Thursday, 15 February 2018

End of Season Interview with Michael Sillwood - Gun Room Manager

As the season has now finished we thought it would be interesting to hear a few of the thoughts and reflections from our trusty Gun Room Manager at LGS and his experiences out loading in the field over the last few months.
Michael has worked for LGS for the past 4 years and has been a huge part of the company's development, providing a wealth of knowledge of all things shooting.

Michael sits elegantly in a crisp Hugo Boss suit outside a boutique Chelsea cafe. He sips on a steaming espresso with an amaretti biscuit on the side. The winter sun scatters haphazard shadows on the cobbled ground and Michael sits with sunglasses poised in his right hand. The gentle lounge music from the cafe drifts outside and dances on the air in a haze of cigarette smoke; like a smoke machine setting the scene for Michael to take the stage - the sunlight being his spotlight. His expression is reflective and philosophical as we begin the interview...

What has been the most memorable part of the season for you?

My most memorable experience this season has to be loading for a client at Gunnerside in North Yorkshire, I have never seen coveys of grouse like that! I was also lucky enough to load for a client at La Nava in Spain which has stunning scenery and good quality partridge shooting! Even though it snowed on the second day we were not phased!

What has been the most challenging part of the season for you?

I would have to say that it was adapting to each of my clients needs and shooting styles, each client is different and when one is out in the field a lot it is important to think quickly.

How does this season compare to last season?

This was my second year of loading so this season I feel like I had a better basis of experience in comparison to last year. I am grateful that working for LGS has taken me to some of the best shoots in the UK! The pace of growth in the business is outstanding and this season has definitely seen a vast expansion in the development and establishment of the company.

Where has been the most beautiful place you have visited this season?

The most beautiful estate has to be Ben Alder in Scotland - the scenery was amazing with grouse to match it! It was definitely one for the experienced shooter.

When out in the field a lot, do you have any survival tips for other loaders?

I would have to say it is cartridges; I always take double the amount of cartridges I expect to be used as there would be nothing worse than getting caught short. I always carry spare batteries for ear defenders and plasters for the occasions where the trigger guard catches but most importantly a selection of biscuits and water for energy levels!

What is your favourite item of shooting clothing that you own?

My favourite item is not necessarily clothing but my new Cens Digital In Ear ear defenders, they are fantastic and I would highly recommend them!

Do you have any hopes or plans for next season?

I am looking forward to field testing the new Frederick Beesley over and under shotguns which are currently being made ready for next season. I also hope that I will continue to provide our service to new and existing customers at LGS and out in the field as we are already receiving bookings for the 2018 shooting season!

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Shot the espresso

If you are like the majority of people in Britain, then you won’t be one to turn down a good coffee and neither are we at LGS, so when the opportunity arose to go coffee tasting at H. R. Higgins we were more than keen to jump on board!

Michael often goes out loading for some of our clients and one particularly blustery day on the moors he found himself amongst some chirpy Italians, all of whom were pining after a punchy espresso to help them adjust to the rather early wake up call. It just so happened that the lovely owner of H. R. Higgins coffee shop was on the same shoot and as a means of tying together two of his passions he sells cartridge bags with coffee making kits inside at the shop/café in Mayfair. As you can no doubt imagine, this went down rather well amongst the said crowd. Totally inspired by this idea, discussions later lead to the prospect of LGS jumping on board with H. R. Higgin’s coffee/cartridge combination. Realising we slightly missed the boat for this season (not to mention what lovely Christmas presents they would make) we planted the seed to introduce these next year and as a result were invited to H.R Higgin’s to have a look around.

