Maplehurst Ramblings

November 2002

Lots in the bag this month so lets get started. 

Punt Gun

At long last I found the photographs of my punt gun so as promised here they are. As you can see, its a bit of a beast.

It is just over 10 foot long and weighs more than 3cwt as you see it. Heaven only knows how big the punt must have been to support it.

For those of you not in the know, punt guns were used extensively by gamekeepers and wildfowlers from the early 19th century onwards. Their purpose was brutally simple - to kill as many geese and ducks (or other species of birds) as possible at once. A typically Victorian efficiency drive, one might say.

Rapid re-loading of shotgun cartridges was not really available until the early part of the 20th century so the punt gun was developed as a "broad brush" solution to the problems of bird infestation.


These guns were far too heavy to be carried by hand and were instead mounted on a "punt" or canoe. The punt was an extremely large, shallow drafted vessel that could only be safely used in inland rivers and waters

As you can see from the black & white photograph, there isn't much freeboard to protect you from a watery grave should you encounter waves.


My punt gun is a bit of a rarity apparently. I bought it as a "comfort" purchase at a Sothebys auction a few years ago- I desperately needed to console myself after I was outbid on a double-barrel 4 bore hammer gun.

The gun came with a board on which were mounted four 9 " cartridges, a wad cutter and a powder measure. There is also an inscription on the board, which reads as follows: -

This massive octagonal barrelled punt gun was made in 1852 by the famous FrenchGunsmith Jean Chale for Sir John Reeve de la Pole Bt. of Shute Devon.It was found supporting the roof of a cowshed by its resent owner Mr. Tom Smith of Killeen Co. Dublin  who has used it over several years for wildfowling on the River Laune estuary.

The gun looks to be in sound condition, although the woodwork needs a damn good clean and all the metalwork needs to be re-browned - a huge job! There is a rather nice engraving on top of the barrel - the name J Reeve de la Pole Bt. is visible. Along either side of the breech there were some silver family crests mounted on the metalwork. These are in very bad order and are unlikely to survive any restoration, although they may be added later on if the mood takes me and finances allow!

The barrel begins as an octagonal section but is taken down to a smooth cylinder. Most punt guns are trunnion mounted - this means that they have small knobs near the breech to secure them, just like cannons used to have.

My punt gun is mounted on a spring-loaded block with a hole through it on. Presumably on would place a large pin through this hole and fasten it securely - very securely!

When the project is finished I will have a test firing, before the gun gets put on the wall. Watch this space for more details.

Interestingly, advances in metallurgy have meant that punt guns are relatively much lighter and smaller than they used to be so behemoths like my weapon are very unlikely to ever be seen in use again - except perhaps on the front of the new Challenger tank!


This photo opposite illustrates a modern piece - it is a mere strip of a gun, being only 7 foot long and weighing a mere 88 lb, despite packing the same firepower as my piece.



The Immortal Memory.

No prizes for guessing who this relates to - for those of you who are ignorant about naval matters it refers to Admiral Lord Nelson who died in action on the 21st October 1805 at the battle of Trafalgar.

I was aware that the death of this rather splendid man was commemorated by the Royal Navy, but I was unaware quite how seriously they take it all.

I was invited by an ex RM friend of mine to attend the annual Nelson Supper that the Naval Club organise. I accepted like a shot, despite the rather hefty £70 price tag.

The invitation duly arrived and politely informed me that dress would be mess kit or white tie. Not being an ex-forces person I had to find a tail coat and white vest to match. Eventually I found one.

The dinner was being held at the fabulous Great Hall  in Lincolns Inn - if you have never been to this splendid legal district of London before then do take the time to visit it - I am not sure if the hall is open to the public but it is well worth asking if you can have a look around.

Anyway, we arrived in good time for cocktails and proceeded to sit down for what can only be described as a banquet, fish courses, game courses, palate cleansers, meat courses, pudding, cheese, port and finally coffee.

Throughout the meal we were entertained by The Royal British Legion who played an exciting repertoire of old favourites. At one point a horn player played a solo number on an authentic coaching horn - how he managed to coax some of the notes out of his horn I will never know.

