Archers take aim
‘The bow and arrow really shaped man’s history because it allowed him to hunt quickly and devote more time to things other than survival,’ says Daniel Hawley, who has been competing and teaching the sport for more than 20 years and is also fascinated by the history.
These days archery is one of the most popular sports around, with many clubs oversubscribed and keeping waiting lists.
From Robin Hood to eagle eyed Katniss Everdeen in recent movie The Hunger Games, some of our favourite heroes and heroines have set nerves and hearts aquiver with their bow and arrow prowess.
‘There is usually more interest when there’s a Robin Hood http://www.cheapjerseys11.com/ series. And the other one is the Lord of the Rings,’ says Daniel. ‘But actually it’s always popular, it’s pretty consistent.’
So the Middle Earth inhabitants of J R R Tolkien’s classic have had some inspiration.
But Daniel, who lives in Portsmouth, believes one of the main reasons for archery’s popularity is its accessibility.
‘It appeals to a wide range of people. We have members from six to 86. And I should also explain that despite our name, we don’t exclude women,’ he says.
The sport is relatively cheap. The club supplies bows and arrows for beginners. And although equipment can cost up to 2,000, it’s possible to get the whole kit for around 350.
For Daniel, the appeal of archery is the social side of the sport.
‘I’m one of the more competitive archers in the club. So I travel around a lot and meet people all over the country with similar interests. For me that’s a really important part of this.’
Club members of varying experience certainly seem to be having a fun evening of practice in a small field deep in the walls of the Victorian hill fort.
Wandering around with modern versions of traditional arrow holder the quiver at their sides, they’re shooting targets with remarkable precision from impressive distances.
With intense focus 16 year old Alex Joseph sets a circle the size of a 10p piece in his sights and thwack! slams the arrow
into its target.
He’s at 50 metres and although it’s taken a few attempts, it’s an impressive shot as the normal distance to that particular target board is 20 metres.
‘Well we like to have a bit of fun and challenge ourselves,’ says 41 year old Duncan Elm, as they use binoculars to see if they’ve hit the targets.
Duncan, from Portchester, is a former national champion and Alex is one of the club’s rising stars.
Among the club’s many other competition successes is Daniel, who is three times British Archery Champion with the longbow and has broken records with his cheap jerseys scores.
There are two main types of tournament target archery and field archery, which is a series of targets around a course.
The Olympic hopefuls will be competing in target archery and, although the Koreans are the sport’s world leaders, Daniel is hopeful of a GB medal. Big names to look out for at the Olympics are Alison Williamson, Naomi Folkard, Alan Wills, Larry Godfrey and Simon Terry.
For those at the highest levels, success requires pinpoint precision and nerves of steel.
At the other end of the scale is grass roots level archery where beginners are just finding their bow fingers and just about anyone can have a good time.
You don’t even need to have great eyesight. ‘We have someone who wears glasses and he’s actually better when he takes them off, because all he can see is the blur of the target and that helps him focus,’ says Daniel.
Whether experienced or new to the sport, members of the Purbrook club seem to agree on one thing.
‘It’s really therapeutic after a day at work, it helps you get a bit of the stress out,’ laughs Emma Hicks, 23, from Portsmouth.
The fort hosts one of the most popular competitions in the country for field archery. This gives participants the opportunity to aim for targets placed around the building and even shoot from the ramparts.