One early autumn evening I found myself in unfamiliar countryside which didn’t have any hills or ditches but instead was made up of hedges and vast fields of stubble. I was in Suffolk and it was dark. I was definitely lost.
After a number of stops and phone calls however, despite the fact that I was late and my hosts were tired, I found myself enjoying an unexpected banquet of roast pork in a splendid Suffolk farmhouse. This rather neatly illustrates the approach that Nick and Lily Elsdon take to
their business, Anglia Sporting. They aim to combine good shooting (Nick’s department) and excellent hospitality (Lily’s) in one package and have succeeded to the extent that they have to concentrate full-time on what is now a flourishing business.
“We offer shooting over ferrets, stalking, duck-shooting, pigeon-shooting over many thousands of acres of Suffolk and now see so many people each year we’ve lost count but our emailing list is now
around 700 people,” Nick explained. He went on to say that 70 per cent of his customers came from France, Italy, America, Malta and Holland, “but the biggest group, and possibly the most travelled of sportsmen in the world, is the Danish”.
Nick was born and bred in Surrey and hated school, so he left at 16 for a lifetime of self-employment, starting with an antiques business. Lily, a country girl, was born in Norfolk and went to school in East Anglia and has run pubs, clubs and old people’s homes in and around East Anglia all her life. They met six years ago and got married in June 2007.
After a good night’s sleep and a substantial breakfast, I was introduced to Glen, a fellow guest, and we were driven to our hides in some stubble fields on what was a windless sunny day. I watched Nick
carefully test the air with talcum powder and methodically assemble a varied collection of decoys, magnet and an extraordinary telescopic lofting pole that put the awful contraption that I use to shame. He took a great deal of time to get the pattern right and I learnt a lot just watching him.
Unfortunately, a listless wind and a plentiful supply of food did us no favours, and the four of us who were shooting that day failed to gather much of a bag despite the valiant efforts of our host who charged
about in his Nissan (he moved me twice) doing the best he could to find some birds for us. I had a little more luck by a dead tree later on in the day and ended up with a total bag of a dozen or so. But that’s pigeon-shooting. I remember my father telling me “You can’t just turn on nature like a tap.”
Nick and Lily had been great hosts. They have built a successful business in a very short time and are now trying to consolidate it. As Lily put it, “We don’t want to lose our passion for this business. Nick loves to shoot and I love to cook. We want it to stay that way.’
The long journey back to the West-country gave me time to think, and despite the bags being smaller than anticipated I realised that shooting pigeon is always hugely enjoyable.