Taking a vacation usually means leaving your air rifle at home – unless you’re holidaying at Park Cottage! Situated on a working farm in unspoilt countryside on the Somerset/Wiltshire border, this secluded haven is an airgun shooter’s dream come true. It’s also the perfect place to take a break with a partner.
Owners Roe and Jo Norman started offering airgun shooting holidays nine years ago, and they’ve proved so popular that the husband-and-wife team now have a loyal base of regular visitors who love the combination of four-star accommodation, peaceful surroundings and, best of all, the freedom to head out with their airguns whenever they like.
As a base, Park Cottage is cosy and fully appointed , and has its own garden that adjoins a paddock with a shooting bench and a wide variety of knockdown and spinning targets. Also on the farm is Tower Guns – yes, this holiday even has its own, on-site gun shop! It’s well-stocked with airguns, accessories and ammo, so there’s no worry about running out of supplies after some heavy plinking sessions. Roe can even loan you a gun if anything goes wrong with your own combo.
Rather than encouraging groups of camo-clad hunters just out for traipse over some land with their guns, a Park Farm Cottage holiday is geared more to responsible, insured shooters staying with their partners – and it’s particularly ideal for father/son breaks. Shooting comes free to guests, who have the run of more than 100 acres comprising grassland, woods and ponds. Visitors can expect to encounter rabbits, woodpigeons, squirrels, crows and magpies, plus rats around the farm buildings during the colder months. Roe, your ‘ghillie’, can also organise visits to other local farms, along with game shooting and deer stalking, plus you can book airgun hunting instruction by prior arrangement.
As this idyllic venue is right on my doorstep, I was more than happy to take up Roe’s recent invitation to join his high-profile guest, Mario Spiteri, on a hunting trip. Mario happens to be the Maltese director general for rural development and aquaculture, and he has a real soft spot for Park Cottage; this was his ninth stay, this time joined by wife Eunice and their daughter Sara.
Though the 72 air rifles he owns have power levels up to 280ft/lb, Mario was packing a rather more modest Theoben Rapid 7 in 12ft/lb format on our outing. Before heading off hunting in the woods, we checked zero on the plinking range – and had such a great time flipping spinners and smacking over knockdowns, we could have stayed there all afternoon!
In case you think ‘visitor shooting’ at Park Farm would take its toll on the pest species, I can assure you that there’s plenty of quarry around to keep hunters occupied. Roe explained that a lot of his visitors are, indeed, happy to spend the entire week on the plinking range – and when you consider the beautiful countryside walks and host of other attractions that guests can enjoy, the place probably doesn’t receive any more pressure than your average shooting permission.
The holding is surrounded by open countryside and dense woods, so pests quickly home-in on the farm. The feed Roe puts out for pheasants also attracts vermin. We certainly saw plenty of woodpigeons winging their way along the woodland edge during our warm-up session, and we also heard the calls of crows and magpies.
Mario and I started off with a roving approach, trekking along the pathways through the mature woodlands. He claimed the first shot after spotting a squirrel in an oak tree on the edge of an open ride flanking a pheasant release pen. He was on it in an instant, and quickly toppled the bushy-tailed rodent with a clean head shot.
Continuing along the ride, we put up several woodpigeons that had been gorging on a heavy crop of acorns. There’s plenty of quarry at Park Farm, but the shooting still presents a decent challenge. The woodies were clearly spooked by the sound of our approach, so we decided to split up and hide in the gloom of one of the blocks of woodland. A silent ambush, we hoped, would prove more effective than a leisurely stroll.
An abundance of oak and hazel makes for good squirrel habitat, and I spotted a bushy-tail creeping through the treetops about 30 minutes after I’d settled into position. The greedy little squirrel was too busy to notice me as it munched its way through a bumper crop of acorns and a solid strike to the head sent it tumbling into a thick tangle of brambles and stinging nettles. I was pleased to open my account, but its place of rest rendered the squirrel irretrievable, much to my frustration.
Over the next hour, a woodpigeon landed just out of range and a magpie went bouncing through the treetops, but refused to linger long enough for me to get a bead on it. A distant ‘pap’ from Mario’s direction suggested that he was having more luck. Sure enough, when I clambered out from my hiding place and trudged through the woods to meet him, he was proudly wielding the corpse of a crow that had fallen to the Rapid 7.
With an hour or so of light remaining, we chose to move across to the sheep fields, where Roe had suggested we might bag a bunny before nightfall. I reckon we’d have seen more woodies and squirrels as the sun set over the woods, but the chance of a rabbit sounded good to me.
Our arrival at the sheep fields was a little later than planned, and we spooked a couple of rabbits that were already out feeding. Nonetheless, the sighting confirmed that we were certainly in the right place.
I settled down on the edge of a kale crop where an elevated position gave me a good view of the hedgerow the departing rabbits had disappeared into. Mario opted for a sitting position a little further along the hillside, from where he could cover an equally rabbitty-looking stretch of hedge, plus a derelict farm building that is used as a lookout by crows before they swoop down to scavenge among the sheep.
We ran out of light before the rabbits ventured back out, but Mario managed to drop a late crow from the barn roof. Though our bag was a modest one, we’d enjoyed a great afternoon in the beautiful countryside around Park Farm.
We’d also seen a lot of quarry, and would probably have accounted for more if we hadn’t been talking so much. Not that our tally seemed to matter to Mario; he was heading back to the cosy cottage for dinner with his family, and had the rest of his week-long shooting holiday to look forward to.
ACCOMMODATION AND RATES
Park Farm is located in South Brewham, Somerset (BA10 0LA). The self-catering cottage where you stay is a converted grain store/stable comprising a twin bedroom, along with a sofa-bed in the main living area. Complete with exposed beams and a wood-burning stove, it oozes character – but guests are also provided with the usual mod cons, including TV/video, dishwasher, cooker, microwave and washing machine. There’s even a gun cabinet! Smoking is prohibited inside the cottage, and pets are not allowed.
Nearby attractions include a great local pub within walking distance, Longleat House and Safari Park, Glastonbury Tor, Wincanton Race and Golf courses, Wookey Hole Caves and the National Trust’s Stourhead House and Gardens. In short, there’s plenty to keep a non-shooting partner occupied while you’re out with the gun.
Weekly rates for two people start from £365 off-peak, rising to £430. Price is inclusive of bedding, towels, electric, heating and wood for burner. Full details available on request.
T: 01749 812230