Literature Review – My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears

Ray Mears - My Outdoor Life

Ray Mears – My Outdoor Life

As many of you will know I normally write reviews of archery related books, but this was a birthday gift and since Ray Mears is well known for being an outdoors enthusiast I thought I would include his book here. Some of you the UK readers may have caught his recent TV series exploring France’s wilder parts. Anyway I hope no one objects to me including it here.
The copy of the book I have is over 350 pages, a paperback published by Hodder & Stoughton ( for those interested the ISBN 978-1-444-77821-2
It covers his life from early childhood and the development of his desire to learn about woodland skills, to his involvement with television and his numerous expeditions taking him to the four corners of the globe. I wonder how many passports he’s gone through in his time?
Included in the book is his account of a helicopter crash that nearly cost his life along with members of his film crew. I can’t help but think how lucky they were to survive.
This wasn’t the first book by him I’ve read, that being The Real Heroes of Telemark, which if you have a chance I would highly recommend.
I found this book a very easy and engaging read, written in a manner that encourages you to imagine him talking to you, possibly reminiscing on past adventures and trips, over a shared campfire. I feel it gives a far greater insight into the man who many will know from his television series or bushcraft books. It goes some way to exploring what has shaped his life, from early judo lessons, on to the expeditions in Africa, all providing a greater level of detail than I was expecting. It is a very brave person who can open themselves up and discuss their feelings and beliefs in this way, being both honest and open, whilst not fishing for compliments or favour. I feel this is very apparent where he writes of the loss of his first wife and the turmoil that engulfed him.

Ray Mears inside the book

Ray Mears inside the book

One thing I found of interest was his analysis of how TV documentary makers have changed from when he started and now. How they afford less time to expeditions, expecting filming to be completed in far less time than in the past. Maybe this explains why some modern documentaries feel as though they are lacking in depth. Could this be a reflection of the speed we now are forced to live our lives at. Expecting fast facts and data?
Overall I’ve enjoyed the book and have little doubt that I won’t reread it from time to time.
To give it a rating almost feels wrong as though rating the man and his achievements which I am sure are not yet ended. In fact he has just completed a new series on UK television. For that very reason I’m going to give a 9/10 as I’m sure he’s got more stories and adventures to come.
Thanks for reading

Shoot Report – NFAS Championships

Arrow checks at the National Championships on Sunday

Arrow checks at the National Championships on Sunday

September saw the National Field Archery Society championships which this time was to be held not far from Hemel Hempsted on Gaddesden Estate. It’s not the first time the estate had hosted the championships and if interested you can read the past
reviews here.
For those of you unfamiliar with the championships it is a two day event. This year it would comprise of 2 courses; A & B, with archers shooting one course each day. Unlike the 3D championships wooden arrow and metal / carbon arrow archers would not be split. Each course comprises of 40 targets, these being a mix of paper and 3D targets. You can read last years championships here, which had been held in the Lake District. Some 400 archers would be either camping or filling local bed and
breakfasts or hotels for the weekend.
Sorry there are so few photos from the event but the Saturday was very wet so my phone was buried under waterproofs to keep it dry. I did manage to get some photos from the Sunday though.
With Sharon and I shooting American Flatbow we would shoot course A on Saturday and B on Sunday. A course had been set by by the Field Officer of the NFAS and other volunteers and the NFAS committee with B course being set by the Cloth of Gold club, whose grounds are part of the Gaddesden Estate.

It was an early start both days for us as we’d offered to help with the admin of the event. Sharon would be helping handing out the score cards and I’d be doing arrow checks. For those that aren’t aware of NFAS rules, all arrows have to checked to ensure that they have the archer’s name and the shooting order. On that point, one thing that amazed me was the number of people who attend the event yet forget to mark their arrows or argue that its not needed. Not only are the markings required
by the rules of the society but also a requirement on safety grounds.

If an arrow is shot and an incident occurs you need to know who it was and from where it was shot, hence the reason of shooting order and name. Most people where fine and friendly but there are always a few that feel it feel it’s unreasonable. I can understand why so many of the admin or organising crew get tired and disillusioned. Anyway onto the shoot report…


Saturday’s course would prove to be the flatter of the two courses. With the overcast and damp weather it made the woodland quite dark at times making some of the paper targets very hard to make out. I think this problem was compounded by the use of some new target faces being used this year. Some of these new faces were quite dark, especially the pigeon and goose, which the whole group struggled to first identify and then score well on.