A full admiral, resplendent in almost as much braid as an Italian Corporal, gave a very insightful speech about future threats, particularly the one posed by "AQ" (Al Qaeda to you and me) and their allied cohorts. I must say that this was a rather sobering experience after so much wine!

After the meal we repaired back to The Naval Club in Mayfair for late beers. The one low point of the evening was the trip back from Lincolns Inn along Oxford Street. Even at midnight it was apparent that dark forces were at work. Someone high up in the GLA has decided to change the phasing of the traffic lights which means that what used to take five minutes to go the length of Oxford Street now takes over fifteen minutes. This is being repeated all over London, no wonder traffic is at a standstill these days.

Opening Meet

Saturday the 2nd of November brought on the start of the latest hunting season. I only made it out to Knepp Castle as the C&H were moving off for the day. It made for quite a splendid site.

There looked to be over fifty mounted and at least double that number on foot and in cars who had turned out for the morning. There were even half a dozen soap dodgers doing the usual "hunt scum" thing. I reckon the only scum they know anything about is what is left on the bath after their annual wash. What ever happened to all the nice old ladies in bright green LACS tabards? They seem to have been displaced by an angry group of class warriors.

Unfortunately my camera was on the blink so I shall have to rely on the kindness of others for any photographs.

Still on a hunting note, HM Queen Elizabeth announced (through gritted teeth) that her "government" would introduce a vote to resolve the issue of hunting in Parliament. Obviously with threats from Al Qaeda, The IRA, an economy on the turn, it is good to see that our glorious leader can find it within himself to waste valuable Parliament time on venting his own insignificant narrow-minded prejudices. When the vote comes a few bigoted MPs have already announced that they will invoke The Parliament Act if the vote is reversed in The Lords. Watch the countryside erupt if (i.e when) this happens.

Black stuff in Sedgwick

I was amazed to see what has happened to The North Drive at Sedgwick Park last week - the while damn thing has been tarmacced and the verges cleared beautifully. Full marks go to Sedgwick Park for this - the verges are looking better than they have done in years, despite Jackson’s creative interpretation of the word "landscaping" last year. Given the nature of the bourne that rises near Annette Harries' farm during the winter, I do wonder if the road surface will decay like all the others before it - does anyone have an opinion on this?

One other small matter perplexes me. Will this resurfacing of the drive lead to a resumption of hostilities over its status as a bridleway? I can't but help wonder why anyone would want to spend so much money on improving facilities just for horse riders, or indeed to allow horse riders over it at all - perhaps someone would like to clarify this matter for me too.

Fireworks night

And there are no photographs of this event either, dear reader. The reason is very simple - I forgot to pack my camera. I had been rushing around all day and was kept waiting four hours for a lady who wanted to come and see my puppies with a view to buying one. Anyway, I eventually dispatched her entourage off into the night and set off to The Walkers Farm with a few friends.

It had been raining so hard during the day, the event was looking likely to have been postponed up until about 4.30 pm. David Christian took the wise decision to go ahead with the display and so the Nuthurst Society events machine came springing into life. Fiona and Guy Davies had made an exceptionally generous dash to Calais to pick up a load of booze and were busy brewing up a delicious mulled wine. David and co. were busy preparing a range of fried burgers, which left a few enterprising souls to collect donations on the gate.

By the time we arrived the bonfire was in full swing. It was huge and comprised several tree trunks, assorted lumps of other wood and about three tons of straw. Needless to say, the addition of a few gallons of diesel ensured a speedy start to the bonfire and within a few minutes the sky was alight with burning embers fanned by the wind.

Shortly after 6.40 the fireworks began, orchestrated by Peter Swift. We were entertained for just under an hour by these, especially a few low flying rockets that got caught on the wind and ended up exploding below tree height..

The event was marred slightly by a bunch of youths who turned up en masse, drove their car straight into the Walkers field, didn't contribute anything to the collection buckets on the gate and then drank their own Alco pops instead of supporting the bar. this behaviour is simply not on, although a little bird tells me that there will be a more rigorously enforced entry policy next year - now that should be quite entertaining!

