A Goal is a Dream with an Action Plan and a Time Frame

I first visited North Walsham Rifle & Pistol Club in July 2016. The club’s membership was flourishing, but the physical fabric of the place hadn’t really moved with the times. The old wooden clubhouse was pretty much as it had been in 1933, when the club was founded.

On that visit, the club’s Development Officer, Mike Kirkham, who has been shooting since he was 15 years old, talked to me about the club’s future. Planning permission for a new clubhouse had been granted, and an application was being put together for funding from Sport England. With help and advice from Liz Davidson, Head of Engagement at British Shooting, Chairman Olly Crysell and his committee worked on a plan of action for all-round improvement.

“The key to our success,” Mike told me, three years ago, “has been to change our club culture to think more like a sports club, and to actively promote and market what we offer.”

Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes (Benjamin Franklin) 

In October 2016, Sport England awarded £75,000 to North Walsham Rifle & Pistol Club towards their new clubhouse. This was marvellous news, of course, but the total amount of money needed was £125,000. The club members worked hard at raising funds for the project, and they also applied for, and were granted, aid from North Norfolk District Council’s Big Society Fund, which was established in 2012 to help fund projects that improve and support the social and economic wellbeing of communities.

Karl Read, Leisure and Locality Services Manager at North Norfolk District Council, was impressed by the drive and commitment of NWRPC.

Olivia Hill, international shooting star, sponsored by Pellpax

“Mike, Olly, and the rest of the committee have worked tirelessly in order to grow participation within this club, especially with the junior section. They’ve worked hard in order to create a fresh presence in North Norfolk, and they’ve forged a great relationship with the Council and Active Norfolk.

“The club has created more visibility locally using positive PR and marketing, and they’ve created a working marketing plan. Mike set up a Sports Development plan for the club, and a new website. In the time that I’ve worked with the club, they’ve has seen a 45% increase in membership, which is unheard of in local sports clubs.

“In a nutshell, the members of North Walsham Rifle & Pistol Club have done all the things we would expect from a Big Society applicant, and in a very comprehensive way. I wish the club every success.”

NWRPC now has over 200 members, some of whom have gone on to compete in national and international championships.

Mingling with Members

The evening began with refreshments and conversation. I caught up with several club members I’d met before, including Charles Cain, who, at 76 years old, is still coaching some of the club’s talented young shooters.

It was a great pleasure to meet 17-year-old Jessie Lodge, who shoots in the 10m Precision Air Rifle county air rifle team – and Freya Giles, 19, who has shot for the England Ladies’ team in .22 Target Rifle.

Imogen Wright

Imogen Wright, who’s just 15 years old, began her shooting career with Explorers at North Walsham. Before long, she was a member of the Scout International Squad. Imogen, who shoots with a Steyr, is now on the South East Regional Pistol Squad (SERPS); later this year, she’ll be competing at the Welsh Open and at the Scout Championships at Bisley.

Tony Clarke, Scouts’ Norfolk Shooting Advisor, told me about Target Sprint – a relatively new shooting discipline that’s becoming incredibly popular, especially among younger shooters. Tony explained how Target Sprint works:

“Competitors run 400 meters, then they shoot five targets. They run another 400 meters, shoot another five targets, and then run 400 meters to the finish. The winner is the first past the post. But …” (I think Tony could read my thoughts.) “But you have to hit the targets. You can’t continue until you’ve hit all five. Bear in mind, though, that there’s a limit to the number of attempts you have.”

I was rather disappointed not to see Olivia Hill, who is sponsored by Pellpax. There was a very good reason for her absence, though: she was in Serbia, competing in the Novi Sad Grand Prix. It was, however, great to chat with Olivia’s mum, Lisa.

The official opening

Mike Kirkham

Mike Kirkham began his address with, “A dream is always a dream. A goal is a dream with an action plan and a time frame.” He immediately had everyone’s attention.

Mike thanked everyone for all their hard work, with a special mention for Tony Clarke, the man responsible for a strong junior membership, thanks to Scout involvement.