The first day of the champs would see me shooting with Sue, Ian and Ben. I’d shot with Ben at liberty and Sue I’ve know known for years. It was a mixed group of Sue and me on American Flatbow, Ben in Hunting Tackle and Ian in Crossbow.

We started on target 40, which meant we shot one target and then had a
food stop, but that is just luck I guess. The next 20 targets worked well and were challenging, though I think a few could have done with having a torch shone on them as they were very hard to see in the darker areas of the wood. After target 20  had we were back to the food stop and this time did stop and have chance to catch up with others. The second half of the course didn’t go as well for me with a few shots after lunch that were I thought were further than they needed to be. Yes it’s a champs but I think they could have been challenging without being set at those distances.
By the end of the day the rain had stopped and it was a bit brighter, with us heading back to the hotel in Hemel Hempsted for a shower and a meal. One positive thing from the weekend was a large group of us went out for a great meal on Saturday night.


Sunday - B course - pre-shoot announcements

Sunday – B course – pre-shoot announcements

Following very little sleep on the Saturday night due to the hotel room being far too warm and noisy we were up at 6 am and on site for 7 am having promised to help with the administration and arrow checks.

Sunday course would be B and I think the course layers probably had the more challenging terrain to work with and I’m really glad it was dry as getting around would have been a whole lot harder if it had been wet. On a couple of shots the organisers had set up ropes for you to use to get down to retrieve your arrows and it was needed.
As is normal the shooting groups changed completely so I’d be shooting with Ian, his son Connor and Dawn shooting Crossbow. I’d shot with Dawn at last years 3D championships when she had been shooting American Flatbow. Fortunately the weather was far kinder to us on Sunday with it being both dry and slightly warmer.

Starting target on Sunday - 3D bear across the pond

Starting target on Sunday – 3D bear across the pond

I think the course worked well for the most part, with our first target being a 3D bear along a river bank. The downhill paper faced tiger was also a good shot.

Paper face tiger between the trees

Paper face tiger between the trees

The lack of sleep really played havoc with both Sharon and I with neither of us shooting as well as we could or should have on Sunday. Think Sharon suffered the worse as she’d been working away from home the week before the championships so was already tired.

Long paper face Rhino target

Long paper face Rhino target

Despite the lack of sleep Sharon still managed to gain a second place in Ladies American Flatbow. For the second year running I managed to secure third in Gents American Flatbow, which I was surprised at since I didn’t feel like I’d shot well enough.
We managed to win the nearest and dearest trophy for the third year running, which I think is the prize we both wanted most.

Nearest and Dearest trophy along with a silver and bronze.

Nearest and Dearest trophy along with a silver and bronze.

Severn Valley won the Barebow Team trophy and special congrats to Mae on wining Junior Girls Barebow at her first Nationals.
Thanks for reading.

Insight into Shires Archery

Some of you may recall a while back, me writing about a development with this site.

The idea is to create an opportunity for shops and businesses to offer an insight into the business, more so than they might be able to glean from a website. More of a light hearted overview than a dry news story. This is the first.

Action shot

Action shot

Rob – So where is Shire Archery based?

Trevor  – We are exclusively online at the moment but are looking to change that in the near future. I am a few miles north of my home town- Chesterfield famed for its bustling market and Church Spire which is both twisted and bent! It is a good spot to live being close to the Peak District National Park and having the ‘Dukeries’ on my door step, which are contiguous and include Sherwood Forest- famed for a certain Mr. Hood. All in all I feel rather lucky to live here, so the opportunity to welcome customers to the area I am enthusiastic about.

Rob – So readers might like to know about you or the business in general? How long have you been doing what you do?

Trevor  – About 13 years now including the official opening. I had shot and had some experience early on but my first real taste of Traditional archery came in the summer of 2003. I was living and working with a blacksmith just outside of Budapest. He had four Hungarian bows made totally out of wood, horn & sinew laminate. He had made them himself as a deep interest in his cultural heritage. As you can imagine being English and romancing the Longbow we had a lot to talk about. One warm evening whilst he was tending to the fruit trees beside his workshop, he went inside and along with two beers, brought the bows for us to shoot… I was hooked.

