By Joel Holt, GWCT communications officer
Branded as the festival of the great British countryside, the 59th Game Fair didn’t disappoint. Held in the stunning grounds of Hatfield House for the first time in its history, more than 116,000 people flocked through the gates and enjoyed the three-day show (July 28 to July 30).
As ever, visitors were able to enjoy the array of countryside pursuits on offer including gundog handling, clay shooting, archery, fishing, falconry and ferreting as well as exploring many eateries.
There were also hordes of stands, and among those was the GWCT. Unlike in recent years, it was on a slightly smaller scale but, nonetheless, had plenty to offer. We kick-started the weekend with our traditional press briefing on Friday morning.
From 8am, journalists representing the Shooting Times, Shooting Gazette, Newbury Weekly News, Country Life, The Field were in attendance, as well as Jerome Starkey, the countryside correspondent at The Times.
The journalists were given updates on four of our extremely conservation projects - grouse, woodcock, fisheries and curlew - by head of advisory Roger Draycott and director of communications Andrew Gilruth. Many of the reporters took to social media to tweet the key messages from the briefings.
Later that morning, chairman Ian Coghill played his part in a debate Should we repeal the Wildlife and Countryside Act alongside rural commentator Rob Yorke, head of nature policy at the RSPB Jeff Knott, BASC acting chief executive Christopher Graffius and Jerome Starkey, which attracted a bumper audience at the Carter Jonas Game Fair Theatre.
Following questions from the audience and from Charlie Jacoby, from FieldSports Channel TV, who chaired the debate, it was a unanimous decision that the Wildlife and Countryside Act shouldn’t be repealed.
Similarly, the What’s the BBC’s problem with FieldSports? Debate on Saturday attracted a large audience as on the panel was Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner, chairman of the Countryside Restoration Trust Robin Page, BBC rural champion Dimitri Houtart and Shooting Times editor Patrick Galbraith. And among the audience was Andrew Gilruth, who made full use of the question and answer session.
The fair’s popularity continued on the final day and the GWCT was delighted to welcome MP for Suffolk Coastal, Thérèse Coffey, to its stand where Roger Draycott told her about the work the Trust is involved in, including the different types of crops we use at the Allerton Project, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in June.
Overall, it was a huge success. Next year we’ll be heading to Ragley Hall in Warwickshire for the Game Fair’s diamond anniversary.
See you there.