There was a special mention for the late Ken Nash (1948-2019), who introduced shooting for the blind into the UK. Ken was a life member of both the National Small-Bore Rifle Association (NSRA) and British Blind Sport (BBS). I had the pleasure of talking to Ken in August 2017, when he contributed enormously to A Guide to Disabled Shooting.

Saul Penfold

Mike handed over to Councillor Saul Penfold.

“In 2017,” he began, “an application was received from North Walsham Rifle & Pistol Club for a BSF grant towards a £125,000 project to replace the old wooden clubhouse. The application explained that the existing wooden clubhouse and its facilities were in a poor state and no longer fit for purpose. There was limited social space, no proper kitchen facilities, and no disabled toilet. A new clubhouse was needed to ensure that NWRPC had the appropriate facilities to enable them to cope with their existing and growing membership.”

Just like Karl Read, Mr Penfold expressed his admiration for the club and its members.

Norman Lamb, Lisa Hill, Freya Giles

“Everyone involved in the project is to be congratulated for their dedication and commitment. It’s a fantastic achievement. The new club house will be an asset to the local community for many years.”

Mike Kirkham declared the clubhouse open, and the ribbon was cut by Freya Giles and Lisa Hill (representing Olivia). North Norfolk MP, Norman Lamb, presented the two ladies with bouquets.

Good luck, NWRPC – and congratulations. Here’s to the future!

Paralympic Archer Mel Clarke is an Inspiration to Children Everywhere

“I tell my story to kids and talk about not giving up”

These are the words that Mel Clarke, two-time Paralympic medallist, left us with last year after sharing her extraordinary story of sporting excellence.

As a result of contracting osteomyelitis after a fall in 1993, 11-year-old Mel found herself unable to walk, and believed that her sporting life was at an end. However, as a teenager, she discovered archery, and soon became one of the UK’s best-performing archers. But when Mel was struck down by Lyme disease at the 2003 World Archery Championships in New York City, the prognosis was grim: in fact, she wasn’t expected to survive.

Mel awoke from a two-week-long coma, paralysed from the waist down, and blind in her right eye. She left hospital and resumed her training. Mel returned from the 2008 Beijing Paralympics with a bronze medal, and the year after, she won Silver at the World Championships in the Czech Republic. At the 2012 London Paralympics, Mel won Silver – pipped at the post by her friend and fellow British competitor, Danielle Brown.

“Everything’s possible when you want to do it”

Mel retired from competition archery in May this year – for the best possible reason.

In January 2019, Mel gave birth to Cali, who’s a dream come true for Mel and her husband Richard Hennahane (also a successful para-archer). In their minds, there was always the possibility that Mel might never be able to carry a child full term. But in January, Cali discredited that theory in the same style that her mother dismissed the general opinion that she’d have to give up competitive archery.

“I can go back to archery later,” says Mel. “But I want to spend time with Cali. I won’t get this time back.”

I ask Mel about the challenges of motherhood in a wheelchair.

“Getting up at night is physically difficult … and I had to find a buggy that I could handle. But everything’s possible when you want to do it.”

“Wow! This is really making an impact”

Although Mel is not competing at the moment, she’s continuing her role of mentor for the Youth Sport Trust – a charitable organisation whose mission is to promote the general wellbeing of children through the provision of sporting opportunity.

The six main aims of the Youth Sport Trust are:

  • To transform PE’s place in the curriculum, putting it at the centre of wellbeing and achievement in education.
  • To support schools, clubs, and families to remove the causes of negative experiences for young people.
  • To unlock sport’s potential at every stage of a child’s life, especially where they face inequality or disadvantage.
  • To equip young people, through sport, with the skills, confidence, and opportunities to lead change in their communities.
  • To champion the impact of physical activity, PE, and sport through research and insight.
  • To deliver their charitable objectives through good governance, a skilled workforce, and sustainable income.

As a mentor, Mel’s work varies from small-group activities to whole-school assemblies. She talks to students of all ages, from the little ones of four years old, to young people of 18.

Many of the children Mel works with have physical disabilities, like the 14-year-old boy with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, whose only independent way of communicating was to turn his head left and right. Mel describes how this gutsy boy trained to be a sports leader. Using communication technology, he led sessions and delivered a presentation to his peers and their parents.

