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Private Paradise

There is a type of duck, the mallard, which is a very common-place species of waterfowl across the UK and Ireland which holds to its name an unusually singular call, that sounds too much like sarcastic laughter. When you are standing in front of a marked 30m target, it makes for an unsettling commentary.

On the 15th and 16th of October, Ballyvally Archers Banbridge hosted the Northern Ireland and Open Field Championships at Greenmount in Antrim, a two-day mixed round. This venue is arguably the most serene archers get to shoot here in the north, and a personal favourite of mine. It is a shame that we only get to shoot it twice a year, but nonetheless this only amplifies the levels of excitement in the run up to these competitions.

The venue is the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) campus at Greenmount (Antrim), with a golf course on the far side, so obviously the whole venue feels like someone’s personal, elaborate, and very well looked after garden. From the drive in, nooks of exotic plant life weave between teaching buildings, labs, and student accommodation. Around the course, from the parking onwards, pockets of mirror sharp lakes with mallards, coots, and mute swans – and if you’re lucky, a heron – can be seen throughout, with the environment shifting from open lawns to tunnelling hedge rows to sheltered forest walks. On the one hand it feels like a very exclusive and very well-maintained private garden but will gradually and seamlessly run into a more rugged, untouched ou

tdoor hike through the forest.</