THE WOODLANDS on the Mount Juliet Estate provide the perfect backdrop for an afternoon of archery.
The idea of standing still in ancient forests sizing up a target and taking a carefully aimed shot appeals to me. Archery is a sport, a craft and an art form that was once used for combat and hunting. These days it is a recreational activity but as I stand in the middle of the woods I cannot resist allowing my imagination conjure up an encounter where Robin Hood and his Merrymen are there somewhere behind the trees. The staff at Mount Juilet are exceptional in the level of care and attention that they give to customers. John Walsh jovially greets me or ‘Maid Marian’ as he calls me and whisks me off to the forest to meet my instructor, Shane Cody.
I have no idea what to expect having never shot an arrow. The closest I have come to mastering the art of shooting with a bow and arrow is seeing it on the screen. “Archery has been going on in the estate for the past twenty years. Brian Cully used to be the gamekeeper here and he took over the clay pigeon shooting and the archery. I have been shooting since I was a youngster and Brian asked me to help out and then he taught me and that is how I ended up here,” Shane explained. He adds that he takes groups out in all seasons. “Even during the snow and the freeze we went out. The weather doesn’t stop us,” he said.
We walk out to a gathering in the woods where Shane has set up two targets. He tells me to stand shoulder feet apart in a steady stance and hold the bow with a light supporting grip. “You hold the bow at arm’s length and keep your arm locked. There are three flights (the feather like piece on the end of the bow) and you have to make sure that the odd-coloured one is pointing out and make sure that it sits under the noc.
“Then you take your index and two middle fingers and you only use the tip of your fingers to get a clean break away. You draw the string back and you get your right index finger to sit in the corner of your mouth and this acts as a reference for the draw on the bow,” he said.
“You close your left eye and the string should be in front of your right eye and you line it up and position the sight of the target and then let go,” he said.
After attempting to assimilate all this it is time to put ‘the theory into practice’. I stand shoulder feet apart, position the arrow, draw back the string (which is far harder than I imagined it to be) and let go. The arrow flies in a straight line then wobbles and somehow manages to veer over the target and hit the net. A few rounds later and after taking heed of the expert direction of Shane (whose grandfather Willie Cody worked at the estate in Woodstock) and I am hitting the board. The board consists of a circle broken into rings and although I have hit the board a number of times I have yet to hit the tiny yellow circle, which is for the layman the bullseye of the board.
“Think of someone or something you dont like,” Shane tells me. I position my bow and arrow and do as I am told and hit the target perfectly. Two more shots on target and I decide to quit while I am ahead.
Archery classes are available all year round at Mount Juliet and cost 35 euro. For more information call (056) 777 3000.