“The able-bodied kids were so impressed. And his mother was so proud! This was something she really didn’t think he’d be able to do. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is really making an impact.’ That child’s self-esteem just rocketed.”

“If I can help one person to think positively … it’s all worthwhile”

Many of the children Mel works with have behaviour issues, or are simply disengaged. The characteristic trait of a disengaged student is a lack of interest. This block to learning can be tackled by helping a disengaged child to connect what they’re learning with real-life experiences, or to incorporate group work and hands-on learning.

Because of sport’s physical nature, a child with social anxiety can feel exposed and threatened in a PE class. Self-consciousness is agony to a person with social anxiety, and fear is a barrier to participation. With patience and empathy, Mel coached a boy with very low esteem to be a sports leader.

“At first, he’d hardly speak at all – to anyone. But during our sessions, his confidence grew, and at the end of his training, this lad delivered a speech to his teachers and class-mates. His mum said, ‘He’s a different person.’”

Of course, not every child will benefit from intervention of this kind. I ask Mel if this is disheartening.

“If I can help one person to think positively about what is possible, and encourage that person to work towards achieving their goal, then I’m happy. It’s all worthwhile.”

“I’m retiring with two titles, which is nice!”

Even Mel doesn’t know whether or not she’ll be returning to competition archery. But if this really is retirement, Mel has hung up her bow alongside the titles of British National Para Champion and British Wheelchair Sport Champion. With her usual cheerful optimism, Mel says, “I’m retiring with two titles, which is nice!”

BASC Director of Firearms, Bill Harriman, Talks to Pellpax

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) receives approximately 10,000 enquiries each year. Last month (May 2019), there were 844 firearms-related enquiries.

Bill Harriman – BASC Director of Firearms and longest-serving resident expert in firearms and militaria for BBC’s Antiques Roadshow – talks to Pellpax about general licences, political influence, responsibility, and preservation of shooting sports.



British Association for Shooting and Conservation LOGO

BASC came into existence in 1908 as the Wildfowlers’ Association of Great Britain and Ireland (WAGBI). In recognition of the fact that a single representative body for shooting sports was required, WAGBI took on this role in 1981, and the organisation’s name was changed to the British Association for Shooting Sports. BASC is unique in the shooting community in that it has a dedicated firearms department.

The current BASC President is Lord Geoffrey Dear, a crossbench peer and former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, who has been described as the best known and most respected police officer of his generation. In 1991, Lord Dear came across a rather feisty paper on antique firearms, and he brought this work to the attention of BASC Chief Executive, John Swift. Impressed with the paper, Mr Swift invited Bill Harriman, the paper’s author, to take on the role of BASC Head of Firearms.

“BASC is a mixture of people who know all sorts of things,” explains Bill, “There’s always a relevant specialist to refer members to, so we cover everything. A triage system ensures that urgent issues are attended to promptly. Flexibility is very important.”


Bill Harriman

“Peter’s the go-to barrister. We’re a good team.”

Peter Glenser

Bill is a member of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences and an Honorary Historical Consultant to the Royal Armouries Museum. He spent ten years in the auctioneer business, specialising in arms, armour, and militaria, and for many years, he’s been one of the trusted voices of authority on arms and militaria for the BBC’s popular and long-running Antiques Roadshow. There surely isn’t anyone better qualified to take on the role of expert witness in legal cases that involve firearms.

Bill works closely with BASC Chairman, Peter Glenser QC.

“Peter’s the go-to barrister. My job is to help the judge and jury to understand the forensics. Together, we’re a good team.”

BASC has approximately 155,000 members. So what’s the attraction?

“Insurance is undoubtedly the biggest draw,” Bill says. “But expert advice comes a close second.”


“If we don’t influence politicians, we might as well go home.”

What does Bill have to say about general licences?

“Things have definitely stabilised. There’s been a really good response to proposals. This will lead to much more permanent general licences … But the shooting community hasn’t done itself any favours by not being familiar with the terms of the licences – there’s a huge amount of ignorance. People who shoot have to take responsibility for promoting what they do. You need to read the licence, understand its terms, and make sure that you’re adhering to the terms. There are a lot of people out to get us. We must be very careful.”

