In The Beginning
By the late George Lane former Vice President and Founder member
The year was 1956. Five shooting men were talking about wildfowling in Cecil Purcells Gun Shop in Gloucester. One of the five proposed that they try to form a Wildfowling Club so an advert was placed in the local newspaper for anyone interested to meet at the Northend Vaults, Gloucester. The chosen day arrived and 30 people attended. The meeting was called to order and it was decided to form a committee.
The first Chairman was Geoffrey Haines with Sid Ferris as Vice Chairman, Cecil Purcell Secretary and John Treasure Club Solicitor. There were 10 committee members. A list of rules was drawn up, of which some were taken from the Kent wildfowlers Rule Book. One of the members that night was John Lifton a local vet who was a member of the Kent Club, who took over from Cecil as Secretary until he emigrated to New Zealand. The name decided upon was the Gloucestershire Wildfowlers Association with an annual subscription of £1.
At that time members had no land to shoot over so to keep members together Ernie Limbrick organized clay shoots twice monthly at a Hardwick farm. Incidentally, clays were 1s 6d for 5 and cartridges 7s 6d a box, a far cry from today's prices.
A year later Geoffrey Haines suggested the club should approach Major Clifford of Frampton Court regarding the right to shoot on the Frampton Marshes. A meeting was arranged and the outcome was a 5 year lease at £1 a year. Later that year we leased Mrs. Campbell's and Mrs. McDonalds foreshore at Frampton, also the foreshore on Lydney Park Estate. The committee decided to create three categories of membership: Registered, Associate and Full. This rule still applies today.
In 1972 a Duck rearing sub committee was formed, in the first year 250 plus ducks were ringed and released.
Another sub committee was set up to organize a Sports field Day. This took place at Whitminster on Mrs. Grants Farm. Good publicity was given beforehand and a profit was made on the day. Attendance was approximately 2,000. This event was repeated the following year.
In the winter of 1978 Ian and Richard Chappell and myself were looking for a project for the club members. Mike Ounsted from the Wildfowl Trust suggested that we could renovate the Berkeley Decoy at the Trust which had fallen into a bad state. This was a long term project and a magnificent chance for the club to start a close liaison with the Wildfowl Trust and thereby form a link between the three national interests Wildfowling Clubs, W.A.G.B.I.(now B.A.S.C.), and The Wildfowl Trust. The project was put before club members in the spring of 1979 and passed. Although a sum of money from club funds was given to start, the cash soon ran out. Materials were expensive therefore we had to beg, borrow and steal avoiding any poor substitutes which might spoil the finish. Club members gave up spare time at evenings and weekends. By working hard the House Pipe was completed by mid August 1979 and was catching Ducks in September. Richard Chappell became the Decoy Man, a post he still holds today.
In the '80's more foreshore was leased. Hill Flats and Arlingham giving members large areas to shoot over. In 1986 the Sports field Day was re—born under a new name," The Country Sports Fair', which ran for six years at Frampton Court Estate by kind permission of Lt. Cl. P R H Clifford our Associations President, it was coordinated by Paul Walkden and a sub Committee, headed by Bob Feirn.
The '90's have seen the establishment of the Wildlife Habitat Trust Stamp programmed by B.A.S.C. with support from G.W.A. Substantial donations to this fund have resulted from a run of successful auctions spearheaded by Peter and Joanne Wildgoose. We hosted the 1994 National Wildfowling Conference. Members of your executive committee are involved at National level with our National body 'The British Association for Shooting and Conservation' and include the following committees: Wildfowling Liaison Committee, Disciplinary appeals Committee and Trustee of the Wildlife Habitat Trust. 1996 is our 40th Anniversary and the highlight will be a function in the Great Ha1l at Berkeley Castle by kind permission of our vice President Major John Berkeley.
Land purchase is something that your Committee are now seriously looking at, and hope that foreshore will be bought, safeguarding wildfowling for future generations of GWA Members.
This is a brief insight of the clubs history from 1956 — 1996. And what of those five men who met in the Gun Shop in 1956? Three are sadly not with us anymore but I know they would be proud of the G.W.A today.
The five men were C. Haines, C. Purcell, J.A'Bear, E. Limbrick, and myself.
