Clays at Elveden
By Henry Giles

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The EOE team arrived on a beautiful early spring day at Elveden estate to meet Gift Experience client and sponsor Explore 4x4. We came to try out their Clay Pigeon Shooting Experience, but this is only part of what the business, run by delightfully hospitable couple Malcolm and Debs, offers.

Drawing up at the estate’s Home and Garden shop at the Courtyard, stuffed with fine food, wines and a cafe (well restaurant) with waiting staff, it was clear the supply lines were good. As Debs ushered us into a very gorgeous and gleaming Land Rover Defender (this on the day after Defender production ceased after 68 years, and we talked about that poignancy), she emphasised that they would make your event a real do, whether it’s a single or multi activity you've booked.

Explore 4x4 provide the ultimate in outdoor activities and military survival adventures for individuals, couples, families and stag and hen parties and weekends. Running for a number of years, they only came to the East of England in May 2015, where they are based on the exclusive Elveden Estate, with access to acres of private land amidst the most stunningly picturesque heath land.

The estate is steeped in history. Appropriated in the early middle ages by Bury St Edmunds abbey, it was much later, in 1863, bought by the Maharajah Duleep Singh, ruler of the Sikh Empire. His ownership was famous for its lavish Victorian shooting parties but the era came to an end with a downturn in the Maharajah’s business fortunes and Elveden was sold in 1894 to Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh - yes the family responsible for the black stuff in a pint glass. (It comes as no surprise to find that St Patrick’s Day is still lavishly celebrated at Elveden and is a special hosted event in the calendar.)

With a fabulous recently designed and built woodland 4x4 off road course, Explore 4x4 have the credibility of being Lantra professional instructors and training providers. All activities and off road training are tailor made to suit civilians but corporate bodies like the Police, wildlife enforcers and military applications are also catered for.as well as schools, colleges and universities.

At the other end of the scale, why not blow tradition to the winds, and have a STEN party! What's that? Well, to put it simply it's the Stags versus the Hens! The battle of the marital parties! C'mon ladies, show em what you're made of and it's not all sugar and spice?!

But (ahem) back to our clay shooting , after a warm welcome, and being whisked off in a Land Rover to the depths of the forest, we were then taken through the basics of clay pigeon shooting, safety, how the gun works, how to hold the gun properly, and how to break some clays!

Guns are fitted to individuals to ensure a comfortable experience. All equipment is provided from eye protection, ear defenders, gun, cartridges and clays. The minimum age being 14 years old, participants do however need to have the strength to hold the gun.

Suitable whether you are a total beginner or already have experience. Tuition is on a one to one basis or indeed for groups of any size, with Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (CPSA) qualified instructors.

They offer 30, 40 or 50 clay packages which are tailored if necessary to the novice. I must admit I struggled on the day, but qualified, experienced and passionate, Malcolm tried hard to get me to hit more clays which I did when he sent some almost right overhead at the end and some of those I hit. I did a mental hi-5 after an enjoyable hour-long session.

Guests may view the shooting in action but must stay within areas designated by the instructors, and under 16s must be fully supervised at all times.

It's amazing how the ego can be soothed by sitting back in the warm Courtyard cafe with a latte however, and ever eloquent duo Debs and Malcolm were perfect hosts.

There followed a family dog walk around the nature trail then some retail therapy for our eight-year-old. For dads after a Guinness or mums after a chilled Burgundy, the Elveden Inn is a must.

The Explore 4x4 team are very friendly and helpful, and open 7 days a week. However, pre-booking is essential.
The cost for 30 Clays is £40, 40 Clays £50, or 50 Clays £60. You can book including
Gift Experience Vouchers over the telephone on 01787 320 640.

To view Explore 4x4’s full range of exhilarating outdoor activities visit their website.
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