Bill suggests that successful organisations like BASC might have lulled members into complacency.

“There’s a considerable amount of political apathy – a leave-it-to-them-to-sort-out kind of attitude. But politicians are power tarts. They’re influenced by the number of letters they get in their post bags. When someone brings a grievance to BASC, I ask, ‘Why aren’t you knocking on your MP’s surgery door?’ If we don’t influence politicians, we might as well go home.”


“I’ve always been interested in guns.”

As a child, Bill wasn’t encouraged to shoot.

“My dad did his level best to dissuade me from shooting, but I’ve always been interested in guns. I remember being at my Great Aunt Madge’s house – I must have been about seven years old. The sun was shining through the French windows. Propped up against these French windows, and framed by yellow-velvet curtains, was my dad’s BSA Standard Model air rifle from around 1928. I thought, ‘I’d like to fire that!’”

Under strict supervision, young Bill was allowed to fire his dad’s gun. This was the very first time he fired a gun. All these years later, Bill still has that precious air rifle.

As Bill grew up, his enthusiasm for shooting didn’t wane. He grabbed every opportunity to practise and to learn.

“My uncle was a farmer, and when I was old enough to go out shooting, unsupervised, he gave me free run of the farm. And I had a couple of farmer friends from university who let me shoot on their land. I learnt a lot about shooting in those years.”


“Biscuits for life! Just find that woodcock!”

I ask Bill, “What was your greatest shooting moment?”

There’s no hesitation. “I shot a woodcock with a flintlock that was made in 1824. It was one of the last flintlocks ever made.”

Bill is a good shooter, but, by his own admission, he doesn’t stand out from the crowd. He doesn’t really shine. I mean, he’s good – but not that good. (I think I’ve made my point.)

Anyway, out on a shoot, armed with an antique flintlock made by H W Mortimer London (“Very fast ignition, the zenith of flintlock technology”), Bill shot a woodcock! This small, hard-to-spot, zig-zagging bird that’s a challenge to hit in anybody’s book, was knocked from the sky by Bill and his antique flintlock.

But was it? With no physical evidence, this amazing feat couldn’t really be confirmed. I imagine there were those in the party who might have thought that Mr Harriman was telling porkies.

“We couldn’t find the bird – it had disappeared. I said to the senior dog handler, ‘I’ll see to it that those dogs get biscuits for life. Just find that woodcock!’”

The dead woodcock was found, and Bill has basked in the glory ever since.


“Little communities that bring people together.”

The social side of shooting should never be underestimated. For some, it’s a way to be around other people with the option to step into solitude when company becomes too much. For others, shooting is a passion that they love to share with fellow enthusiasts – a life within a life. People who have become isolated through adverse circumstances discover, in shooting sports, a friendly community to relieve the loneliness.

What does the sport mean to Bill Harriman?

“Little communities that bring people together. One thing I like about going on a shoot is that I’m one of the lads. Whilst I have quite a high profile within BASC, on a shoot, I’m just Bill, and I enjoy the banter and the joy of shooting.

“I also get a lot of satisfaction from encouraging new shooters. A young colleague of mine has no background in shooting, but she’s keen to learn. I’m enjoying giving her opportunity and encouragement. It’s lovely to see someone discovering the sport.”

“Who, in your opinion, is, or was, the greatest shooter ever?” I ask.

“Annie Oakley.”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking to Bill Harriman, BASC Director of Firearms. For further information about BASC, you’ll find contact details here. To find out more about general licences, click here.

Pellpax Meets Customers at the Northern Shooting Show

Pellpax staff love meeting customers!

Pellpax is, primarily, an online retailer. Customer service is something we take very seriously, and this is reflected in numerous positive reviews and a lot of repeat custom. Face-to-face contact with customers, therefore, is a rare treat, and this weekend, at the Northern Shooting Show in Harrogate, it’s like all our birthdays have come at once!



Keith is a middle-aged man from Middleton, in Yorkshire, looking to buy a summer deerstalking jacket.

