Field archers flock to Heathfield Park for international contest
Heathfield Park and Adrian Caddy Archery recently hosted the town’s first international field archery competition.
The competition was part of the Finals Series and one of the five field archery tournaments run by multi-championship title holder Tony Weston, founder and proprietor of The Archery Company. Competitors came from as far away as The Netherlands.
Tony is the archery equivalent of David Beckham or Lewis Hamilton in terms of record scores and achievement in the UK and internationally but, despite its 20,000 years of existence, the pursuit of bow-shooting has yet to reach the levels of financial reward found in football or F1 motor-racing. Far from it!
The other side of that coin (pun intended) sees every style of archery (and there are many) staying affordable and available to more and more folk of all ages.
Heathfield Park lends itself perfectly to field archery – shooting (usually) 3D foam plastic targets with score zones that are too distant to see clearly. Field Archers tend to ‘learn’ their target score zones and go for the high numbers when they feel confident – or pressed.
The highest score is frequently a circle of about the same diameter of a £2 coin. The challenge of maximising scores is not a ‘requirement’ as the sheer fun of a walk in unspoiled countryside is the prize every archer, regardless of experience, can share along with family and new friends. And even if the targets sometimes appear life-like, they are most certainly not. 3D targets are made in moulds specifically for field archery (the best manufacturer is undoubtedly Rinehart of America) and, like Olympic archery with its paper faces of 10 scoring circles over five colours, field archery targets are static.
On no account is field archery in the UK an encouragement to stalk and hunt live prey – bow-hunting here is strictly illegal and has been for generations. The fun and thrills of shooting fake prey come with broad grins and no bloodshed. Rinehart targets are particularly hard-wearing and can withstand the impact of thousands of arrow strikes before the centre insert with its score zones needs replacing. This is cheaper and easier than buying a whole new target. 3D Archery targets re-form after impact rather than impersonate cheeses with a myriad of holes. Clever polymer science.
Modern technology has also been a real benefit to both ancient bow-making techniques and craftsmanship, as well as mould-formed foam targets. It has also introduced radical new thinking to the simple task of launching a straight arrow from a bendy ‘stick’ into a target more accurately than your rivals can. Wooden and other primitive bows are still very beautiful and now they will last longer because we know more about wood preparation and preservation than did our bowyer ancestors at the time of Agincourt.
At the recent Heathfield tournament, bows like this were shooting alongside 21st century compound bows – designed on computers with the precision of a Swiss watch and built from aircraft-quality alloys, titanium and carbon-fibre with military grade optics for aiming. Naturally enough, different styles dictate different scoring and closer-to-the-target shooting pegs, depending how basic the archer’s bow and accessories (if any).
The weekend of 5th and 6th October took three full days of preparation – setting up 58 Rinehart 3D targets for the four ranges, a practise course and a one-off, long-range shot for charity and challenging fun. Part of field archery’s great appeal is the addition of ‘unmarked distance’ from archer to target. This means the need to shoot a perfect line requires first-class distance judgement to go with it. Olympic archers are amazingly skilled, precise devotees of bow-craft – but they know to the millimetre how far the centre of the paper target face is from the tip of their arrows. They also know the ground will be perfectly flat, there will be no distractions like trees, bushes, streams, ponds, or unseen ‘dead’ ground between ridges and wind speed and direction are clearly marked by flags and digital displays.
Field archers at Heathfield Park and throughout the world thrive on the skills of distance judging and the unpredictability of the weather. And over the weekend of the finals there was a lot of that.
The Heathfield Park 3DA Finals provided warm Autumn sunshine, gentle but confusing breezes, dark clouds to add to the shadows of foam plastic fake beasties in the woods – and several rain showers of mixed intensity, although thankfully none of them prolonged.
Field archery events are growing in number, and popularity. It’s very rare to attend one as either seasoned veteran or newcomer without making great new friends and sharing the enthusiasm and support of all bowmen and women – regardless of your bow-type or shooting-style. Age is seldom a barrier either. There will be shooting pegs for those who are yet able to manage the shooting weight and mass of a full-spec adult bow, and always – help, support, advice and encouragement.
A few weeks ago The Heathfield News published an article about the enjoyment and hugely healthy ‘addiction’ anyone aged from 9 to 99 can find in field archery – now fully available inside Heathfield Park through Archery Event/Education providers, ACA. [https://www.theheathfieldnews.co.uk/archery-an-activity-for-all-with-multiple-benefits/]
To re-kindle or start your interest in the safe and hugely relaxing shooting of a bow that will fit you perfectly, contact Adrian Caddy at ACA on 07576 010066 or email@example.com Whether you want to shoot with the prize-winners or just for fun and low-impact exercise, Adrian will help. He’s also determind that you don’t spend money on unnecessary or incorrect equipment.
There will be an Archery Christmas Fair at Heathfield Park on Sunday 24th November. It starts at 10:30 and will end promptly (because of the light) at 15:00. Entry fee is £5.00 per person to include 12 arrows on the induction course. Extra arrows and more targets can be added at an additional cost. All shooting is supervised by an ACA trained instructor. Due to insurance restrictions no archer under 9 years of age can shoot on the ranges. A short-distance test target will be provided.Bows and accessories are available at below retail prices and complete beginners’ kits for Christmas (all ages) will be on sale for even further price reductions. Refreshments will be available from 10:30 until 14:30. To book places please email with names of participants to firstname.lastname@example.org.