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While talking and writing about archery is fun and doing product reviews gives us an opportunity to try new stuff and tell you all about it, the real joy of course is getting out there and actually shooting. In what we hope will become a feature that everybody can be involved in, The Great Out Doors is a chance for us to showcase the best archery events from around the world, many that we have been too but also, hopefully, ones that you have enjoyed. Steve and I shoot a lot, for example I will be shooting every weekend between now and the end of June, but of course this is centered on the weekends, given half a chance I'd be doing it every day. However there is one week per year which is totally dedicated to archery, the South West Challenge. We caught up with this years organiser Sheron Vowden to get an idea on what it was all about.
Can you give us some background history on the event?
The Devon Challenge was first held in 1996. It was set up Dave Howell (East Dartmoor Archers), Colin Smithers (Elmtree Archers), Martin Hawker (Kenwith Archers) and Bob Ambridge (Ashcombe Valley Archers) after the N.F.A.S. Champs held at Ashcombe in 1995. It was originally for Devon based clubs, but later opened up to other clubs in the South West i.e. Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset when there were not enough Devon clubs willing to host it each year.
How many clubs get involved in hosting a shoot during the week?
Clubs which have hosted it in the past are:-East Dartmoor, Kenwith Archers, Elmtree Archers, Ashcombe Valley Archers, Tarka Bowmen, South Hams Archers, Brixham Archers, Tavistock Archers, Muscovy Archers, Lacetown Archers, Lamberts Castle Archers, Riviera Archers, Bicton Field Archers, Dunkery Field Bowmen, Westcombe Archers, Ballands Bowmen, Labyrinth Archers and Pendragon Bowmen.
That's a lot of clubs, how is the week formatted?
The basic format is an eight day challenge, held at four different venues, each club hosting two days at the end of July/ beginning of August, depending on calendar. Wednesday is a day off, for shopping, washing, kit repairs and of course recouperation. There are club trophies and medals for each two days. Scores are added up for the whole week and a Victor Ludorum trophy is awarded for each class. All archers completing the eight days will receive a certificate of achievement.
When we attended we noticed there were some special awards?
There are two perpetual trophies, donated by Colin Smithers and Tony Vowden awarded to the best overall archer of the eight days, one adult, one junior. This is worked out on a handicap system. The John Lincoln Memorial Trophy is awarded to the Gent Longbow with the highest aggregate score of the eight days. A variety of rounds is shot, with Big Game on the second day of each venue, to ensure presentations are done in a reasonable time.
I assume like other events there is a limit on the number of archers that can attend?
Entries are strictly limited to 162 archers, five archers on every other target, four on the rest. If there are spaces left after the closing date of 1st July then people wishing to shoot odd days can enter. Patches are available, designed by Nick Hawken of Muscovy Archers.
It sounds like a nightmare to organise, have there been problems in the past?
In 2001 the Challenge was cancelled due to the Foot and Mouth crisis, as Devon was one of the worst hit areas.
Yes I remember 2001 was a dififcult time for field archery in the UK, but as a true festival of archery I assume there have been some hightlights over the years.
On 7th August 2002 Mark Buckfield and Marie Barr were married at Haldon Belvedere. Avid archers, they timed the wedding to coincide with the Challenge's day off, so all their archery friends could join them. The wedding was of a mediaeval theme, and most people came in costume. After the ceremony they exited the castle under an archway of longbows.
A whole week of archery sounds excellent and terrifying at the same time.
It is what it says in the title - a challenge! Not only the devious course setting, but the terrain. Devon is not known for it's flatness! It is a great way to improve your archery and make new friends. Some people have been coming down to Devon regularly each year, either camping or bed and breakfasting, and there are always new people ready to give it a go.
Is it just UK based archers or do people come from further afield?
We have a group of Dutch people who have been travelling over to compete for some years now.
Ah yes, Ronald and Jasper, we shot with them last year, some people may know it as the Devon Challenge, why the name change?
In 2007 it was re-named the South West Challenge, as clubs from further afield joined in hosting. Now in it's 14th year, it is going from strength to strength.
How can people get more information?
There is a facebook group, "South West Challenge" or you can find details on the NFAS website at http://www.nfas.net
Thanks to Sheron for taking the time to tell us a little more about the challenge. We can totally recommend the South West Challenge, we went for the first time last year and it certainly lives up to it's name and reputation. The South West is a wonderfull part of the UK and the terrain makes for a challenging environment for archery both shot wise and physically, all the clubs involved did an excellent job both in organisation and course laying. A week is a big commitment but believe us you will not be disappointed.
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