The first bow I ever remember making was from a bit of wood from a tree at the bottom of our garden and some arrows made from bamboo canes and playing cards for fletchings! Another bow I remember having as a kid was a flatbow made from pine with dowelling arrows. I seem to recall outgrowing this suddenly one day when I overdrew and snapped it in half!
Like most boys I read about our prowess with the longbow during many encounters with the French. I also remember learning the true meaning of the two finger salute, something my kids will be taught too.
For many years now I’ve been wanting to take up archery but never really had the spare time or spare cash. I recently came across the Spelthorne Archers after I’d popped into Quicks Archery store in Walton-On-Thames. They were running a beginners course through the summer months which I decided to take.
The course was run on Tuesday evenings and took place in a field at the back of the BP Offices on the borders of Sunbury, Ashford and Feltham. I’d had a look on Google Maps and could actually see the targets to which I’d be shooting. All went well and now six weeks on I’m looking to join the club and go and shoot whenever I want. But first I need a bow!
As I am still developing in both form and strength I didn’t want to spend £300-£400 on a longbow that I was going to outgrow in six months time. So I started asking around if anyone knew of any cheaper, entry level, bow makers. Quite a few bowyers produce ash self bows. Some are held in very high regard. I thought I had made up my mind when I got talking to another bowyer who I had met on Archery-Interchange.
Derek, or Del the Cat as he’s known on the boards, has been making bows for forty years or so. After a conversation about ash self bows Del commented that he had a stave that might make a nice ‘primitive’ style self bow. The stave was hornbeam, a wood he had never worked before and so he started with great excitement – from both parties! Sadly the stave wasn’t destined to be my bow. After a week of work it started to splinter and was ultimately destroyed by Del to stop some other poor sap having it snap during use! A new wood has been worked by the bowyer and a bit of excitement and disappointment has been had by the bowman. Could’ve been worse, he could’ve finished it, only to have it break! Sadly Del didn’t have any more staves that weren’t already spoken for so another bowyer had to be sought.
Now I have contacted the bowyer I was originally going to speak to, Steve Ralph of Albion Archery. He’s been making bows for years too and makes a lot of bows for screen and stage. His bows are held in high regard and by all accounts shoot well (and the entry level bows are very reasonable at £85). I’ve spoken to him and his lead time is two to three weeks. Time will tell…