The Killing Fields

Jeff has decided that he should have been “to the Manor born”!

We recently spent the night in a grand Cotswalds estate built in 1065 that was once occupied by William the Conqueror. Our hosts were incredibly gracious as vintage champagne flowed freely, elaborate banquets were laid out in elegance, and good company among all ages provided endless entertainment.




The purpose of the trip to Gloucester was to enjoy a day of shooting pheasants at Gatcomb, Princess Anne’s estate.  The Princess had joined the shooting party the day before, but she had business to attend to the day we arrived so we did not meet her.


The most important part of shooting in England is wearing the proper “kit”.  Jeff traded his Greenwich uniform of madras and white bucks with an even more ridiculous look: tweed jacket, short pants, and cap coupled with tassled knee socks, a tie, and moleskin vest.

I thought I nailed the sporting look with my Barbour coat and quilted Hunter wellies but was told that I was very “East Coast…like the Selma Blair character in the movie, Legally Blond“.  This woman actually used that movie as a reference point for American culture.  God help us!

Let me provide a road map for a day of shooting.  The men stand around at designated “pins” on the fields – their positions change with each new venue.  The “beaters” go into the woods and flush out the pheasants who fly out from the brush.  The shooting then commences in bombastic blasts as birds start dropping from the sky with startling thumps.  I actually found myself running for cover on several occasions when an unlucky pheasant fell within close range.  Oh, and quite often feathers explode in the air around you, landing in your hair, reminding you of the carnage.

While the men shoot and shoot and shoot, the women are expected to watch reverently and compliment them with cheers such as “Good shot!” and “Well done!”  This goes on for HOURS!  One older Scottish chap was very cheeky and referred to the women as “the other birds“!  Nice.

I found the whole thing a bit brutal, especially the wringing of the flailing birds’ necks. But one gentleman told me he preferred to think of it as rather “feudal“.  I started rooting for the birds by the end of the day.

Jeff got off the very first shot of the morning and hit his pheasant with precision.   “Well done Dear!”  I think this may have been his proudest moment ever.

Jeff’s bird was the first of 299 in the final bounty.

The “Elevenses” breaks up the shooting shindig.  This is a mid-day snack (not taken at 11:00 oddly enough) that is consumed on site to provide sustenance for more shooting.  Princess Anne’s cook provided delectable treats:  hare and pheasant “pasties” (small meat pies), warm beef broth, and sweet sausages.  Champagne continued to flow but with restraint as alcohol and guns could be a dangerous combination.

My favorite part of the day was watching the working dogs collect the felled pheasants after each round.

They were all gorgeous springer spaniels in their natural element.

This is as close as Lucy will ever get to a pheasant in her natural element!




All in all, I felt as if I had time-traveled and landed among the 18th century aristocracy.  Yet, these old English traditions and lifestyles continue to this day.

I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised as I bought a scale at the store today and did not realize until I got home that it measured my weight in STONES— an imperial system of measurement from the 17th century.

Maybe that is how William the Conqueror measured his weight in the very house we visited!


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate November 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm

And so there will be pheasant for Thanksgiving?


Cathy Dishner November 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm

There are two pheasants in my fridge as we speak….don’t know what to do with them!


alysa November 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Right ON JEFF! Great photos! My favorites!!!


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