Squad discover Robin Hood skills

OUR intrepid squad of 20 readers are halfway through Spring Into Summer - the Star's 12-week fun fitness programme. Their latest challenge in Week Six was to try archery at Northgate Sports Centre in Ipswich, as TRACEY SPARLING reports.

By Tracey Sparling

OUR intrepid squad of 20 readers are halfway through Spring Into Summer - the Star's 12-week fun fitness programme. Their latest challenge in Week Six was to try archery at Northgate Sports Centre in Ipswich, as TRACEY SPARLING reports.

EVEN Robin Hood had to start somewhere!

Learning to shoot with a bow and arrow, was all part if the morning's workout for the Spring Into Summer squad, after participant Simon Smith from Martlesham Heath opened the weekly envelope to reveal the challenge.

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Surprisingly few arrows flew past the targets, which were set 12 yards in to the distance, and our coaches were delighted with everyone's progress in such a short time.

Husband and wife instructors Richard and Jackie Quinton split us in to two teams for a shoot out, and when the first team won by scoring 150 points, Jackie said: “That's probably the best we've ever seen from a group of beginners! You could see them improve, and step up a gear as soon as it got competitive.”

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The winning team included Ashley Miller who scored a triple bullseye with three arrows, Graham Day who scored two bullseyes, Rebecca Lefort, Carolyn Macartney, Jennifer Hodges, Sharon Wright, Jo Barry Kate Boxell and Jon Elsey. Apologies to anyone who equalled those achievements - unbeknown to me - but isn't mentioned here!

Of course there are dangers when you have sharp pieces of metal flying through the air, so safety was paramount and we had to strictly obey a whistle and commands.

We had individual tuition to find our styles, and Richard and Jackie showed us how to shoot the 40lb bow Olympic-style, rather than using the typical beginner's stance. However if we'd really been competing in the Olympic way, the targets would have been seven times further away! Professional archers also put pins in the ground to mark their footing, because body position and posture can make all the difference to where the arrow ends up.

Archery uses your neck back and shoulder muscles, and strength comes in when you use more powerful bows to shoot further than the usual indoor distance. Archery is one of the few sports where able bodied people and those with disabilities can compete at the highest level. It requires upper body dexterity and strength, and a keen mental discipline.

As our arrows thudded into the targets, Jackie - who was the archery coach on a PD James film called Mind to Murder with Jerome Flynn - said: “You can see how the bow and arrow was a lethal weapon in the times of King Arthur.”

“Especially if it was us shooting!” laughed Ruth Longhurst from Holbrook.

Simon Smith said: “It is quite a difficult skill to learn, but not too bad.”

Carolyn Macartney from Henniker Road, Ipswich said: “I've really enjoyed it. I like doing different things and this is not a sport you'd think to try.”

We competed in a Lord of the Rings-style competition, shooting imaginary orcs on command as they appeared on the horizon, and aiming for the 'captains and generals' represented by balloons pinned to the targets. If we fired our arrows too soon or too late, we 'died in battle,' only to be revived by a sprinkle of magic dust from Jackie and Richard.

The couple are currently awaiting Clubmark confirmation for their Blue Arrows Archery Club, which welcomes families and beginners for any age.

Archery has its origins in the English yeomen who won the battle of Agincourt in 1415

The Blue Arrows Archery Club is a small and friendly club based in Ipswich to promote the sport of target archery. The club consists of a junior section for the under 18s and a senior section. Part of the ethos of the club is that the junior and senior members shoot side-by-side, giving the club a fun, friendly, family atmosphere.

The club also runs a series of beginners' courses throughout the year.

The club was established in 2002 at Suffolk Constabulary's playing field at Martlesham, and this link with Suffolk Police is behind the name of the club.

During the summer the club shoots outside on the playing field at Suffolk Police Headquarters in Martlesham, and at Northgate in winter months.

Club nights indoors are normally Wednesday from 6pm to7pm for juniors, and Thursday from 6pm-7pm for seniors and families.

Weblink: www.bluearrows.org.uk

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