Not so long ago, Keith suffered a heart attack. In the interests of his health, Keith knows that he has to slow down a little, and so he’s decided to take up an enjoyable, stress-free pastime. He’s chosen deerstalking.

With an Environmental Health Food Hygiene certificate, Keith is permitted to butcher deer carcasses and to distribute the meat. I say ‘distribute’ rather than ‘sell’, because Keith makes no attempt to make money from deerstalking.

“I give venison to the old people in the village,” Keith tells me. “I’m actually one of the youngest people in Middleton.”

A particularly charming feature of Middleton is the Annual Village Feast.

“I’m a keen fisherman,” says Keith. “For years, I’ve provided salmon and trout for the Feast. Now I provide venison, too.”


Colin and Marie

A tall, bearded young man approaches the stall. He’s wearing torn jeans and an orange hoodie; his arms and neck are heavily tattooed; his ears and nose are adorned with metal studs. The young man’s heavy brows are drawn together in a frown as he peers into a glass cabinet at the Umarex pistols.

When he speaks, his voice is gentle, and his face melts into a smile. “I’m looking for a birthday present,” he says. “For my nan.”

A petite lady of advanced years (yes, I mean old) grins up at her grandson. “I’m taking up target shooting,” she says. “Colin’s teaching me.”

Colin’s grandmother, Marie, tells us about her life-long ambition to shoot.

“There never seemed to be a good time. I brought up six children, and somehow got involved in bringing up their children! Then my mother was really poorly and needed a lot of care. She moved into residential care, where she died seven years later, shortly after my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”

Colin’s long arm wraps around Marie’s shoulder. “Granddad died earlier this year,” he says.

Colin, a trainee architect, has been shooting for about five years.

“I’ve picked up a few medals in local competitions,” he says, “But I’ll never make the big time. I’m concentrating on my career. But I really do enjoy target shooting, and I’m looking forward to teaching Nan – she’s gonna be brilliant!”



Alan, from Wolsingham in County Durham, is, essentially, a creature of habit.

Allan Willey with the Zbroia Kozak

“I’ve been a Weihrauch guy since 1974,” he tells us.

But when the Zbroia Kozak appeared on the market, Alan was love-struck!

A lightweight and well-balanced bullpup with sensitive trigger and built-in barrel shroud, the Kozak is ideal for quarry shooting. The rifle is named after the Cossacks – democratic, self-governing communities in Russia and Ukraine, who turned their backs on serfdom and religious persecution. Cossack means ‘free man’.

“People are going mad for the Kozak,” says Alan. “I’m left-handed, so the ambidextrous stock is perfect for me.”

When asked about the Pellpax delivery service, Alan says, “Superb. Bang on time.”

Thanks so much to Keith, Marie, Colin, and Alan for sharing your stories with us. And thank you to everyone who popped by to say hello!



Helen George, Paralympic Archery Coach, Talks to Pellpax

In talking to the lovely Helen George, honorary life member of Archery GB, you get the feeling that every twist and turn in her life has been a sort of happy accident. Very little seems to have been planned, and the unexpected has been not so much a case of a dramatic fall into a situation, but more of a smooth slide into it. The wonderful thing about Helen, though, is that as she slides into a new scene, she embraces it wholeheartedly.

The Young Helen

Helen, who was born and brought up in Scotland, took a huge step at 16 years old when she joined the Civil Service and moved to Reading, in the south of England. After about five years in the Tax Office, Helen changed jobs and worked for a short period as a milk recorder. In 1967, and now back in Scotland, Helen joined the Royal Air Force, in Air Traffic Control.

Stationed at RAF Prestwick, in South Ayrshire, Helen took up every sporting opportunity that presented itself. She had the honour of representing the RAF at the Royal Tournament, in a driving event. And she met a very special young man: Tony George.

In 1971, Helen and Tony left the RAF and married. Having been trained in electronics, Tony’s work was with computers. In those early days of information technology, the computer programmer’s life was often a peripatetic one, and for many years, the couple moved around the country to wherever Tony’s work led them; in 1992, they settled down in the north-east of England.

