Rather late in life we both took up archery, a pursuit I keenly followed during the last 10 years we lived in Coventry.
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 shot in several postal leagues and always did pretty well as we were one of the strongest clubs in the country. A lot of our more active members took part in local and national tournaments and several, including me, shot for Warwickshire in county matches. One of our members, Naomi Folkard, shot for the GB squad and competed in several Olympics.
Val and I both took an active part in the running of the club. I was on the committee, ran the club website, and took on several other roles over the years. I obviously did too good a job of rewriting the club website as I was then asked to do the county site as well and I was also on the county committee.
We were lucky in that our shooting ground was available at any time all year round, so if the weather was nice we could just throw the kit in the car and go down to the field for a few hours practice whenever we had some spare time. Some of us shot outside throughout the winter too, although not so often. The hardy archers among us competed in a winter league where each month we shot what is known as the 'frostbite' round - and sometimes it was damn cold, wet and windy!
However, from October to March we also shot indoors which was guaranteed to be dry and reasonably warm. The disadvantage was that, shooting in a local school gym, we had limited space so more than about 20 shooting at a time was crowded and we couldn't shoot more than 20 yards. To get over the crowding we ran sessions on three evenings but there was nothing we could 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 was pretty boring but the target faces we used were much smaller and there was always the possibility of a 'Robin Hood' (shooting one arrow up the back of another) to liven things up. 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 shot outdoors. The composite arrows are much lighter and are more accurate at the longer distances.
A different form of archery that I enjoyed was Field Archery. Here you walk around a course shooting at targets that are set out, usually in woodland, at different distances. Often these are known distances but sometimes you have to estimate them. Shorter distances have smaller targets and you only get 3 shots at each distance. There are not many target archery courses so we didn't do this very often, but occasionally we set up a mini-course on our own ground for a fun event.
Another form of archery that was fun was Clout. This is long-distance archery as the target is at a distance of 180 yards for men whereas the furthest distance for standard target archery is 100 yards. (Olympic distance is only 70 metres - about 76 yards!). To add to the difficulty the target itself is a small flag in the ground and you get points for how close you get to it within a radius of 4 yards. As well as the annual county competition we used to do a clout shoot on the adjacent rugby ground every New Years Day followed by snacks and hot punch in our clubhouse.
We ran beginners courses and have-a-go events for the general public during the summer and a number of novelty events for club members, such as the 'twilight' shoot with floodlit targets, and the Halloween shoot with appropriatly ghostly target faces.
By the time we moved to the south coast in 2013 Val had stopped shooting because of shoulder problems but I joined a new club where I shot for a while. However I had to stop for a number of months because of health problems and when I restarted I wasn't enjoying it so much (combination of my declining performance and the fact that the clubs near here were not a patch on RLSAS) so I decided to stop shooting and concentrate on other interests. However it was a very enjoyable phase of my life and we made some good friends at the Leamington club.