A look ahead to the inaugural Lancashire Game & Country Festival

Photography by Jonathan. M. McGee of Shooting Photography

Photography by Jonathan. M. McGee of Shooting Photography - Credit: Archant

The county is about to host its first celebration of countryside sports, skills and crafts reports Julie Frankland

IF you were asked to name an industry with a multi-million pound annual turnover that was, according to one recent report, vital to Lancashire’s economic, environmental and social welfare, what would you say?

An answer that may not be top of mind is shooting – live quarry, clay pigeons or target. But a report by Cambridge-based Public and Corporate Economic Consultants says the sport is worth £160 million a year to the region’s economy, provides the equivalent of almost 6,500 full-time jobs, has 64,000 participants and leads to the management of 890,000 hectares of land for conservation.

It’s not surprising, then, that this month the value of shooting, fishing and country life in general with its crafts and skills is acknowledged and celebrated by the Lancashire Game & Country Festival, a weekend event supported by Lancashire Life.

The festival, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 12th and 13th at Scorton Showground in picturesque Wyre, is the county’s first dedicated game fair. Its aim is to showcase the pursuits, people, clubs and industries that enable Lancashire’s rural areas to make such a vital contribution to the overall landscape and wealth of the county.

One thing the festival won’t be is twee. Organiser Craig Whittingham explained: ‘There is an increasing public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect our countryside and its traditions if our open spaces and heritage is to remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

‘Hunting, shooting, fishing are all part of country life. A “roses on the wall country cottage” view of the countryside is all very well but the reality is that for the sake of people’s jobs and the conservation of our moors, marshes, woods and other land, we need to embrace the whole fabric of rural life, which is keeping it going.’

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Among the Lancashire Game & Country Festival’s attractions will be hound and falconry displays, gun dog scurries, terrier racing, fly fishing demonstrations and an opportunity for visitors to pot clays alongside members of Blackpool Sporting Clays.

The skills of traditional country crafts are not forgotten either with a marquee dedicated to their artistry, while the delicious bounty of the outdoors is brought indoors to the festival’s food hall and pop-up gastro pub.

Already the festival has won the support of BASC (British Association for Shooting & Conservation), the British Deer Society, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the NFU, RSPB and Lancashire Constabulary’s Rural Policing and Wildlife Unit.

Duncan Thomas, BASC’s north west regional officer said: ‘Lancashire enjoys a vast and diverse range of habitats from moorland to marsh. It’s a game-rich environment and as a result of the very hard work of the gamekeepers, we enjoy an enormous cross section of wildlife species.

‘One of the county’s grouse moors recently enjoyed a count of over 50 different species of upland birds. We have Sika, Red, Roe and Fallow Deer and the skilful management of these results in superb venison meat celebrated within our Taste of Game campaign. ‘Shooting sports are vital for the social and economic wellbeing of our rural areas. On a shoot day, you never know who you could be standing next to, from barristers to bricklayers, men and women, young and old. It’s a sport for all.’

Among trade exhibitors supporting the festival are Honeywell Meats, which will be demonstrating cooking with game, Lancashire Life, Malmo Guns, Myerscough College, which offers a variety of land management and animal husbandry courses, vehicle dealerships Barkers Ssangyong, Browns of Grimsargh and Henry Armer & Son, plus outdoor clothing, footwear, animal feed and pet supplies, tools, homewares, gifts and garden furniture retailers as well as artisan food producers. w

For further information, including exhibitor and trade enquiries, visit www.lancashiregamefestival.co.uk. Festival tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for children aged 10 to 16 years with under-10s admitted free. Parking is also free. Tickets can be ordered online at a discounted rate. Overnight camping is available. Scorton Showground is at Woodacre Lodge Farm, off Gubberford Lane, Scorton PR3 1BN.