish came true, and my curiosity was sated! It all began in June this year when I had an email from the Agent at Goodwood, Alun Rees, saying that one of their regular teams had cancelled a Partridge day on 29th October and would I like to find a team to take their place?
I had mentioned to Alun that I knew of a travelling syndicate whom I approached with this opportunity. Unfortunately it quickly became evident that the syndicate I was thinking of could not take this day because various members were shooting at different places on this date, and so I asked Alun for a little more time to try and put my own team together.
I started this process in July and finally put a team together which consisted of five old friends, and three people whom I had never met before, but were suggested by various friends and contacts, and I am always pleased to meet new shooting enthusiasts, so happily welcomed them to the ‘team’
Anyway, after all the emails discussing guns, loaders, guests, transport, tips, menus and accommodation, I finally got to meet everyone on the Sunday evening for a pre-shoot dinner in the Duke of Richmond restaurant in the Goodwood Hotel and we all gathered in the bar where the noise level rose noticeably as each member of the party arrived. After a splendid dinner and more drinks in the bar, everyone drifted off to their rooms in anticipation of a great day to come.
Unfortunately the weather forecast predicted a heavy rain for the next day and when I awoke at 6am and looked out of the window, sure enough it was raining hard. So, in order to distract myself, I walked right around the courtyard, which The Goodwood Hotel encloses, until I reached the swimming pool and Spa at the far end of the building, and swam twenty lengths in the wonderful, lukewarm water.
I then followed this with 15 minutes in the jacuzzi, letting all my muscles relax and stretch, so I was ready for the demands of the day ahead! I wish I could follow this regime before every shoot, or every morning for that matter!
By the time I got back to my room at 7.30am, everyone was getting on with the jobs in hand, paying bills, eating breakfast, loading cars and at 8.30am, the Agent, Jaap Roell, arrived to escort us to the Shooting Pavilion at Carné’s Seat Seat high on the hill above Goodwood House. [The history of Carné’s Seat can be read at the end of this article]
As we arrived at this Georgian folly, I sensed that this was going to be a memorable day, despite the weather, which was still raining as we arrived at Carné’s Seat.
Martin Cawley makes his last call! The Team pose for a Group Photo In Between Drive Briefing
However, by the time we had a coffee and got booted and spurred and posed for the obligatory photo shoot and had driven to the first drive, known as Banger Bank, the rain had stopped, and the birds began, and kept coming consistently for the duration of the drive, with a wonderful combination of high flying partridge and good looking strong pheasants for the time of year.
The Author’s Wife and Good Friend, Malcolm Gill waiting for the action to begin!
I had invited my son, Harry, to load for me, and my wife, Chrissy and my great friend and syndicate shoot captain, Malcolm Gill, to join us, so I had my personal audience to perform for, and I started rather erratically, but soon got into the swing of things.
The Author performs for his Fan Club on the first drive, Banger Bank
The rest of the team were my old friend, Michael Jackson, a successful venture capitalist, whom I encouraged to take up shooting, which he did with a vengeance, about 15 years ago, soon joining a travelling syndicate which took days at some of the finest shoots in the country.
Michael Jackson explaining how it should be done!
I accompanied him on many of these shoots as his driver/loader/coach and he was always generous enough to let me shoot on one stand at each shoot, and occasionally to take his place completely if he was unable to make them for whatever reason, and so I was lucky enough to have his days at some of the best shoots, as his substitute.
Another member of the same syndicate joining us for our day at Goodwood, was Quentin Masters, and his lovely wife, Annie. Quentin is a ‘larger than life’ Australian film director who, on his best days shoots like an angel.
The other guns were Michael James, my co-founder of The Silver Fund which we started in 1995 to trade in ‘Estate’ silver by Georg Jensen, and James Rylands, the aforementioned Chairman of Summers Place Auctions which he bought out from Sotheby’s with whom he still works closely.
James Rylands has a high bird in his sights
Then there was Nigel Vooght, the global head of Financial Services at Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) Consulting, and Martin Cawley, and his friend, David Zackheim, both successful IFA s, and finally Roger Saunders from a local farming family although he now runs a mail order company called, ‘Field, Moor and Stream’, from a barn on his farm near Rogate
Anyway, they all turned out to be an extremely pleasant and competent team, and we were all looking forward to the first drive which was a great ‘warm up’ drive with a mixture of pheasants and partridge coming from every direction and there were lots of smiling faces at the end of it.
However, my son, and loader, had run out of cartridges half way through the drive and had to borrow from my neighbour, Michael Jackson’s loader, so that was one lesson learned on the first drive. If you are in the ‘hot spot’, it is quite possible to shoot 50-75 cartridges per drive on a shoot like this, or more if you are double –gunning.
We then drove down to East Dean and along the valley towards Charlton where we walked up towards the aptly named ‘Big Hill’ which was planted across the ridge with game crop adjoining a big wood, so that when the birds started coming they flew alongside the wood and then came across the tops of the trees making for stunning shooting and it was a mixture of pheasant and partridge all flying strongly and curling over the wood as the wind caught them, making for very challenging shooting.
The beating line was beautifully controlled and the birds came in waves so that by the end of the drive all the guns had enjoyed some spectacular birds and we had all worked up a good thirst, and as we walked back down the hill the sun had broken through and there was a table laid with a white table cloth, containing champagne, sloe gin, bull shot and all manner of drinks and a selection of Goodwood organic sausages and cheeses.
