Thursday 26 November 2009


This is me having a go at archery - in December's Cornwall Today...

An ancient sport enjoyed by many a contemporary Robin Hood
My friend Diane Johnstone fell in love with archery five years ago, and when she suggested I try it, I thought – why not? So one sunny afternoon I met her at the Lizard Peninsula Bowmen Club outside Helston and prepared to do battle.
First of all, footwear. “Sensible shoes,” she said, looking pointedly at my scuffed sandals. “If you wear sandals you might jab yourself in the foot with an arrow.” Unfortunately I hadn't any other shoes with me so had to leave my toes at risk.
Then, working up the body, more protection. “As you're right handed, you'll need an arm guard on your left arm,” said Diane, handing me a perforated plastic contraption which eased over my upper arm. “Normally you'd need a tab which protects the fingers, but this bow is fitted with a string guard, so you won't need one.”
The bow was made of fibre glass with a plastic handle. “This is a recurve, or Olympic bow, as used in the Olympic Games,” she explained. “Recurves have more aids to shooting – sights and stabilisers for example - than the traditional longbow.” Olympic bows are also made left or right handed, which would suit my left handed husband. “This is an 18lb bow because when you pull it, you're pulling 18 pounds.”
The arrows are made of aluminium (for short distances) though carbon is mainly used outdoors for longer distances as they fly much straighter and further.
Beginners must do a 6 week course and the club shoots all year round, retiring to Gweek Village Hall in winter. “There's no upper age limit but the lower limit is around 11, depending on the child's physique,” explained Diane. “If they're too small they have difficulty pulling the bow. It's always advisable not to buy your own equipment until you've done the Beginners' Course because you need to practise so you get more idea of what kind of bow you'd like. It's not a sport to rush into.”
My husband, having done some archery years ago, wanted to know about competitions. “They run throughout the year,” said Diane. “Internal ones are for club members only, with trophies and medals, also fun shoots at unusual targets; and all the clubs round here hold tournaments with more trophies and medals.”
There's also clout shooting which is with bare bows (which means you take the sight off) at a foot-high flag in the grass. “Shots are measured with a thing like a long tape-measure which has gold, red, blue, black, white - painted on it. Arrows falling within its range count.” Diane smiled. “It's really good fun!”
The longest distance in this field is 100 yards but my target was 10 yards away - a beginner's distance. Even with my bad eyesight I couldn't miss that.
Now we came to the actual shooting. “It's important to observe line etiquette – normally there'd be a whistle telling you when to go to the shooting line,” instructed Diane. I took my quiver, a metal contraption containing my arrows, up to the shooting line and stuck it in the ground. Quivers are usually worn around the waist, or over the shoulder for longbowmen.
Diane showed me how to stand correctly, at right angles to the target, weight evenly balanced. Then came positioning the arrow so it didn't pinch. Next I had to bring up the bow, look through the sight – “And then when you're ready, let go.” A stunned silence – my arrow had hit the target!
I shot five more arrows under fire from Diane's instructions: “Stand straight – don't lean back! Keep your head looking over your shoulder. Try and push those shoulder blades together – that's where the power should come from.” My brain was buzzing trying to think about my stance, feet, elbows, arms, fingers, shoulders – there was so much to remember - “Yes there is,” said Diane brusquely. “And we haven't even started yet!”
In summary, she explained, there are four distinct movements to archery. “One is on the line and settling yourself. Two – bring the bow up. Three is the draw and four is the release. When you let go it's also a good thing to hold still for about three seconds. You'd be surprised - it somehow makes a difference.” And it did.
After six arrows I stopped. “We usually shoot six arrows outdoors, and when everyone has finished, two whistles blow and you can then get your arrows,” Diane said, and showed me how to collect them. “The hand that's nearest the target goes on it to provide a base, then you pull the arrow as close to the target as you can , so as not to bend it. Also make sure there's no one standing behind you. Transfer it to the other hand and repeat.”
To my relief I hadn't done too badly as all the arrows had hit the target. “At this stage it doesn't matter where the arrows land,” said Diane reassuringly. “They're all together in a group which is good. The rest of it is just adjusting the bow.”
I continued until my arms ached and I discovered muscles in my shoulders I didn't know existed. Finally came Diane's verdict. “You'd be fine – your basic technique is all right. It wouldn't take you long to be shooting very well.”
“There you are, that's incentive enough,” said my husband enviously. I grinned at Diane's praise and we arranged another session – I could tell my husband was itching to have a go. And if he wanted to be Robin Hood, I had visions of myself as a short sighted Maid Marion with perfect aim. And sensible shoes of course.

