Fashion editor, stylist and Harrogate resident Stephanie Taylor shares her insider tips on where to go – and what to wear – in this quintessentially stylish town.
You don’t have to be a top gun or stalwart field sports enthusiast to know that the Glorious 12th is big news – and big business – in Yorkshire.
August 12th marks the launch of the 121-day grouse shooting season, and Yorkshire is considered to have some of the best driven shoots in the country, thanks to its vast swathes of moorland, the varied nature of its landscape and the professionalism of its game keepers and shoot managers.
Yorkshire game shooting has a remarkable history, too, with some redoubtable characters, not least Frederick Robinson, 2nd Marquess of Ripon (1852-1923), who once downed 28 birds in a single minute and is still considered by many to be the greatest game shot Britain has ever produced.
He kept meticulous records so we know that, from 1867 until his death in 1923, he had bagged a total of 556,813 head, including 97,503 grouse, although pheasants were his chief target and he managed to down 229,976 of them between 1867 and 1895, many at Studley Royal, his Yorkshire estate.
A close friend of George V, Lord Ripon was not averse to a bit of competitive boasting, and his entry for August 30, 1887, reads: ”328 grouse; next highest 79. Wind puzzled others.” He died gun in hand at Dallowgill Moor, near Ripon, aged 71, after bagging 51 grouse.
Lord Ripon was part of the early development of organised grouse shooting, which became popular during the early-to-mid Victorian period, when the advent and expansion of the railways placed the moors within striking distance of city dwellers eager to unwind and reload in the great outdoors.
Now, as then, etiquette is an important aspect of being part of a shoot, with safety being the number one priority. This can be daunting if, as a complete novice to the sport, you have been invited to attend a shoot, either as a gun or as a watching companion. “What on earth do I wear?” is the first question, and it’s one that can be answered at Cordings, either at its Harrogate store on Parliament Street or, if in London, at the Piccadilly store. There you will find knowledgeable (and friendly) staff on hand to advise you and fit you out – it needn’t be as expensive as you might think.
Regarding that thorny issue of etiquette, check the dress code with your host first. On formal shoots, you can expect to see guns wearing tweed jackets with matching breeks or trousers and waistcoat, with shirt and tie for men. Ear protection is a must and tweed flat caps are recommended.
In general, it’s expected that shoot participants wear earthy shades of brown and olive, which makes for a timelessly tonal head-to-toe look, so stylish it’s a shame to confine it to the field. All the pieces I’ve picked out here are ones that could – and should – be mixed in and worn as part of day-to-day looks, no matter where you are, especially now, as we look towards autumn. Actually, you don’t have to go anywhere near a shoot to wear them. Classic, practical, weather-appropriate, beautifully crafted clothing and accessories surely have a place in every wardrobe.
Shoots mostly take place during the winter so coats and jackets must be warm and waterproof, allowing movement to swing your gun and deep pockets for cartridges. Made in beautiful British tweed, the Schoffel Cavel field coat has a moisture and stain-repellent Teflon finish and a GORE-TEX lining so it’s waterproof, windproof and breathable, plus it’s got adjustable storm cuffs, fleece hand-warming pockets and inside zip security pockets. Now that’s what I call a proper winter coat, and it’s going to look as good thrown over jeans for running about town as it is on country walks and shoots.
Equally, there’s the Cordings Jarrow Cotswold field coat, again in British wool tweed, with roomy raglan sleeves, fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets and big bellow pockets, plus a pink satin all-weather lining.
You can wear knits underneath, perhaps a fine merino sweater, but if the weather continues to be mild, a Tattersall check shirt in a lovely soft cotton might be a better idea. If formal tweeds are not required, or to wear with them on colder days, a gilet is an excellent alternative, so check out the Schoffel Lyndon Fleece, which comes in a range of colours, and again works with jeans as well as in the field.
Breeks are not only traditional but can look super-chic and flattering off the shoot too, styled thoughtfully with perhaps a fitted cashmere sweater and long leather boots. In the field, shooting boots, which look rather like extra-sturdy wellies, give ankle support on all grounds, but also look casually cool on wet days everywhere. Shooting stockings keep your feet warm on a long day’s shooting. Finish with a cartridge bag, a must-have shoot accessory that can double as a seriously great-looking and highly practical cross-body bag for the stylish woman (and man) about town.
WHERE TO WEAR
Yorkshire has no shortage of top quality shoots, so here’s just a small taster of what to expect.
One of Yorkshire’s most popular sporting destinations, shoots here are managed by Frank Boddy, with days with drives to suit all levels of experience so novice guns are welcome, with instructors/loaders for those new to driven shooting. Days start and finish at the Boar’s Head in the village of Ripley, which is a few miles out of Harrogate, and offers drives in beautiful woodland and rolling countryside. Non-shooting guests and well behaved dogs are welcome. All guns and their guests have breakfast, drinks breaks throughout the day, lunch at various venues and the day ends with afternoon tea. There are also ladies only days, which run as normal members days, except the Champagne is pink! The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club, an award-winning, ladies only shooting and cake club, has events at Ripley Castle, see www.shotgunandchelseabunclub.co.uk
A 30,000-acre swathe of Yorkshire heaven on the banks of the Wharfe, on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, famed for excellent grouse shooting and fishing. The estate is owned by the Duke of Devonshire and is home to the wonderful Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa.
Shooting Ground: Based at Coniston Cold, near Skipton, this is a CPSA Premier Plus clay ground that caters for clay pigeon shoots and game shooters who like to keep their eye in off season, with a high tower capable of throwing 40 yard-plus targets at testing speeds and angles. There’s a clubhouse and the highly rated Coniston Hotel next door.