It was the perfect mid morning break, and the valley looked wonderful with all the autumn leaves changing colour, and Malcolm Gill and I were intrigued that where we had just been shooting was so close to our own shoot in the next valley although there the similarities ended.
The next drive was ‘The Hedgerow’, in a hidden valley immediately beneath the racecourse where there is a thick hedgerow interspersed with mature trees, over which both partridge and pheasant were driven to great effect, and some of the birds were extremely high and fast and clearly far too tempting for Quentin Masters and James Rylands, who could not resist a friendly competition to see who could take the best birds soonest, and the results were quite impressive!
Hedgerow Drive – The Guns awaiting the first flush with the Goodwood Racecourse on the Horizon
By the time the drive was over there was a major ‘picking up’ exercise in progress with the dogs retrieving in a controlled line like good beaters.
We then drove back to Carné’s Seat for lunch and were greeted by a blazing fire and a good selection of drinks, and the guns congregated by the huge Georgian version of a picture window, admiring the view, although we could not see the Isle of Wight because the weather was not good enough but it was easy to see how spectacular it would be on a clear sunny day.
Lunch in the Stunning Carné’s Seat
Lunch was a very good lamb curry washed down with a serious red wine that could stand up to it, and the fruit crumble pudding added to the general feeling of well being. For those of us who were interested in the history of our setting, they were offered the chance to view the Shell House – a gentile pastime for the 18th century lady with time on her hands.
After such a splendid lunch and seduced by the roaring fire, the ladies went on strike and decided to hunker up in front of the fire with the papers and glasses in hand and await our return.
So the guns returned to the fray for the final drive known as Queen’s Plate which is in another hidden valley beneath the racecourse and provided a wonderful finale to the day.
I was a back gun behind Roger Saunders and it was a good thing that there were plenty of birds otherwise I would have had nothing to shoot at, as he was dispatching a squadron of Partridge and Pheasant with clinical skill.
Fortunately the birds came thick and fast, with a wonderful combination of partridge and pheasant all flying very well and presenting challenging shots for all the guns, and I had a particularly busy time with my son giving me sound advice as I tried to finish the day with a series of rights and lefts which I am pleased to say we managed with some success.
And so it was back to the Pavilion for a very welcome tea after which a few of guns hit the wine again, but everyone had enjoyed a memorable day in beautiful surroundings looked after by a supremely professional team.
Trevor Williams, our host for the day, striding through the glorious Goodwood countryside with Big Hill in the background
The Head Keeper at Goodwood is James Nelson, and we were very well cared for by our host for the day, Trevor Williams, and his step-daughter, Vanessa, who looked after us so well, and the catering team at the Pavilion who were also superb.
The final bag was 346 comprising 239 pheasants, and 107 partridge, and as we tipped the keeper we were each given a brace of oven ready birds which is always popular with wives and girlfriends.
And so we descended from Carné’s Seat to drive past Goodwood House looking resplendent in the evening sun and I reflected upon how fortunate we were and what a privilege it was to have just shot on what must surely be one of Britain’s finest Estates, now made more perfect by its splendid shoot.
We will be back again next year, as all the guns said that they would like to come again, and slots like these are hard to find, so I hope that the Agents will look kindly upon us!
Having now witnessed a day’s shooting there, I am convinced that Goodwood can now hold its head high, as being amongst the best shoots in the country, and certainly one of the most stylish.
The History of Carné’s Seat
Carné’s Seat is a two-storey classical pavilion in imitation of the kind of buildings created by Renaissance architects such as Andrea Palladio in Italy. It comprises one single cube room with a coved ceiling and a loggia above service rooms. The name derives from a cottage that it replaced on or near the site that had belonged to a retainer of Louise de Keroualle, M. de Carné. An inscription on a lintel in the ground floor loggia reads:
Ligneam invenit, lapideam fecit
Carolus Richmondiae Leviniae et Albiniaci Dux
Hhe found it wood, he left it stone
Charles, Duke of Richmond, Lennox and Aubigny
Apparently the wood/stone notion is a parody of Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars – that Augustus found Rome in brick and left it in marble.
The building is believed to have been designed by Roger Morris, a pupil of Lord Burlington, who had already done other work for the 2nd Duke. The interior was originally frescoed and gilded. The fine neo-classical chimneypiece dates from c. 1775, replacing the original one. The loggia was probably originally open to the elements, with the windows set further back in. A small dome above the entrance was originally painted with the constellation of the planets on the date of the 2nd Duke’s birth. Opposite the entrance to the service rooms was a bath house, now converted into a cloakroom.
The pavilion was to be used as a banqueting house. In the time of the 2nd and 3rd Dukes it formed an important part of the tour of the pleasure gardens, with a serving woman in residence to make tea for visitors. They could walk up from seeing the display of the 2nd Duke’s animals in High Wood, take tea, and descend down a path through the wooded chalk quarry now known as the Pheasantry, which at the time probably also housed wild animals, in cages.
The fine pair of stone sphinxes flanking the building appear to be a direct copy of those designed by William Kent and made for the gardens at Chiswick House, now located on the Devonshire House gate on Piccadilly. The pineapple topped entrance columns to the whole area derive from a drawing made for the 3rd Duke by William Chambers.