Partridge Day Part One by Charlie Branwhite
The alarm buzzed, it was 4:30am, but of course I was already awake. Today I would be attending my first ever formal partridge shoot, sharing a peg with a friend who had kindly invited me along. My mind was already buzzing with excitement (and nerves!). I’d given myself an hour to get ready, which was far too long, but it was to be my first outing in my new Alan Paine tweed and I wanted to ensure I looked the part!
My friend picked me up at 5:30am sharp and we began our journey down from Suffolk to the Farley Estate, which was nestled in the gently rolling contours of the north Berkshire countryside. As we pulled up at the estate gates I caught a glimpse of the beautiful Farley Hall through the trees. The Hall is a two story brick country house, grade 1 listed and built in 1729. We drove down the drive and parked up on the lawn, before heading into the Dower House next door– otherwise known as the ‘Shoot Lodge’.
First to arrive, we were greeted in a reception room by the Estate Manager, the Shoot Captain and a breakfast spread of hot sausages, bacon and teas & coffees. As we tucked in the other guns soon started to appear and the introductions began. The group of eight was an eclectic mix of older gentlemen from a wide range of backgrounds, who certainly proved to be a great source of entertainment throughout the day! We drew our pegs, and the banter soon begun as we all tried to make note of who we needed to keep an eye on! The Estate Manager then talked us through the safety aspects, before we retrieved our guns from our vehicles and boarded ‘Bertha’ – the gun bus!
My friend & I had decided I’d watch him shoot the first drive so I could get a feel for what to expect. I’d shot on many game days before but not commercially, only local family/friends shoots, and no bigger than around 40 bag days. So to say I was blown away by it all is an underestimate! The organisation of the whole day itself was just incredible, with everything running precisely to time, and as the clouds of partridge started to fly over the guns… well, I was in absolute awe!
As we boarded ‘Bertha’ and made our way to the next drive it’s fair to say I was buzzing for my turn on the peg, but I was extremely nervous too. Sitting quietly and absorbing everything I’d just seen, I felt determined to do myself proud – also feeling an extra pressure being the only female there!
We were now peg number one, so made our way across the ploughed field and got into position facing the hedge line. Then begins that silent, adrenaline filled, wait. Everyone poised in position anticipating that first bird to fly over the guns before it all begins. We didn’t have to wait long, the first partridge soared over the hedge followed by several overs behind it, “here we go” I said.
Charlie Barley - Instagram @charlieebarley
A born and bred farmer’s daughter, Charlie’s family has been farming on the same Suffolk patch for over 100 years. A country girl through and through; wellies and tweed, Land Rovers and tractors, shooting and dogs, roast dinners and ciders. You’ll find it all on her successful blog.