Archery club hits the right target with a long-awaited BBQ

One of the oldest archery clubs in Essex hosted its first archery-themed BBQ since the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Bowmen of Ardleigh Archery club called it a “BBQ fun shoot” where archery and barbecue food meet on the club’s third field at Bretons, Rainham bringing members, fellow archers from other clubs and residents together.

A joyful, almost domestic atmosphere hovered over the vast field the club is now sharing with other clubs in the area after moving from its original shooting ground at Ardleigh House, Hornchurch.

Chairman Michael Bell, 77, said: “It’s good to get this going. This is something that we normally do every year, but the last two years we didn’t because of Covid restrictions.”

Bell joined the club in 1970 and has been a member ever since. His love for archery dates to when he was a 7-year-old boy and had a bow to play with.

He said: “For me it was an opportunity to excel at something and I did quite well from quite early on.

“Archery took hold of me, and it became a passion.

“It’s a fascinating sport. Most of the time people are competing against themselves.”

Field captain, Alex Sarzi-Sartori, 38, said: “The BBQ is just a fun thing, it’s not to make money, it’s to have family over and meet new people.

“Before Covid it was a whole different scene, it ruined everything.

“So many people have dropped off, sold their equipment but we are lucky because we have about 70 members, while other clubs don’t have many anymore or had to close because of Covid.”

Sarzi-Sartori joined the club in October 2021 when Covid restrictions and working from home increasingly impacted his social life. He is responsible for ground safety.

But Bell, he is not new to the world of archery. His father used to shoot before he was born and eventually had to stop because of the lack of facilities in Milan, the city he comes from.

He said: “I do archery because of the people. I love my club. It’s just fun!”

Chris Phillips, 59, vice-chairman, who joined the club in 2018 said archery gave him a good social life and the chance to share a hobby with his grandchildren.

He added: “This is a very open, friendly club. We have fun, we mess around, have loads of banter.”

Over the years, the Bowmen of Ardleigh Archery club has provided shooting members to both Essex County and national squads and continues to do so now at county level.

Sarah Bettles, winner of the gold medal in the women’s recurve team event at the 2019 European Games, is a former member of the club.

In 2021, she represented Great Britain at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Bell said he likes to think the club helped her on her way and is proud of her.

He added: “I am still in touch with her even now, she is doing very well – she is quite rare.”

Featured image: Emanuela Gioia

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Deesar Thafaks
Deesar Thafaks
4 July 2023 11:10 pm

Hornchurch and Rainham are both in east London not Essex.

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