Magazine article The Spectator

Shooting Star

Magazine article The Spectator

Shooting Star

Article excerpt

The increase in popularity of shooting, and the diversity of the people who do it, has not had a marked effect on the standards of sporting accommodation available in the British Isles. It seems to be part of the sportsman's ritual to endure bunk beds and horsehair blankets from the pages of John Buchan's John Macnab.

On one occasion stalking in Scotland, things got so cold that my host resorted to lying in a hot bath. When I inadvertently walked in upon him he was submerged in a wet suit, his face peering out of a misty snorkel, the ping-pong ball in the funnel hopping up and down, which gave the only signs of life. He assured me later this attire was solely for additional warmth (though he begged me not to mention it to anyone).

So when one hears of a newly restored Georgian rectory on a renowned Cornish estate and shoot, it is a time for rejoicing. The Vean, on the coastal Caerhays estate south of St Austell, is such a place.

The seat of the Williams family for more than a century and with Mr and Mrs Julian Williams still in happy occupancy of the castle itself, Caerhays is a temperate spot where high birds and rhododendrons may be found in equal abundance. The shoot is run by their son, Charles Williams, whose Burncoose plant nursery wins medals at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The Vean, however, which sits in the estate, with its own drive and fine valley views over abundant and dramatic gardens, is the creation of Charlie Williams's wife Lizzy. My own invitation to stay with my family came from a chance meeting with her out hunting with the Four Burrow foxhounds.

It is an elegant project. No detail of comfort or architecture has been overlooked, and the house, with its eight en-suite bedrooms, nestles seamlessly into its landscape.

There are two things which The Vean has achieved in its short life. The first is that you could ask any of your sporting friends to stay there, certain they will have privacy, hot water, comfortable beds and good food from a local chef. The second, and more important, is that their wives will enjoy it too, from massages to conducted tours of the gardens with the head gardener.

Less than a mile away is the sandy beach of Porthluney, where the hounds actually met on my spring weekend visit. …

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