So after a fleeting dive into the office a few weeks later, myself and Michael hopped in a taxi to Duke Street. The first thing that hit me upon entering was how beautifully traditional it was. On the ground floor there were jars and jars of rare coffee beans, old fashioned scales and elegant fine bone china. The chic, friendly and laid-back café was downstairs. We kicked off with a signature espresso which was strong and rich just as a proper espresso should be. The first long coffee we tried was the Christmas Blend, which was beautifully smooth yet had a lovely warm spice to it. Ideal for warming up on a snowy morning with a ginger or cinnamon biscuit on the side. We then tried the Tanzania AA Chagga Dark Roast which had a slightly bitter velvety air about it followed by the silky, smooth Vienna Blend. It was great to try such a diverse selection and it was certainly apparent that H.R. Higgins really are experts in everything coffee. By the end of the tasting, inevitably we were both buzzing so after purchasing some coffee to take home (ground and packed in front of us) we flew out of the door….

We are really looking forward to introducing a spot of coffee bean magic to the doors of LGS next season with H. R. Higgins; the cartridge bag coffee kit really is a necessity for all coffee drinking shooters after all!

By Mary Woodhouse

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Squire attire

Aside from the rustic and wild days out shooting, the vigorous repairs or the ferrying around of some seriously high end shotguns LGS is secretly a bit of an Aladdin's cave for the country squire. It is often easy to overlook an accessory when it comes to shooting; there is such focus on the gun, the game, what you’ll need to wear or the type of cartridges you’ll need. But hidden within our cartridge treasure trove are some excellent stocking fillers...

We have a lovely selection of hip flasks: on a brisk winter’s afternoon as the dappled sunlight melts last night’s frost and the icy wind prickles its way through thick tweeds, a spot of homebrewed sloe gin whilst out on the go is the perfect winter warmer. Pair this with some jolly and jazzy House of Cheviot socks to lift everyone’s spirits and an Alan Paine pheasant tie and one couldn’t be more fitted to the country life. Spaniels basking by crackling fires and the delicate aroma of mince pies warming in the AGA also spring to mind.

We also have many other chic and unique gift ideas such as cufflinks, letter openers and bottle openers along with a vast array of shooting accessories. This is the perfect time of year to stock up and adorn oneself with glorified goodies and as Marc Jacobs once said: “Any opportunity to adorn oneself is human, and accessories are an easy way to do it”!

By Mary Woodhouse

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Fire and water

Having recently spent some time in the South of France I started to peruse over the idea of the shooting world outside the familiar surroundings of LGS. I am sure I am not alone in regarding such a glorious sport as, simply put: traditionally British. We think of the rosy golden hues of dusk that melt through gentle mists like water colour paints, along with the piercing kiss of the crisp cold air as it clings onto last night’s frost…obviously with a bit of tweed and a few Labradors thrown in the mix! The ever increasing requests for Visitor’s Permits we receive from shooters residing overseas also stresses just how renowned and world famous the British shooting scene really is, the most high end of which of course being by invitation only.

Nonetheless the shooting scene in France also has a certain je ne sais quoi. Trap and skeet shooting in France is as popular, if not more so, than it is in the UK. Shooting is very much embedded within the web of France’s culture and a license sportif de tir – namely, for sporting purposes as opposed to hunting is relatively easy to obtain. What appeals to me about France’s shooting scene is the availability of the popular tradition of shooting clays…from your boat. What better pastime than gliding out on the glittering Mediterranean sea whilst shooting a few clays as they dance over a shimmering sea in the dappled sunlight? One could even finish the day with a punchy espresso or ice cold Provence rose served in an elegant frosted glass overlooking the nearest harbour. However, the beautiful scenery and holiday feeling aside, I would imagine clay shooting at sea requires a completely different discipline to clay shooting at a shooting ground. The motion of the water inevitably throwing in an extra challenge.

However to get a bit of practice in before one waltzes off to the sud de la France, Thames Leisure offer a clay pigeon shooting cruise where one can simulate the pirate life (sort of) but instead of the Cote d’Azur coastline one’s backdrop is Tower Bridge and the iconic London skyline. Certainly ideal for those looking to add a bit of spark to a day on the river!

