An introductory view to Dunster Week
Yearly, the Grand Western Archery Society hosts its Annual Archery Championship Meeting in Somerset.
However to many in the archery community, this event is simply referred to by the name of the eclectic village where it is held, Dunster.
Set in the historic grounds of Dunster castle, the shooting field is encompassed by the rolling Somerset hills and overshadowed by the imposing castle buildings.
Upon arrival, it is clear to see this event is steeped in tradition. Records indicate an archery meeting has regularly taken place in the region since 1861.
In its current guise as Dunster Archery Week this is its sixty-fourth consecutive annual outing. To provide some context, Dunster Archery Week originated eleven years prior to the England men’s football team World Cup victory; and seven years before the Beatles emerged onto the music scene.
Dunster week commences on a Monday with a WA1440 tournament, before crescendoing through days of field archery, clout archery and traditional longbow, culminating at the weekend with the GWAS regional Championships.
In addition, the Somerset County Championships routinely take place on the Sunday immediately before Dunster Archery Week commences. This in total allows for eight consecutive days of competition in the same location.
It is often easy to forget the immense work required to facilitate an event of this nature. Different events daily require everything from different target lists to varied layouts of the targets on the competition field.
Tuesday’s field archery tournament requires the management of a completely separate venue three miles outside the village; whilst simultaneously a target archery event is taking place on the main competition field in the castle grounds.
An event of this magnitude is only made possible by having a group of stellar volunteers giving endless hours of their time to make this event the success it is. The work completed by the tournament organisers and work party yearly is extremely commendable.
Housed within a grand marquee, the catering facilities provided throughout the entire week are first class. Each day an extensive menu is offered providing breakfast, lunch and, of course, traditional afternoon tea.
Adjoining the catering marquee are a row of boutique stalls, where independent retailers offer unique, often archery related, handcrafted items for sale. This additional blend of hospitality gives an almost festival feel to the archery event.
However, it is apparently clear that what makes Dunster the success it is, is the community of archers that annually make the pilgrimage to this event from all corners of the UK and Europe.
You don’t have to move far along the shooting line without hearing references that this is a person’s fifteenth, twentieth, or twenty –fifth time attending this archery meeting.
One archer has been present at every Dunster tournament for over the past fifty consecutive years. Another couple, having previously wed shortly before a Dunster Archery Week chose to spend their honeymoon present on the shooting line surrounded by their Dunster archery family.
Lifelong friendships and acquaintances are forged at this event, which seems to uniquely and intricately balance both the competitive and social elements of our sport.
I was often told that attending the Dunster Archery Week was something that should be present on every archer’s bucket list.
What is clear to me now, is that every archer’s first visit to Dunster will almost certainly not be their last.
Dunster 2020 will take place between the 14thand 21stJune 2020.
For more information please visit www.gwas.org.
Written & photograph by Chris Horan