Diane Johnstone, Secretary, Lizard Peninsula Bowmen, Tremorna, Treleaver, Coverack, Helston,
Cornwall TR12 6SF
tel: 01326 280308 / e – – Grand National Archery Society – FITA (International Archery Federation) – Devon and Cornwall Archery Society – Archery GB – Disabled Archery

Archery is the practice of shooting arrows with a bow. Historically archery was used for hunting and combat, but nowadays archery is mainly a sport.
Someone who practises archery is known as an “archer” or “bowman”. One who enjoys archery or is an expert is known as a "toxophilite."
A 6 week beginners' course costs £25 or £60 to join for adults and £25 for juniors. Open days are also available - contact Diane for details.
Archery has been an Olympic sport from 1900 and there is also a Paralympic Squad that has achieved great success.


Jenny Beattie said...

Oooh, fascinating. I didn't know all that but I had a go at archery a few years ago in Manchester. I really rather liked it. Son was very good too.

Flowerpot said...

It was great fun, JJ, but I don't think I'll be taking it up!

Philipa said...

Excellent post, that sounds great fun, FP. I've always wanted to have a go, but my right arm hasn't got full use and is a bit weak. Anyway I'm quite keen to have a go at fencing too. Same prob but I'm seriously thinking of ways to tone up in the new year. You are an inspiration!

Elaine Denning said...

I reckon I'd be hopeless at it, but I'd love to give it a go!
That was a great write up, FP.x

Flowerpot said...

Phil - perhaps you could do some arm strengthening exercises - mind you carrying shopping would probably do the trick!

Akelamalu said...

WOW I didn't realise there was so much to it!

Lane Mathias said...

What an interesting piece. I really like the way you make it chatty and humorous but get all the facts in too.

Did Himself have a go?:-)

Amanda said...

Ooh, very interesting FP. I tried archery once at Center Parcs with my hubby and sons all set to show me how to do it and beat them! HA!!

Flowerpot said...

I dont think it matters how you do as long as you enjoy it, Laney. As I said, having done ballet and yoga helped me - it's mostly about coordination.

Flowerpot said...

Ak - no I didn't before I had a go, either!

Flowerpot said...

Lane - thanks so much for that! And no, Himself didn't have a go. He stood and held my tape recorder while I jumped about!

MarmiteToasty said...

Great post....... we have our Village Bowmen as they are called and they have the field next to our scout hut down the lanes.... sometimes they have open mornings where you can go along and have a go....

I hit a tree, the archery shed but never the target LOL.... I also took the skin off me forearm with the string LMFAO.... I dont think its actually called 'the string' :) but cos me maiden name is Sherwood, I thought I might have a bit of Robin Hood in me..... WRONG lol


Chris Stovell said...

I bet it's wonderful for toning up your arms too (well, my arms).

Flowerpot said...

Mandy - that's the kind of story I like to hear - good on you!

Flowerpot said...

Marmie - I love teh picture of you as Maid Marion - watch out everyone!!

Chris - it probably is. Mine ached like crazy afterwards. So what news??

Pat Posner said...

"It's mostly about coordination".

Hmm that counts me out.
Sounds fun, though.

Flowerpot said...

Pat - coordination seems to be something we either have or don't. Perhaps you can learn it? I don't know. I don't think it help[s much in life though!

Cornish Dreamer said...

Great article, FP. I enjoyed the read.

Flowerpot said...

RT - glad you enjoyed it. Hope uou had a good weekend!