Driven shooting

At the start of November I was invited for a few days driven pheasant shooting at Warninglid courtesy of a local landowner. We were shooting over 200 acres, which used to be a commercial orchard cum breakers yard. Over the last four years time, effort and money have been spent to return the land to its original state (i.e devoid of any vehicles and chemicals). The results are very impressive.

The view from the top of the land is quite literally breathtaking - on a clear day one can see right across to the Downs for several miles in either direction.

We convened in the lodge at 9.15 am for coffee and biscuits in time to move off at 9.45. Coffee and cake were served back at the lodge after a few drives after which we moved off for the remaining drives of the day. At around 1.30 pm shooting ceased and we repaired back to the lodge for a filling lunch of soup, stew and cheese.

An army of beaters and dog handlers put up a variety of birds for us, very few were what I would call easy - the majority were flying at full speed and at least 30-40 metres off the ground. couple this with a lot of tree cover, most of the drives in gullies and you have the recipe for an exceptionally exciting days sport.

I am a great believer in using what I shoot (apart from vermin or corvids) for food if at all possible. Pheasants are no exception to this rule and I spent a few bloody evenings in the garage preparing the birds for the oven. As it turned out, we had quite a bit of meat to get through so the dogs were given a gourmet treat of rice kibble, braised pheasant and onions this weekend.

I have got a few more days in Norfolk sorted out - I have been invited to shoot over 30,000 acres of MoD land near Thetford. This always produces a few interesting surprises, not least the hares. I laughed when I was told that they can be as big as a small muntjac. I stopped laughing when I saw one moving through the cover crop. It was massive. All my pheasants are taken this year but if anyone wants a hare (if I get one) please let me know and I will try to oblige you.  

Pathe news cockerel

Calling all members of The M.C.C - Maplehurst Chicken Club (Marylebone Cricket Club kindly note - we will sue for any infringement of copyright!). Pathe news have announced that their current mascot, a white cockerel, is to be retired and they are soliciting for a replacement.

If you are an ambitious cockerel owner then get in touch with Pathe, they want to hear from you.

Trouble at t'mill??

There is nothing like a juicy rumour to get the blood coursing through ones veins. A particularly ripe one landed on my desk last week. Apparently there is something very amiss in New York - a few thousand tons of gold to be precise. click onto this link and take a peek.....  

Edward Heath – a Guy Fawkes for the 20th Century???

Right, time to upset the Conservatives and Europhiles now.

Most people remember Edward Heath- despite the fact that he was in power over twenty five years ago. I don't remember his tenure with any clarity(to be honest I don't really remember it very well at all!) but I can recall the three day week, industrial unrest and the opening shots of the cod war.

One aspect of his tenure sticks in the craw particularly badly, though. this was the conniving way he cheated the British People into joining the Common Market. Don't get me wrong, I am all for comparative advantage and free trade. Unfortunately for Britain, these noble motives were definitely not uppermost in Eddie boys mind.

There is an increasing feeling amongst people I know that Ted Heath knowingly sold us down the Swannee into a European Superstate. If you don't believe me, take a look at the BlasTed Heath website, the EU Times, the UKIP website  or any one of about 10,000 similar sites on google and see for yourself. Interestingly enough, when Towny Blair was a young wannabe politician in the early eighties and could be seen sporting a CND badge, he made a couple of intemperate comments about not wanting to be in Europe anymore

"We'll negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs"

  Tony Blair, 1983 Sedgefield Election Address)

I don't know about you, but I am distinctly uncomfortable about being an unwilling participant in a political system that has gone from BENELUX, to the Common Market, to the European Economic Community to finally arrive up at the European Union. I think this last title says it all.

Coming next month:-

Pampered pooches (including possibly the worlds most expensive dog bed)
A Good Neighbour Award
The Never-ending story (aka the saga of my lawn)
The Wey and Arun Canal
Were we ripped off by Seeboard??
One for the Mojahideen.

Simon  McClean 22th November 2002     last months MR's


Have you signed or viewed the Guest Book? Have you contributed to the Forum?