Recently I was told about a shooting ground nestled in the Yorkshire Dales called Smaden Head Shooting Ground, not too far from Brimham Rocks. This recommendation came kindly from John Shooter, owner of the NPPC (National Pigeon and Pest Control).
I always love to hear about new clay grounds, there are so many great little shoots hidden away that are not publicised and far removed from the bigger commercial grounds such as Park Lodge Shooting School. I have found a couple of these smaller grounds through word of mouth recently. They are often run by local farmers or land owners who don't necessarily have the time to set up websites and Facebook pages for us millennials to access online, rather they rely on good old fashioned word of mouth and recommendations.
To find out more I was simply given the number for Smaden head and told to give them a call. I had a look for them online but there is very little info provided so I rang Simon Learoyd who owns and runs the shoot. Attendance is by appointment only and you are required to give Simon a quick call before you turn up to shoot to let him know.
Smaden Head Shooting Ground is located just off the B6265 between Risplith and Fellbeck at the back of Brimham Rocks. It is nestled away in the heart of one of the most beautiful parts of our country, the Yorkshire Dales. The drive up to the shooting ground alone is a nice day out and depending on where you are travelling from you have lots of great places to stop for breakfast/ lunch.
The ground is signposted from the main road where you will make a turn down a track to the farm. It is then three quarters of a mile down to the farm across beautiful open countryside. There is no car park and no fancy club house. You will arrive at the farm and have to find a considerate and convenient place to park and make your way down a path to the right hand side of the farm leading to a gill where the shooting ground is located.
This is where Smaden Head came in to its own, it is absolutely beautiful with the most wonderful topography. Shooting across a small valley, streams and lovely woodland. It has a very 'homemade' feel and the stands are set out in such a way that you can shoot the same traps from several stands to create a variety of targets from just one trap. There were a good number of stands running down the gill and through the woodland with a variety of targets on offer from high crossers, to driven targets and rapid going away targets. They were varied, challenging and great fun! The one thing you cant escape noticing is the fantastic echo of every shot you fire as it rips through the gill creating a very atmospheric shoot.
One thing I did like about Smaden Head that kept the intrigue going is that you cant always see where the traps are placed. They are hidden on hill tops or nestled in woodland meaning you cant always predict where the clays will appear from. This makes for a much more enjoyable shoot than those grounds where the traps are clearly visible on an open field. Given that there were no leaves on the trees at this time of year I can only imagine how fantastic this place will look in summer. With more cover I expect the targets to be even more fun and challenging!
I don't know if this is always the case, but it was very quiet. In fact, we had the ground entirely to ourselves which was lovely. We could explore the ground at our own pace without worrying about holding people up or indeed queuing behind those huge groups that sometimes frequent the more commercial grounds.
I loved everything about Smaden head. The only slight criticism could be that there were cartridge casings everywhere and a lot of the bins were overflowing with cartridge cases and boxes. It did need a bit of a tidy up, but again this is not a polished, clean cut shooting ground. This is a a ground with bags of character and a rustic feel. It is one of the cheaper grounds I have been to as well with a round of 50 sporting costing only £11.
I have found a new favourite here with Smaden Head and cannot wait to return to have a bash at some more clays. It is informal, relaxed, enjoyable and very picturesque. If you are looking for a new shooting ground to try out don't hesitate to give them a call and see when you can get down to shoot in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales!
Address: Smaden Head Farm, Eavestone, Ripon HG4 3HB
Phone: 01765 620644
See some photos of our trip to Smaden head below: