Olympic gold winner helps connect Wiltshire kids to the wild side

It’s not every day that youngsters have an opportunity to meet an Olympic Gold medal winner as well as trying their hand at target shooting and a bit of pigeon plucking. Yet this was the case for children attending the Treehouse Holiday Club in Wiltshire in conjunction with the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.
This action packed day for children aged between six and eleven was held at Richard Faulds Owls Lodge Shooting School at Barton Stacey near Winchester. Richard won his Olympic Gold Medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 in the men’s double trap shooting competition.

As part of the experience, Richard generously gave the 14 children expert tuition on clay shooting as well as sharing some of the secrets of his success with the fascinated children. The TreeHouse is part of Sunflowers at Grafton, a registered charity which provides nursery and out of school care. Sue England from Sunflowers explains the nature of this unusual outdoor based holiday scheme.

She said, “Our ethos is to share our passion for the outdoors and to give children safe but fun things to do that will help connect them to the world around them. Our Country Pursuits day at Owls Lodge Shooting School was certainly a winning formula and they all thoroughly enjoyed listening and taking part in all the activities organised by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, which involved eating game, plucking pigeons, learning more about conservation through specially invented games as well as getting up close to some predator and prey species.”

Tim Weston, from the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, who helped develop the day with the Treehouse Holiday Club said, “The children had a fantastic day, which was filled with a cornucopia of stimulating outdoor activities and games. Meeting Richard Faulds and seeing his Olympic medal was of course definitely a high point. We frequently organise these events through the NGO’s Educational Trust and the children involved certainly benefit from this hands-on learning experience on topics such as where our food comes from, the role of gamekeepers and the importance of managing habitats for game and other wildlife species.”

Sue England continues, “We are very grateful to Richard Faulds for giving us both his time and free-reign of his wonderful facilities at Owls Lodge. I am sure that this event-filled day is something that they will remember for a very long time and we hope to organise it again in the future.”

Richard Faulds who started shooting at the age of nine on his family’s farm in Hampshire won his first international competition representing Britain at the tender age of 13 and became a world junior champion at the age of 16. Three years later, Richard competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics finishing fifth and becoming the 1997 European champion. He then went on to win a gold medal in the Sydney Olympics in the men’s double trap.

Richard Faulds said, “It was an absolute pleasure to introduce the next generation to the skills needed to become an Olympic champion and we all thoroughly enjoyed hosting the day for the Treehouse Holiday Club. Some of the children attending today showed a keen interest and talent in shooting clays and it was very rewarding to be there at potentially the beginning of their journey. I learnt to shoot on my family farm at nine but we were lucky to have the space to build a proper shooting range, which gave me the opportunity to develop my craft. Learning to shoot at that young age taught me the valuable life skills of safety, responsibility and respect for guns and this is what we wanted to achieve today and I think they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”