Wood-cutting has me stumped but at least Bambi was fair game

Dan Robinson sawing through a poplar log on the Stihl Timbersports stand

Dan Robinson sawing through a poplar log on the Stihl Timbersports stand

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

OVER three days in July 150,000 people are expected to visit the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Game Fair at Woodstock’s Blenheim Palace. They will take part in country activities, including clay pigeon shooting and archery, watch demonstrations and go shopping in a food market. Dan Robinson tried his hand at what is on offer.

ONLY half-way through sawing the log, I’m exhausted. Needless to say, it’s the first time I’ve ever been handed a 5ft saw and been asked to cut off the end of a small poplar tree stump.

I’ve just watched instructor Andrew “Taff” Evans cutting through it like it’s an orange, but right now I’m stuck in the middle of this wood and out of breath.

Apparently, the world record for sawing wood is 10.2 seconds, but it takes me a good couple of minutes before the end falls off and I have my own piece of wood to take home as my prize.

Until today, I hadn’t even realised people competed in wood-cutting, but the Stihl Timbersports Series, which runs tournaments, has been in Britain for the past 14 years.

Current British champion Spike Milton tells my group: “Technique is everything and it’s got to the stage where the guys aren’t just lumberjacks, they are athletes.

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“You have to be a thinker and be tactical, making sure you don’t get disqualified for jumping the start.”

This has not been the only thing I’ve tried my hand at as I spent a day trying out the many different activities that will be on offer at the CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace.

First up was archery, with bullseye targets mixed with plastic animals to fire arrows at.

During the London Olympics we saw competitors consistently hitting precise targets from a long distance, but I struggle to hit a model pig from about 3m away.

That doesn’t stop me from firing an arrow at a deer’s head from about 12m. I feel like Robin Hood for a moment, before I miss the nearby pig again.

The trick, I’m told, is to aim about 3ft below the target and slightly to the right, which is my firing hand.

The bow is heavier than it looks, but not as heavy as the rifle used in the shooting simulator.

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  • Reporter Dan Robinson has a go with the shotgun shooting simulator

Firing the gun is restricted to a computer screen but the “weapon” has a realistic weight.

As part of the “Hoof Legacy” of London 2012, a scheme to encourage horseriding, visitors will be able to take a ride on Henry the Horse. Another simulator, it has different speed levels – from slow walking to full-on galloping – in which the rider must get used to absorbing each bump.

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  • Dan Robinson on 'Henry' the horse riding simulator, supervised by riding instructor Lucinda Kain

It’s like a tame bucking bronco.

My final taster of the day is fly fishing. Picking up a fishing rod for the first time, I am taught overhead and spey casting.

Although I only practise techniques on land, I get a feel for it, but am once again surprised at how difficult it can be.

Lots of visitors who arrive in July will be new to many of the same activities but the Game Fair is all about trying new things.

But be warned – only have a go at sawing wood if you’re committed to finishing it.

  • The CLA Game Fair takes place at Woodstock’s Blenheim Palace on July 18, 19 and 20.
  • It is the largest countryside event in the world and is held in a different place each year. This will be the fifth time it has been at the palace since it began in 1958.
  • Attractions include demonstrations, a fine art exhibition, angling exhibition, food market, cookery demonstration theatre and clay pigeon shooting.
  • Day tickets cost £27 for adults but there are deals for large groups and multiple days. Children under 16 go free.
  • Money will also be raised for Battersea Dog and Cats Home.
  • Visit gamefair.co.uk.
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