Hands up, who is coming to The Game Fair at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, next weekend? Pretty much everyone with a spare afternoon and a passion for fieldsports will be at Ragley at some point from Friday 29th – Sunday 31st July. The Game Fair is the successor of the ‘CLA’, which The Telegraph described last year as the “agricultural Glastonbury”. It has historically been the biggest game fair of the season and this year looks set to be no different.
I really enjoy game fair season. It is a great opportunity to catch up with friends and get excited for the forthcoming game season. I like to use it as a chance to stock up on any items I need (or want as a treat) so always hit the game fair with a shopping list. Dad’s favourite is Weston Park and he has had many a bargain over the years just before game season starts! Game fairs are a firm favourite in the Sadler household. We have been going as a family for years and love heading out together to make a day of it, whether it be Chatsworth, the Cheshire Show or the CLA, we would pack a picnic and off we go! Nowadays it is a bit different as Dad and Jack will work on the BASC stand and I will be helping Victoria on The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club stand, but we will make sure to catch up with each other throughout the event!
I think the reason that we enjoy the game fairs so much is that there is something for everyone! Whether it’s the displays and demonstrations, doing a bit of shopping or just sampling the delights in the food courts there is something to keep every family member happy. Having said that, if you are only visiting for a day then it can be difficult to see the entire fair – or at least select the stands/ areas to visit. This year the Game Fair will have over 850 exhibitors so to help get the most out of your visit I have offered my opinion on the ‘go-tos’ and the ‘must sees’ for any ladies who will be visiting next week.
Things to see
The Game Fair has dedicated areas for each aspect of fieldsports so there is something for everyone. There is Gundog Row (a hub for all things gun dogs, with demonstration areas and competitions), Horses and Hounds Mini Ring (showcasing different breeds and disciplines but – and most excitingly – the inaugural show jumping championship following 9 different qualifying rounds at different agricultural shows) and the Game Larder Theatre (for demonstrations and cookery masterclasses).
Make sure you check out Countryman’s Corner which will be housing the brilliant Rob Collins aka The Ole Hedge Creeper. Rob has assured me that he is putting on a star filled lineup and will be offering a variety of demonstrations in pigeon shooting, wildfowling, air rifles, ferreting and much more.
Time for some shooting
At 585m, the Game Fair will host the largest ever shooting line in Europe! Sponsored by the shooting ground EJ Churchill, the line has exhibitors from some of the biggest names in the shooting industry. Here you can test equipment, develop some new skills or even take part in a competition, and for £12 for adults (£10 for juniors) have a go at ten targets with the CPSA.
Time for some shopping
If you will be doing some shopping at the Game Fair then I really do recommend coming along with a shopping list – which I always do. If you are relatively new to shooting this is a great opportunity to acquire some of the essentials and you can try everything on. To begin with, look at investing in either decent footwear and/or a reliable shooting coat. Most of the clothing stands will have all of the top brands for you to try. With regard to footwear, my favourites are Dubarry boots or Le Chameau wellies. I do have a pair of Harkila boots for rougher terrain but the Dubarrys and Chameaus will get you through shooting in all weathers. If you are looking for a new shooting coat remember it needs to be waterproof, enough freedom of movement to allow you to mount your gun and as, come autumn, you will be wearing a jumper or shirt underneath it will need to have a bit of room! Make sure you look for nice deep ‘drop’ pockets for loading up with cartridges.
The Game Fair is a great opportunity to check out the different memberships that are available at the range of shooting and countryside organisations – most of which offer the benefit of insurance cover. I always make time to head over to the BASC, so if you find yourself there, do make sure you say hi to Dad and Jack!