Wildfowl on the Severn
A brief history by Paul Walkden
Fowl within the Severn area is a subject all local fowlers should study, so as to know and understand their build up and movements. Members having joined within the last seventeen years will have been involved with assessment at Slimbridge and so a grounding will have been established with Wildfowl species.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust which was established in 1946 as The Severn Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge by the late Sir Peter Scott probably brought about the greatest change in the area; the Berkeley family had always kept the new grounds as a goose area, where on occasions through the season, driven goose shoots would occur. The reason for driving the geese was that, the Whitefronted Goose is renowned for feeding and roosting on the same grounds and as such, the normal goose pattern of flighting from the marsh inland to feed does not happen, and so the driven goose shoot was the norm.
The Trust enclosures were like a magnet to wild birds and over the years many birds have benefited. The Gadwall was a rare bird in Gloucestershire but now is often found moving about the area and found on many ponds, lakes and flood meadows.
Another bird which was largely unknown in the area was the Bewick Swan, now an established winter visitor, many birds moving from Slimbridge daily to feed on Walmore Common near Westbury on Severn which is a RAMSAR site, or the Tewksbury Hams when flooded.
All the dabbling species have increased, with good numbers of Pintail, Shoveler and especially the Mallard which when severe weather sets in many thousands congregate in the Trusts enclosures. At the onset of a cola snap Teal will begin to leave and numbers pass through heading South onto the Continent, some reaching as far as North Africa. Teal build up in numbers early season, often reaching upwards of two thousand over recent years, these birds then thin out leaving southwards as the Wigeon begin to build up. Teal that spend the winter with us have generally come from further afield.
Diving ducks are another duck which have increased. Tufted duck and pochard appear to spend their entire winter on Rushy Pen at Slimbridge. However, some do move off in the evenings and reports from various ponds confirm this.
If disturbed in the day they flight to the Frampton pools, crossing the Frampton marsh There is always a flight of Diving and dabbling Ducks as well as the Canada and Greylag geese which often move to the Trust at the onset of dusk and sometimes return at dawn.
Some feral birds which are protected and may be encountered locally are the Mandarin which is a tree duck and is well established locally. The Goosander is another regular since a brood was reared fully winged on the Rushy Pen, this was a family of young brought in when the duck had been run over in Wales Numbers of Ruddy duck which escaped from the Trusts enclosures in the early days have colonized Somerset and the Midlands, amongst other areas, this interesting little duck which has had a population explosion, have started moving to the continent and is now threatening the European stifftail the White Headed duck by hybridizing. Research currently under way on how to reduce the population of the Ruddy Duck. Canada and Greylag geese were brought to the Frampton Court Estate in the early fifties by joint agreement with The Wildfowl Trust to enhance the park lake, for sport and in the hope that they would fly between Frampton and Slimbridge, they make a spectacular sight crossing the marsh often at flight time, the sight and sound always set the pulse racing. Under the agreement with Frampton Estate many members have had the opportunity of a feral goose or two over the last 6 seasons.
In the early days of the Trust, Pinkfeet were common on the New Grounds, they arrived early in the season and built up to around 200 before moving off around Christmas time, but gradually they decreased until now they are scarce in any number. This appears to be a natural move northward, Lancashire now being the nearest area where they appear in any number. At Martin Mere the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Centre, counts of 20,000 are not uncommon. Wildfowlers should always be aware that any of the Grey geese, Greylag, Bean, Pinkfoot, Lesser Whitefront, Greenland Whitefront can be mixed in (and often are) with our Russian or European Whitefronts.
The Upper Estuary has been an S.S.S.I. (Site of Special Scientific Interest) for some years and in 1988 was designated a RAMSAR site (of international importance). In 1989 the Lower Severn was designated an S.S.SI. And finally a RAMSAR site in 1995. The Estuary is one of the top 10 Estuaries in Britain for birdlife, of International importance for Bewick Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank. On a National scale the area is of prime importance for European Whitefronted Geese, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Grey Plover.
With the continued pressures on Wildfowling it s essential that wildfowlers understand and now their quarry species and be able to recognize them by their JIZZ. This is a word used by birdwatchers to give instant recognition based on shape, size, silhouette, sound and movement.