BASC’s first female vice-chairman is keen to encourage the next generation to develop a love for fieldsports
Having grown up with a love for the outdoors, Claire Sadler is now BASC’s first female vice-chairman and passionate about encouraging the next generation into the field.
For more sporting Dianas, seriously sporting ladies offering advice and encouragement, Anita North competed on the world stage and is now focusing on coaching others. And top fieldsports photographer Sarah Farnsworth has done much to document days in the field.
At a time in life when friends and family are having children and are keen to get them into fieldsports, this season saw my godson and nephew have their first days’ out beating. Encouraging the next generation is something I am immensely passionate about and it was this that led me to become a Scouts volunteer when I lived in Clapham. On a regular basis, I am quizzed by curious parents and relatives: “How/when did your love for shooting start?” But, if I think about it, actually, my love for shooting and fieldsports came from a passion for the outdoors.
We were an incredibly ‘outdoorsy’ family growing up. From hiking trips to camping trips to spending our school holidays in a little village on the Llyn Peninsula called Abersoch. We enjoyed exploring the woodland areas with friends, hiking through the hills and Snowdonia National Park, and had a RIB, so we would spend warmer days waterskiing, snorkelling, diving, exploring the coastline and jetty jumping off one of the iconic islands. And while Ron Hill leggings and hiking boots or a bright orange life jacket were not going to have me winning any awards for best-dressed teenager, it did instil in me a love for the outdoors.
I can pinpoint the exact moment of convergence: where my passion for the outdoors connected with the field-to-fork lifestyle. It was a particularly heavy evening in August. I had been fishing for a few hours off the side of our boat with Dad, my sister, Katie, and our friends. We caught a record amount of mackerel and, given that there was a big group of us back on the beach who needed feeding, that was no bad thing. Mum lit up a barbecue, gutted the lot and put them straight on the hot coals for everyone and, right there on the beach, dinner was served. I had caught the most fish that afternoon and the sense of pride in feeding everyone is pretty special. Not to mention the taste of something caught, cooked and eaten fresh in its natural environment. I was 12. We didn’t have mobile phones back then, let alone any of the gadgets or gizmos available now, so we had to look at the tide, get local knowledge and rely on our own seacraft to succeed.
Shooting had always been there, too. Grandad taught Dad how to shoot and Dad taught my sisters, brother and I. We learnt to shoot at a young age; I think I was about seven when we first used an air rifle. We moved on to shotguns and then rifles, had and worked ferrets, and spent years immersed in game fairs, eating what Dad hunted and (funnily enough) as part of the BASC volunteer crowd.
Looking at it now, these stories were the foundations and I just needed to restart the fire. So fast forward a fair few years and, after focusing on qualifying as a lawyer in London and trying to get through the long hours of my training contract at a global law firm, I decided to reconnect with my hobbies and passions to create a country lifestyle – in south-west London. This quest involved horse-riding lessons (where “one, two, one, two” was shouted at me repeatedly without me knowing what cue either number related to), researched where to get fishing lessons in the City and found a ladies’ shooting day at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School. The latter was what I had been looking for. Pulling the trigger that day reminded me of exactly what I had been missing and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Since returning to (and growing) my love of fieldsports, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel and hunt pheasants and prairie chicken in the US and shoot pheasants, partridges and quail in Italy. My passion has evolved from learning all about pigeon shooting and fly-fishing from the best in the business to deer stalking with Dad, my brother, Jack, and close friends; I’m not afraid of learning and trying something new. So, to secure our passion for future generations, perhaps we should be asking how to encourage the next generation outdoors and letting the grip of fieldsports take its course naturally.
TOP TIPS: Don’t be afraid to try something new. There is a whole world of fieldsports out there and it is ok to be a beginner at something. There’s a lot to try and learn.