Back in 2003 Val persuaded me to join her on an archery beginners course. About twenty of us attended for an hour each Wednesday evening for five weeks and were taught the basic skills required to shoot arrows fairly consistently at a target set about 20 yards away. By the end of the course we were both hooked and decided to join the club, the Royal Leamington Spa Archery Society (RLSAS).
After a few more weeks of shooting with the club trainer bows we shelled out on our own equipment. I was fortunate in that another member of the club was upgrading and his old bow was about what I was looking for but Val, being left-handed, had to buy a new one. Our first bows were not wonderful but definitely a step up from the club bows we had learnt on. We both took to our new sport and found we were quite good at it (and wished we'd taken it up decades ago!! - still, better late than never) so after a couple of years we treated ourselves to significantly better (and more expensive!!!) equipment in the quest for the perfect shot.
RLSAS is quite a large club with over a hundred members, although probably only about forty or so shoot regularly (by which I mean at least once a week). We shoot in several postal leagues and always do pretty well as we are one of the strongest clubs in the country. A lot of our more active members take part in local and national tournaments and several, including me, shoot for Warwickshire in county matches. One of our members, Naomi Folkard, shoots for the GB squad and will be competing in the Beijing Olympics, as she did in Athens.
Val and I both take an active part in the running of the club. I am on the committee, run the club website, and look after the junior section. I obviously did too good a job of rewriting our website as I was then asked to do the county site as well and now I'm also on the county committee.
We are lucky in that our shooting ground is available at any time all year round, so if the weather is nice we can just throw the kit in the car and go down to the field for a few hours practice whenever we have some spare time. Some of us shoot outside throughout the winter too, although not so often. The hardy archers among us compete in a winter league where each month we shoot what is known as the 'frostbite' round - and sometimes it is damn cold, wet and windy!
However, from October to March we also shoot indoors which is guaranteed to be dry and reasonably warm. The disadvantage is that, shooting in a local school gym, we have limited space so more than about 20 shooting at a time is crowded and we can't shoot more than 20 yards. To get over the crowding we run sessions on three evenings but there is nothing we can do about the distance. Compared with shooting at up to 100 yards or 90 metres outdoors, shooting 20 yards or 18 metres all the time is pretty boring but the target faces we use are much smaller and there is always the possibility of a 'Robin Hood' (shooting one arrow up the back of another). During the 2006/07 season I managed to do this three times!! Look carefully at the picture and you will see that the arrow in the centre of the target has another jammed firmly up its rear; both arrows were mine. Fortunately I was shooting aluminium arrows indoors which are much cheaper than the aluminium/carbon composite arrows I shoot outdoors. The composite arrows are much lighter and are more accurate at the longer distances.