The best thing about shopping at the game fair is picking up some fantastic bargains. I have had some brilliant buys in recent years including my Holland Cooper wrap and a dress from Really Wild for £50 which is a favourite in my work wardrobe! In my opinion these are the stands not to miss:
- Dubarry – well worth a visit as they have a great selection of ladies clothing, you can try on a pair of Galways or treat yourself to some new tweed. I have a stunning blazer and waistcoat from Dubarry which are suitable for both the field but also the office and I live out of my Galways;
- Plugzz hearing protection – go and visit Plugzz and get the moulds of your ears taken there and then. It will only take about 20 minutes of your day and there is a great range of colours to pick from. I have quite sensitive (and small) ears and have struggled with hearing protection in the past. The guys at Plugzz are brilliant but are also great value.
- Ogden Shooting supplies – all of my shooting accessories come from Phil Ogden. I
have a stunning leather gun slip and matching cartridge bag with an ostrich leather finish. I also love my cartridge belt and pouch. Phil has a range of fantastic and high quality goods but you can also order something bespoke from him. It’s not all shooting though, my mum and sisters actually have bags from him that they use day to day!
- Visit the Shooting Village – housed in a large marquee and with food by the Shotgun Chef, please do go and say hi to the very talented (and lovely) taxidermist Kate Latimer-Matthews, I can guarantee her stunning work will be the talk of Game Fair. Kate will be sharing the Shooting Village with, amongst others, Rachel Elizabeth Wood jewellery and the up and coming Glorious 12th clothing. Rachel’s stunning jewellery is perfect if you would like to treat yourself and Glorious 12th Clothing offers a glamorous and eye-catching twist on the traditional tweed.
- Really Wild Clothing – I will visit this stand twice a day as there sale rail is FANTASTIC. Everything is reduced down to super cheap prices and the stock is replenished continuously throughout the Fair.
- The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club – if you are not already a member of the UK’s largest ladies only shooting club then head over to visit and hear all about this growing movement and see what events are upcoming near you.
- Holland Cooper – the seasoned lady gun will already have something by this wonderful British make in her wardrobe. Stylish but practical and guaranteed to enhance any outfit, it is definitely worth having a look at this stand and I am looking forward to treating myself to something new…
- Fairfax & Favour – I treated myself to a pair of suede Regina boots at last years game fair and whenever I wear these to work I always get compliments. I am looking forward to trying on the Explorer waterproof leather boots.
- Renapur – not an obvious choice for some lady shopping but this stuff is excellent! Use it to treat all your leather goods and I guarantee it will bring your Dubarry Galways up as if they are brand new. I use this on my gun slip and cartridge bag and if you melt a bit in the microwave you can even use it to rewax your Barbour jacket! It won’t break the bank and I recommend grabbing a tub for future needs.
Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your visit:
- If you are camping or staying over, have a look at the forecast and then prepare for all eventualities. You would expect warmer temperatures with it being the end of July but last year caught out most campers as there was almost a ground frost overnight. It is worth preparing for rain and the cold as well as bringing layers in case of warmer temperatures.
- Wear suitable footwear. The weather reports are showing that next weekend should be sunny and warm but it only takes one small shower for the ground to be churned up. I will be in Dubarry’s or Chameaus regardless of the weather, but then again, you are at the perfect place should you need to do a quick footwear purchase.
- Bring cash with you. There are cash machines littered throughout the ground but these have a small levy and it can be a pain to keep going back or queueing up to replenish depleting funds!
- Get there early. The Game Fair is huge and in order to a) miss the crowds and b) get the most out of your day you will want to be there when the stands open at 9am.
- Buy a programme and check the display timetable before you do anything. There are lots of different events and displays to watch throughout the day. In fact you could spend an entire day watching the displays if you wanted to!
- Have a shopping list. The theory is that if you have a shopping list you will spend less…if that doesn’t work then at least by having a list you will make sure you visit all of your favourite stands.
- Bring some snacks and water. The foodie side to the fair is great but I bring a few cereal bars and some fruit to carry round with me. It also helps save on the pennies!
- Get involved. The Game Fair is a great opportunity to find new brands and clothing to add to the wardrobe, to try a new fieldsport or to even sample the latest foods in the food court. Just get stuck in and try it all!
Have a fab time!