I planned a trip to England to visit the Game Fair around a roe deer hunt. Although I’ve had great luck in and around London with Kevin Downer, we hit the pre rut and the crops were not cut, so it made hunting very challenging.
The Game Fair, which is usually the last weekend in July and corresponds to the rut, was moved up two weeks and thus the problems. Next year it will be held at the Harewood House, July 31 to August 2 in Leeds, Yorkshire, which is its normal time.
The CLA Game Fair came to life after two game-rearing specialists came together more than half a century ago. While working at ICI Game Research Station, Charles Cole and Nigel Gray decided that a new social event for shooting and landowner interests of the British Countryside was in order.
The first Game Fair CLA (Country Landowners Association) was held in 1958 in Stetchworth, Newmarket, cost 800 pounds to put on, and had 8,500 attendees. The Fairs have developed a unique spotlight on the development of field sports and the country way of life over the past half century.
The shows provide the opportunity to do business together, exchange skills and provide the younger generation with the wisdom to keep the tradition alive. Today’s Game Fair has developed into a large operation that the original founders would hardly recognize. Topics include hunting, fishing, dogs, falconry, horse and hound, archery, ferrets, pugs and drummers. Other areas include arts and sculpture, exploring nature, gardens, rural business, a total food show and a fashion show.
This year’s show was held at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Blenheim Palace is home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. It’s a true masterpiece of 18th Century baroque architecture.
This World Heritage Site is an awe-inspiring experience for visitors. The site is more than 2,000 acres of brown parkland and formal gardens. The estate features a grand hedge maze, adventure playground, and a butterfly house. This is the fifth time the Game Fair has been held on these grounds.
While in London, another experience every hunter must look for is a dinner at Rule’s Restaurant. Thomas Rule, in the year Napoleon opened his campaign in Egypt, promised his family to settle down and opened an oyster bar in Covent Garden. Rule’s still flourishes as the oldest restaurant in London through the reign of nine monarchs and the Great Wars. During this time, only three families have owned the restaurant. In 1983, Thomas Bell sold the restaurant to the present owner, John Mayhew.
Rule’s seats more than 120 people and serves traditional food of United Kingdom. It specializes in classic game cookery, puddings, pies, oysters and belted Galloway beef from the High Pennines. Over the years, the building has continued to have the best taxidermy of many continents within its rooms. The restaurant has been frequently visited by the likes of Laurence Olivier, Henry Irving, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Ava Gardener. It has appeared in many books and great literary talents have come through its doors. These include Charles Dickens, William Thakeray, John Galsworthy, H. G. Wells and Dick Francis.
There is private room dining, a bar and regular tables. Rule’s on Maiden Lane, a heritage restaurant, is a must-visit in London. The restaurant is now associated with Lartington Estate, one of the last true wild areas in the heart of the High Pennines. This is where the Galloway beef comes from and is only served once a year.–Doug Yajko