Rob – What a great way to start a journey into archery.

Rob – How did the business get started? Was it a hobby that grew into a business or maybe, a family business?

Trevor  – I had worked as a blacksmith in Wales after University for about 5 years traveling back and forth around Europe and the UK, I met some amazing people, skilled and incredibly welcoming. So I took the idea of operating a ‘craft business’ seriously from 1st hand experience of its highs and lows. With a wealth of knowledge and contacts I did not realize i had at the time I started to lay the foundations for my own endeavour in 2008 whilst working for a local engineering company.

Local archers and people from all over had contacted me throughout that time on recommendation to make arrows or source hard to find materials, so I took the plunge with Shire Archery opening as a business in March 2012. It took everything I had and then some, but it has been worth it.

Rob – I always think that launching your own business is incredibly brave but if it’s something you love and feel passionate about then go for it.

Trevor  – I will tell you a little secret- made the phone call to register on a windy day in Edinburgh from The Doric Tavern, a pint of Ale in front of me, with the realization of the enormity of what I was about to do.

Rob – If that had been me I think it would have been a large single malt. Please carry on.

Trevor  – I wanted to create a workshop space to carry on making, with a specialist web shop & physical sales space, all for the traditional archer from the ground up.

Rob – So is it a one man show or a team of archery enthusiastic people behind the scenes?

Trevor  – It’s just me at the moment but I have a really good team around me I can call upon, whom I trust in their own specialisms be it technical, photography or administrative support, they have been absolutely essential to the business as it quickly grew beyond my original plan and expectations. I am always doing something so it certainly keeps me busy; I can only dream of a day spent chewing the fat with customers and drinking more coffee than is good for me.

Resting in the woods

Resting in the woods

Rob – Sounds great. It might be worth explaining the range of products you sell, whether you manufacture them yourself? The hobby or sport of archery is incredibly diverse, from target to field, traditional to very technical Olympic set ups.

Trevor  – The product side of things is pure Trad and I have no plans to change that. It has expanded in range and scope to well over 200 core items with more expected. The choice goes beyond the usual stock of wooden shafts, fletchings, arrow heads and equipment for the archer. Although this is an essential solid base we also stock many archery related items of kit, gifts, supply hard to find natural materials and make arrows on request.We also take a lot of pre-orders and special requests which I am happy to see if we can help with.

I am always searching for interesting products or crafts people who would like mutual support- I would like to expand the bow side of things next.

Rob – Do you see yourself as a specialist in one area and if so why did you specialize?

Trevor  – I do yes my personal interest and background is in the Trad and crafts side of things, so I lean heavily in that direction, product quality is paramount to me so I don’t sell anything I am not happy to use myself. It is not that I am not interested in the modern stuff its amazing to be honest and the technical side of it astonishing. It’s just not ‘my cup of tea’ and as a business I want to be concise in what we offer and what we do.

Rob – Where do you see yourself fitting in?

Trevor  – We aren’t the biggest but we are certainly trying hard to be up there with the best in our niche. No one, not even the big pro-shops can stock everything in every conceivable variation there is just to much choice and its always changing. I have no interest in expanding so much so that it becomes ‘just a job’ or that I feel like I have become a slave to it. I love archery and that is something shared by our customers. The support out there from the traditional archery community has been amazing and I can only say thank you, as without it we would not exist.

Rob – What’s the appeal to you?

Trevor  – The modern notion that items which are made by hand are cruder, quaint, expensive or inferior compared to those that are mass manufactured or branded I find utterly bizarre.

Action shot

Thinking man

Rob – Where’s the Love! The time! The passion!

Trevor  – The real appeal beyond working for myself is ‘seein folk rayt’ as they say around here, our customers span the whole gambit of traditional d archery ( and are international, being able to either help them out or supply them with something they value in our shared passion is the driver for me

If I had to have a simple mission statement for ‘Shire Archery’ that summarizes all this it would be-

Trevor  – “Raising the Profile of Trad-Archery”

Rob – thanks Trevor

I sincerely hope you find continuing success with both the business and your archery. I’m sure this article will help to increase people’s awareness of Shire Archery.