GB archery squad for the Czech Republic games

Getting into Archery

One of Tony’s interests was archery (“At that time, I thought it was boring.”), and in the true spirit of matrimonial compromise, Helen took up the sport to keep him company.

“I started doing archery in 1989, and I shot for Northampton County. But after a couple of years, old injuries – ones I’d sustained from other sports – started causing me problems, and it was becoming difficult to shoot competitively. As a competitor, I couldn’t cope with this. Following advice from David Clarke, who was GB Team Manager at the time, I took up coaching. With his help and encouragement, I went up through the coaching grades to reach Senior Coach level with Archery GB.”

During the 1990s, Helen and Tony George enjoyed several short breaks at Bush Farm, a picturesque B&B in the Shropshire countryside. The B&B owner, Ann Webb, was at that time manager of the GB Paralympic archery team and Honorary Chairman of the Para-Archery Committee. Through their acquaintance with Ann Webb, Helen and Tony became interested in helping with para-archery events.

“In 1998, we helped as general dogsbodies at the first ever FITA World Championships at Stoke Mandeville. By the way, FITA is now known as the World Archery Federation. This event piloted the new archery-specific classification system, which is still used today.”

Stoke Mandeville: Birthplace of the Para-Sport Movement

Sir Ludwig Guttmann (1899-1980) was, metaphorically speaking, father of the para-sport movement. He was a brilliant German neurologist and passionate advocate of physical exercise as a means of therapy for injured military personnel. It was Dr Guttmann, a Jewish refugee, who set up the National Spine Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire. This specialist unit, opened in February 1944, became the birthplace of revolutionary new therapeutic systems, which focused on the building of physical strength and self-respect.

On July 29th 1948, as the Olympic Games were officially kicked off in London, the very first Stoke Mandeville Games were being held at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Organised by Dr Guttman, this competition was a sporting arena for wheelchair athletes from all over the UK – a harbinger of great things to come. When Dutch ex-servicemen joined the competition in 1952, the event became known as the International Stoke Mandeville Games.

In 1960, Dr Guttman held the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games in Rome, alongside the Olympic Games, and from then on, the newly named Paralympic Games have taken place every four years. Since the 1988 Games in Seoul, Korea, the Paralympics have been held in the same host city as the Olympic Games, and the two competitions have been united.

Those who were acquainted with Dr Guttmann have told Helen that he was a very determined and forceful man.

Coach and Ambassador for Disabled Archers

Ambassador for Disabled Archers
By the beginning of the 21st century, Helen and Tony George were well and truly immersed in the world of para-archery.

“In the early 2000s, we were involved in the establishment of visually impaired archery. As the technical delegate for archery, I travelled to Madrid and China in the campaign to bring VI archery into the fold of the International Blind Sport Association.”

As a high-level archery coach, Helen’s expertise was employed in para-development, a scheme that received sponsorship from the Worshipful Company of Fletchers.

“My role was to identify new talent, interview potential candidates for the Paralympic team, and manage training sessions.”

In 2007, Helen became Chair of Archery GB’s Disability Committee, and in 2009, she joined the para-squad coaching team.

In that same year, 2009, Helen teamed up with a colleague, Tim Hazell, and together they founded the Pass-It-On scheme – a training course for coaches, specifically for the coaching of people with disabilities.

“Part of the training meant that coaches had to get around in wheelchairs, which made them aware of doorways, height issues, aching arms, and so on. We’d insist that they spend long periods in wheelchairs, so that they could grasp the full implications of this type of restriction. Anyway, on one occasion, I said to a young able-bodied international archer, who’d been in a wheelchair all day, ‘Are you going to shoot now?’ She looked me in the eye and said, ‘On your bike.’”

With a background in engineering, Tim Hazell was – and still is – skilled in finding solutions to challenges. With a knack for thinking outside the box, he invented bespoke equipment and techniques for his students. Today, he runs his own company, Elephant in the Room, which provides expert training in disability awareness.

After nearly five years, Helen resigned from the squad in order to join the World Archery Para Committee. (Members of this committee must take an impartial role, and are therefore not permitted to be affiliated with a national team.) Working alongside Qualified International Classifiers – who, by the way, are forbidden to assess and provide classification for a compatriot – Helen was involved in rules and classification. She remained on the World Archery Para Committee until 2017.

