Since 1958, the CLA Game Fair has been the biggest celebration of field sports in Britain. From gun dog competitions, horse & hound, clay pigeon shooting, archery, fishing, falconry and, well the list just goes on. Amongst that lot, there’s hundreds of exhibitors covering all manner of needs, from country sports, clothing and lifestyle, a dedicated food show, art… honestly you need a couple of days just to see everything!
To get the most from the fair, we generally like to stay over in the campsite, but with this years show clashing against Chris Evens’ CarFest North at Oulton Park, we had to jam it all into just one day.
Even though this years event was down on visitors from previous years, it still appeared that the population from a small town had turned up, and like previous years, the timetable of events was enormous. After signing in at the press office, and with no specific agenda, we decided to meander around, kind of aimlessly.
Our first port of call was to the Mitsubishi stand to have a look at the new L200, I’d driven the old model a few weeks previous so I was curious what improvements they’d made. There’s quite a few, so I reckon I’ll have to get my name on the waiting list for a press car.
We could see that Skoda had an area in which kids could test their abilities driving Yeti’s around a field, with easy obstacles to traverse there was a huge queue of excited youngsters and nervous parents.
At the CLA there’s usually a good selection of small artisan exhibitors who not only sell their wares, but hold demonstrations, and www.cbleather.co.uk was one. Carolyn Brown produces quality custom made belts, collars and bridles, and because everything custom made, you’re guaranteed a unique item made just for you.
Next was Neill Mapes who was showing off his skills. Neill designs and makes furniture with greenwood from native, sustainable sources. His work includes hedgerow furniture and sculpture using a variety of tree species such as ash, oak, sweet chestnut and yew.
Walking towards the lake where the fishing demonstrations are held, kids were messing around in kayaks whilst parents were on the waters edge keeping an eye out! VW didn’t miss an opportunity for a bit of product placement by parking their new Touareg next to them kitted out with a couple of fishing rods and a kayak.
Wandering back round towards the press tent we came across Bespoke Cars who had their range of modified Defenders on display. Going by the amount of money that some people pay for these things, I must be in a minority and wonder why? There is however, no denying that they look spectacular, though just not for me. We carried on meandering with the constant noise of shotguns in the distance.
After an awesome BBQ lunch in the press office, Karen Lee went off to the main arena to watch the horse and dog demonstrations whilst I prepared myself for the long walk aroundthe many hundreds of exhibitors showing off their wares.
By this time the drizzle started and the distant hills were covered in low cloud, it looked a bit grim but the forecast assured me it wasn’t gong to rain until much later in the day, so instead of the 15 minute walk back to the car for my coat, I carried on on my mission.
As usual, Isuzu, Subaru, Great Wall and Ssangyong had vehicles on display, as did Nene Overland who had their fine selection of 4x4’s as well their new venture into the safari equipment world with Tentipi and the Melvill & Moon collection. www.melvillandmoon.com are based in Africa and manufacture a broad range of high end handmade safari luggage, campaign furniture, canvas and leather safari accessories and safari-style seat covers which are made from 100% old fashioned cotton canvas.
Next to grab my attention was Tramper who sell all-terrain mobility scooters. The Four Wheel Tramper and TWS Three Wheel Scooter can take you a lot further than just the local shops and the park or golf course, as they are designed to be true off road mobility scooters. From across rough, uneven country tracks and fields and through mud, streams, snow, and even sandy beaches. I wanted to stand a chat, but there was a huge queue with lots of interested customers, so I took a couple of photos and moved on.
As you would expect at a show like this, there was a generous selection of UTV’s (Utility Task Vehicle), on show, from Polaris, Kawasaki, John Deere and Cam-Am, but it was Sarah-Jane Marshall from Mudrat who caught my attention. www.mudrat4x4.com is the first British UTV brand designed with British farmers and landowners in mind. In recognition that quads and American designed UTV’s don’t fully cater for the British landscape, MUDRAT approached the development of its UTV’s from an understanding of British terrain and conditions.
Tested on the Welsh Hills, with British framers and landowners, all Mudrat’s UTV’s come with a 2-year warranty, including a 2-year Perkins engine warranty. There was mention of a press day soon, so watch this space for a full review.
By this stage the drizzle had turned to rain and for a few minutes I found refuge within the confines of Twisted’s purpose build shelter and gave their Defenders a once over. Again, not my cup of tea, but lovely examples. www.twistedautomotive.com
Aquatic Weed Control caught my attention next with their amphibious aquatic weed cutting machines. I don’t have a pond, so therefore I don’t have weed or silt issues, but I’d still want a Truxor DM 5000’s and 1 Truxor DM5045 to play with! http://aquatic-solutions.co.uk
By this time the heavens opened and it began to downpour, not just regular rain, but a deluge of biblical proportions and the usual bustling crowd had disappeared into the many marquees. As I was already soaked to the skin I figured I’d carry on.
www.liupholstery.co.uk create some of the smartest seat covers that I’ve seen in quite a while, and with over 35 years of experience they know their stuff. Alongside seat covers they also design and make a range of holdalls and dry bags, and because they supply goods to the military, all manufacturing processes are in full accordance with their Quality Assurance Management System and BS EN ISO 9001:2008 certification, so you can be confident their wares will be as tough as your Land Rover.
I didn’t stop to chat, the rain had soaked my trousers and began dribbling down my leg, I was becoming more miserable. I decided to wander across the show ground and see what was happening on stage. It was the 2015 Stihl Timbersports British Championships… who knew that we had a British STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Team?
I wanted to chat to the guys at Maxxis tyres..... but by this stage I was truly fed up and had lost any will to continue. I missed all sorts, like the Shetland Pony grand national, the grudge match between Lurchers and Terriers which is always fun to watch.
Although thoroughly drenched, I did enjoyed myself, I chatted to some great people and found lots of interesting products that you’ll hopefully find in the review section soon.
Alas, since then there’s been bad news. Due to a 21% decline in ticket sales since 2011, and therefore running at a loss for the last 3 years, the CLA announced that it will no longer run the Game Fair. But don’t panic, the good news is that after the cancellation, the Game Fair team were approached by new investors to put on the event without the CLA shackles and will continue in its traditional form but with particular focus on the core fieldsports elements, social and visitor experience.
This years event will take place at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire on the 29th – 31st July. To find out more, check out: www.thegamefair.org and keep updated via their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheGameFair and I might see you there!