By Mary Woodhouse

Monday, 14 August 2017

These birds have got game………

Or Weardale’s do anyway! And yes, this can only mean that the shooting season has finally begun and it has been much anticipated here at LGS. Ours began on the beautiful Weardale Estate on the Cumbrian boarder. Leaving myself and Guy in SW10 to man the office; Tom, Gary and Michael journeyed north to welcome in the season with a bang (pun intended). After meeting friends and clients the boys spent Friday evening in the only way one should, namely puffing on cigars and sipping the finest whiskies. There was a fantastic atmosphere with everyone in high spirits for the following day.

After an early start, it appeared that the weather didn’t look too favourable first thing, nonetheless by the time the gang had donned their tweeds and loaded up the cars sunlight started to melt away the clouds and it turned into the most glorious day. After driving up to the grouse moor everyone was raring to go. Michael briefed the estate loaders on the level of experience of each gun and everyone set about getting ready. Michael was loading for Tom but had a shot himself in the last drive and managed to impress the crowd pretty well!

The day’s shooting was exhilarating and fast paced, 3 guns had never shot grouse before and despite the intensity of the first day they all shot pretty well! Lunch was a delicious array of the likes of hams and quiches which was all terribly British. The grouse were pretty sprightly and moved at a rapid pace. Being the start of the season the birds were still young and had yet to work out where the grouse butts were located. This worked to the shooters advantage but being the speedy birds they are they still loved to dodge a bullet!

At around 4.30pm the day drew to a close and all went off to toast a successful start of the season. High spirits and excitement for the coming few months were bubbling as much as the Champagne. No doubt there were a few sore heads on Sunday!

By Mary Woodhouse

Monday, 3 July 2017

Shooting as an art form

When one peruses over the idea of traditional British shooting, one may think of the likes of hearty ladies and gentlemen spilling from the entrance of a grand stately home and gracing the crisp frosty morning clad in tweed and surrounded by working spaniels. Well, this would be my whimsical and ideological perception of the shooting lifestyle at any rate. It is amazing how country pursuits such as shooting have become so much more than simply a sporting activity. Shooting represents a lifestyle, it exudes an ethos of freedom, affability and privilege. There is a certain thrill and excitement that surrounds the sport, the rawness of which is not too dissimilar to the likes of fox hunting or riding. Of course there’s also the renowned social side of these activities, I mean, who doesn’t love a Hunt Ball or a post shoot long lunch on the estate. In addition there is something incredibly exhilarating about the open countryside that sets these activities apart from other sports, fresh air after all is good for the soul!

I think it’s this overall atmosphere that adds to the joys of a day’s shooting. It is a means of escape and release from normal life, and in some respects, a form of expression of the self. How we connect with our gun and the bird is not dissimilar to how we may connect with, for example, a beautiful painting. Art opens up new emotions within us and places us within a realm of creativity and inspiration, just as through shooting we are inspired by the countryside, the people and the power of the gun. The skill of an able shooter is a craft that can be learned and perfected, and great joy can be gained from the process involved. It is not just the act of firing a gun but all the additional aspects that make shooting into an art form. It not only brings people together but it connects oneself with the landscape and the natural world.

There is something very timeless about going shooting which I think again is partly related to the disconnection to the outside world or to urban life. Society spends so much time these days gazing at iPhones or lazily trawling social media but when shooting it is like this aspect of modern living doesn’t really exist. The concentration applied to the shot or the distractions of good company detaches us from this, clearing our minds and thus allowing a clear passage for creativity of thought. Shooting in itself can thus be perceived as an art form and a lifestyle. It is so much more than a sporting activity but a philosophy of life that moulds who were are.

By Mary Woodhouse

End of Season Interview with Michael Sillwood - Gun Room Manager

As the season has now finished we thought it would be interesting to hear a few of the thoughts and reflections from our trusty Gun Room Man...