For those wanting to to contact Trevor Lilley at Shires Archery here are their details.

Website –

Email – Telephone – 01246 477119 / 07581726161

Thanks for reading


Shoot Report – Centaura – September 2016

Centaura shoot - archers waiting for start

Centaura shoot – archers waiting for start

On a early September Sunday morning we loaded the car to set off to Centaura shoot ground near Derby.
On arriving we discovered that sadly the club suffered from vandalism a few days before the shoot, which resulted in the course layers having to adjust some targets and use backup faces they had to hand, rather than those they had hoped to use. This vandalism was reported to the police, with the local press running an article on the damage complete with images of the culprits, as they managed to capture cctv images of the individuals they believe to be responsible. Let’s hope this helps identify those responsible and brings them to justice. I have included a link to the news article here. (

If you are interested in reading a previous shoot report, you can find one here.
The shoot was slightly delayed due to the number of no shows, 17 in all and this is a lot for a small club to cope with, not just in the loss in earnings for entrance fees but also the cost in food bought based on expected numbers. There were still over a 100 archers in attendance in a variety of classes.

Small paper face between the trees

Small paper face between the trees

Despite the vandalism the club managed to set a 36 target course with a mix of paper and 3D targets, some of the papers are of their own design. There did seem to be a number of small faces but I think this might have been due to the vandalism and them using what they had rather than what they might have wanted to.
Sharon and I would shoot with John from Wolverine who was shooting longbow. I must say John was really good company and great to shoot round with, with conversation flowing freely on different topics from archery to other outdoor hobbies.

target 35 paper face puma

target 35 paper face puma

There were some familiar shots along with some new ones. We started on the club’s signature shot the Polo, this time on Target peg 1 with a small paper face red squirrel.

The now famous polo shot

The now famous polo shot

I particularly liked the bomb hole shot, which saw a change to the norm of shooting straight down.

Bear 3D from the red peg

Bear 3D from the red peg

3D bear shoot, zoomed in from the red peg

3D bear shoot, zoomed in from the red peg

This time they had managed to secure a 3D bear part way up a tree, making for a deceptive shot.

Close up of the bear 3d shot

Close up of the bear 3d shot

They also lengthened the very short shot they have had for the last few shoots, which I think worked much better.
The day flowed well, with no major hold-ups or issues we were aware of.
As always Centaura operates a lunch break 12:30 -1:15 and of course as luck would have it we were on the furthest target when the horn was blown to stop. I think my only critical comment might be that a few of the shooting pegs could do with being hammered in a bit further as anyone with long length bows could encounter problems catching their lower bow limbs. Also moving the target 36 shooting peg so it’s not on the main path, as it’s quite hard to concentrate on your shot when there are archers walking off the course.

Sharon shooting at paper face fox

Sharon shooting at paper face fox

Sharon did suffer from what can be best described as a slight wardrobe malfunction when stepping over a branch. The result was a ripping sound as her trousers ripped from knee to waist. Fortunately a role of micropore tape was to hand to save her embarrassment, allowing her to finish the course, with a pair of waterproof over-trousers being used when we got back to the car. Despite this Sharon shot well winning Ladies american flatbow.
Thanks for reading

What’s on your archery bookshelf?

A few from the bookshelf

A few from the bookshelf

With the rise of the use of YouTube for instructional videos, with such diverse topics as those covering everything for an archer wanting to learn more or develop new skills, I wonder if the written word is becoming less important for some. There are videos on how to fletch an arrow, make a bow string, how to shoot traditionally etc etc. There are also the research videos on new bows or shooting theory. So what do you think?

Okay, before I get inundated with complaints about how I’m ditching YouTube, lets make it clear, I’m not.
What I am saying is there are times the written word, whether it is a good book or magazine article, is really useful.
So based on this thought I have a question for you…

What books make up your archery bookshelf?

Did you buy it following a recommendation, or do you like the author? Why do you find them useful? Is it the writing style or the subject matter? Or do you prefer YouTube?
Let me know.
Thanks for reading.