I was lucky enough to have shot at Carlton Towers, South Yorkshire earlier this season and although the weather had nearly drowned the poor partridges during the week leading up to the shoot we had a fantastic day’s sport.
What I find so interesting about Carlton Towers is its progression as a business since Simon Kershaw has become the Estate Manager there. The house itself is one of the oldest stately homes in the country and is quite a sight when driving up the drive towards its gates. Carlton Towers is one of the ancestral homes belonging to the Duke of Norfolk’s family and home to the Duke’s brother and sister-in-law, Lord and Lady Gerald Fitzalan Howard.
They arrange an astonishing amount of weddings in the house during the summer, they have created a fantastic cookery school within the house, and the main part of the house is available for shooting parties to stay in before, after shooting or both with exclusive use of the house and in house professional chefs offering stunning food, wine and cigars for guests.
We met at Carlton Towers at 8:30am for a sandwich and a cup of tea before we met the keeper and drew our pegs for the day. After a quick safety brief we were in the cars and on the way to the first drive.
Being a traditional partridge shoot the guns are placed behind high hedges or belts of trees and the partridges are driven over the hedges providing very exciting shooting for the guns. Having never shot traditional partridges before I was excited to see how and where people shot them. I could tell from how far away the picker-up was standing that it was ok to have a crack at them out of “the back door” which I like the idea of and proves an effective way of shooting them.
After watching what was going on down the line I managed to get an idea of when and how to shoot the partridges and I finished the first drive with a couple of lovely birds crossing a way in front of me and enjoyed watching the others shooting further down the line.
We then headed to the new drinks lodge within the parkland grounds of the house. There, we were greeted by a roaring fire outside, hot soup with chilli sherry, black pudding sausage rolls and homemade sloe gin. The shoot room was decorated with antlers and fur rugs, allowing guns to stand in side if they wanted to, but as it was so mild we stood and chatted outside by the fire. It was a great location and Simon told us that during the summer they do outdoor cooking lessons around the fire which sound brilliant.
Onto the second drive, there was no hedge in front of us on this drive but for some reason it just looked like a cracker. Sure enough it produced some of the best birds of the day in my eyes. It started with French partridges trickling through the line and the odd pheasant that got through unscathed. Then suddenly the unmistakeable noise of English Partridge making their way towards the guns and plenty of them. I saw a stream of these glorious birds and after a couple of cracks of the flag by beaters at the front of the game crop they exploded over most of the line. Some went high, some went low, but they spread everywhere and not one gun managed to pull one down. Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot at them as I was right on the end of the line for this drive, but to see such a healthy number of greys and the guns get so comprehensively beaten by these magical birds was just a joy to watch.
Onto the third drive which had the Drachs power station behind it which actually gave the drive a certain feel to it that I rather liked. What I found so fascinating about this drive is that it shows that no matter how close you are to civilisation (or a Power Station) with good conservation wildlife can flourish and this drive proved that. The game crop that the birds were driven from was immaculate and it provided a good amount of shooting for the line of guns.
The fourth drive provided a selection of the most challenging partridges as they were driven over a tall belt of trees which they tended to follow down the line due to the wind providing good sport for the guns crossing in front of them. Again a good strong sized covey of English Partridge slid out of the side out of shot of the guns, but again it was fantastic to see them in such healthy numbers. I managed to round off the day with a lovely right and left of partridge and then back to the house for a Gin & Tonic and lunch.
Lunch was cooked by the professional chefs at Carlton Towers and was served in the shoot dining room which again is as grand as you could ever want and yet homely at the same time. We had Game Pie followed by a fantastic array of cheeses and wine.
Carlton Towers offers something very unique to shooting parties wanting something a little off the beaten track. They offer only what I can describe as amazing discounts on accommodation in the house for the night before or after or both. This gives your team exclusive use of the house, dinner and breakfast before or after you head out for a truly memorable days traditional partridge shooting.
They also offer packages with Cookery courses on the second day where guests get taught how to butcher their own game and how to cook it like the professionals of the culinary world do.They even offer a Cooking Course on the same the day, so that the other halves can enjoy a full day at the cookery school… More than often it is the men leaving the ladies to shoot and getting stuck into the cookery school.The Carlton Towers Cookery School is immaculate and the equipment is second to none, from the marble surfaces, top of the range ovens and hobs to the professional chefs who make sure you enjoy your day and get the best experience possible out of it.
What Carlton Towers offers a party of guests is completely unique, a truly English partridge shoot and a trip that I would definitely recommend any team of guns to go for. The hospitality is second to none, the shooting is great fun and the house can only be described as glorious.