“The Glorious Twelfth” or the 12th August to the non-shooting fraternity, is a key date in every Field Sports Fan’s diary. This marks the official start of the 121 day long Grouse shooting season in the UK and Northern Ireland, which in turn leads to the beginning of the rest of the restricted game shooting season consisting of partridge, pheasant, duck and woodcock to name but a few, later in the year. The Glorious Twelfth is such a high profile date for so many reasons. For those who do not believe in Field Sports it creates anger and protest which in turn creates a huge amount of publicity, but for those who are involved in countryside management, chefs wanting to source quality local produce or just country dwellers and lovers of Field Sports and traditional countryside activities alike, it signifies the start of fantastic seasonal produce, superb sporting opportunities and an overwhelming opportunity to socialise with friends, old and new.
There is a huge amount of controversy around game shooting and of course absolutely everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the activity and I respect everyone’s opinion on the matter. Although I have to say that some opinions are formed on rather uneducated statements and myths. My wonderful shooting friend Claire, over at Gracing The Field has provided an incredibly insightful and informative summary on the facts, the opinions and the myths of grouse and game shooting in general so I would urge you all to take a look at this for more information. My personal opinion (and I’m afraid this may divide people, but it’s who I am), is a pro-game shooting one for so many reasons. Growing up on a farm, game shooting is just part of life – I don’t see the controversy. For me, it would be totally hypocritical to think that game shooting is cruel when I don’t believe farming animals for meat is cruel – it’s the same thing. It offers such fantastic produce and I really am a firm believer of sourcing local, quality products that haven’t had to sit in a lorry or a plane for days on end. The taste is something else and for those that have not experienced locally sourced game, I highly recommend that you try it – this in itself may change opinions on the sport. The sporting opportunities and camaraderie that is produced from a day’s game shooting is something else. Unfortunately, I have not experienced this first hand but that is going to change later this year! My brother is part of our local Farm Estate syndicate and the tales I hear from him after a day’s shooting (or not as the case may be!) really inspire and dispel any myths of animal cruelty or blood thirst.
Marking the occasion – the best way I know how!
So with such a massive date in the countryside calendar just around the corner, I thought it was only right that I did something to mark the occasion. As I mentioned, this year I am planning to start my game shooting ‘career’ and so I wanted something special that I could take with me out in the field, but that would also be great for my regular clay shooting trips. So rather than a new outfit, I decided to treat myself to an outfit for my shotgun…a shotgun slip. It’s something that I have both wanted and needed for a while now – the slip that came with my shotgun when I bought it at the beginning of last year is perfectly functional but is made of a flimsy canvas material so it does not do the best job at protecting my gun. Plus I wanted something a little more stylish, with the attire required for a shoot fairly standard issue, I wanted to have something that reflected my personality and style. I have been looking for a while to find the right gun slip for me – I wanted a full leather one which would be both practical and built to last (these things aren’t cheap!) and there are so many retailers offering them that it’s hard to know where to start. However after tons of research, and prior knowledge of the brand (thanks to my equestrian hobbies) I’ve decided on one from Albion Sporting. Why? Well there’s actually hundreds of reasons why I chose this brand, namely the fact everything is made about 20 or so miles away from me, the quality of the products is unrivalled – Albion’s reputation speaks for itself, and best of all, Albion offer a bespoke service where you can create your gun slip and cartridge bag (and saddles and bridles for horse lovers) to your exact specification and colour choices. So of course, I’ve had to have a matching cartridge bag too!
Behind The Scenes at Albion Sporting
I have been so excited about sharing this experience with you for quite a while now, buying something like this is such a massive decision and not something to be taken lightly so it’s been a long time in the making! But this week I was lucky enough to go ‘Behind the Scenes’ at Albion HQ to see exactly how my gun slip and cartridge bag would be made, as well as the most exciting bit – choosing exactly what it is going to look like!
The first thing I have to say about my visit to Albion is that I totally underestimated the amount of work, time and most of all, skill that goes in to making each and every item on offer. It’s very easy to discount products that seem expensive or may be a little out of your price range, but when you see the amount of craftsmanship that goes in to making them, you can fully appreciate why the price is what it is. In my opinion the pricing of these products are spot on – yes they are expensive but when you consider that you will only ever need to buy one once, it soon becomes clear that the value for money is brilliant.
Everything is made in the factory at Albion HQ in The Midlands which is another exceptional positive about choosing a product from Albion, to have something that is British made is really important to me and just reinforces the level of product quality. Another thing that I didn’t fully appreciate is that the products are made up of a number of individual pieces, many of which are individually manufactured and stitched together by hand – there is no element to mass production here! It’s not just the skill of the workforce that make the products outstanding, although of course this is probably the differentiating factor to many other companies, but the quality of the materials that are sourced to make the final product. The gun slips are made from the highest quality full grain leathers with the option to line with the finest British wool (from Yorkshire to be precise) with solid brass fittings and even suede linings on the shoulder pads to ensure that the gun slip is not only super stylish and exudes elegance, but offers every opportunity to maximise the comfort of the user when transporting the gun. These specific features and the materials used ensure that the product is built for purpose and built to last.
Albion is a family run company and the team members all form part of this extended family, many of them have worked for the company for a number of years and are extremely highly skilled in their individual trades. Walking around HQ really reinforces how much of a family business this is, absolutely everyone that works at the company has a real passion for producing the highest quality products and it is clear to see the pride in people’s work.
With so many options available, the world really is your oyster when it comes to choosing your creation. The Albion team are happy to oblige to the most wild and unique ideas that you can imagine. Some of the bespoke creations that I have seen are truly unique – a total one off, and when you are investing a lot of money into an item such as these, it makes it all the better when it’s a one off and completely personal to you! Because the quality of the item is such that the products are built to last and will probably outlive me, I wanted to have something that was really personal but at the same time classic and timeless so that when I am much older I will still look at my gun slip at cartridge bag with immense pride and fondness rather than a ‘what was I thinking?!’ feeling.
With so many colours, leathers, suedes and patent leathers to choose from it was incredibly hard to pick what I wanted for my bespoke creations
I can’t wait to show you all the end product, it is going to be simply stunning and after seeing the amount of work and ultimate craftsmanship that painstakingly goes in to creating these products, I know the quality is going to be unbeatable. I have placed my order and now all of my bespoke specifications will be sent to the manufacturing team so that it can start to be created. I am planning to unveil this at my first game shoot of the season – later this year because I just know it will be the talk of the town (or field in this case!) but I know that as soon as it arrives I will be far too excited not to use it – so keep your eyes peeled!
Fancy a one-off?
As I don’t yet have my creations, I can’t give you a totally honest all round review of them but rest assured I will as soon as I have had chance to use them! However, what I can assure you of is that the quality of the products is truly unbeatable and so I have every confidence that any Sporting product offered by Albion will not only be fit for purpose, but will add a touch of luxury and style to your shooting wardrobe.
If you would like a bespoke gun slip and/or cartridge bag, or one of the standard ones which are equally beautiful and totally timeless for that matter, you can contact Albion here.
P.S. bespoke creations from Albion Sporting are subject to lead times (obviously – the guys cant start making them until you tell them what you want!) so be sure to get your order in in plenty of time. If your feeling really generous – why not make it a special Christmas present to a loved one (an extremely loved one for that matter!!).
P.P.S. If the bespoke and/or leather options aren’t for you right now, the canvas range of shooting accessories that Albion offer are of exceptional value for money and perfect for the job too!