“After the London Paralympics, in 2012, some of the classification rules changed, and several top archers were no longer eligible to compete in the Paralympic Games. Danni Brown, for instance, was no longer considered disabled enough. In Danni’s case, though, this was partly due to her own hard work; her strength and balance had greatly improved through training.”


The Present and the Future

British Wheelchair Archery AssociationHelen continues to work hard for the BWAA (British Wheelchair Archery Association), an organisation that promotes para-archery and supports individuals in every aspect of the sport.

Between October and April, the BWAA runs training weekends at Stoke Mandeville. This event is for every disabled archer, from beginners to world champions. Fully adapted accommodation is available at the venue, and top-class coaches are on hand to deliver training sessions and offer expert advice. If you attend a BWAA training weekend, you’ll be sure to run into Helen.

Earlier this year, Helen and Tony received the Archery GB Silver Plaquette Award 2018 for: supporting disabled archery at Stoke Mandeville; promoting VI archery; the Pass-It-On scheme; their contribution to the BWAA, LimbPower, and WheelPower. Helen still plays an active role in the WheelPower Multi Sports Events at Stoke Mandeville.

Helen is currently coaching the talented archer, Ken Hargreaves, who has recently made qualifying scores for the GB para-team. Ken has been using a wheelchair since suffering a spinal cord injury in 2003, and he is accompanied everywhere by his faithful assistance dog, Fred.

“Fred is wonderful,” Helen told me. “If Ken drops anything, Fred picks it up. At the Invictus Games in Toronto last year, Prince Harry gave him a special bandana!”

Over the last 20 years, Helen has contributed hugely to the para-sport movement. She is truly someone who has made a difference.

“The sport’s taken us all over the world, and we’ve made an awful lot of friends through it.”

Mel Clarke, Para-Archery Champion, Talks to Pellpax

It was an enormous pleasure – and great fun – to talk to Mel Clarke, record-breaking archery champion and two-time Paralympic medallist. By the age of 20, Mel had been struck down by two debilitating illnesses, but that didn’t prevent the budding child athlete from blossoming into the superb world-class contender that she has become.

Her story is quite remarkable.


Mel, born and brought up in Norfolk, was a lively, competitive little girl, who enjoyed a wide range of sports, including football, rugby, dancing, and athletics; at a very young age, she was running for her county. But after a serious fall during a dance exam, which led to hospitalisation and surgery, Mel had to come to terms with the fact that her legs would never work properly again.

She was just 11 years old.

As a result of the injury, Mel developed osteomyelitis (a bone infection) in her hip. Her mobility now depended on a wheelchair or crutches. She lost all interest in sport.

“I was pretty much told I couldn’t do sport, because I was in a wheelchair. I was allowed to play table tennis, but I found that boring.”
Mel Clarke Archery

Finding Archery

In her teens, Mel was a Girl Guide Young Leader, and was helping to run the local Guide sessions. Her life turned a corner at 15 years old, when she took part in the Guides’ have-a-go archery event.

“I liked the way I was treated the same as everyone else. If I missed the target, I had to go and retrieve my arrow; nobody did it for me. Being treated equally helped me to gain independence … and I really enjoyed the archery.”

Four years after first picking up a bow, Mel was competing at international level, winning a gold medal and setting six IPC (International Paralympic Committee) records at the Disabled European Archery Championships in Poland. The year after, 20-year-old Mel became the first European disabled archer to compete in an able-bodied event at international level.

It was 2003, and Mel was competing at the World Archery Championships.

Contracting Lyme Disease

When Mel collapsed at the 2003 World Archery Championships in New York City, USA, it appeared that she was suffering from the July heat. However, Mel’s condition deteriorated rapidly, and she was rushed to hospital, where she remained unconscious for two weeks, connected to a life-support machine.

The prognosis was grim; doctors did not expect Mel to survive.

Mel was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria of the genus Borrelia, carried by ticks of the genus Ixodes. Mel was now paralysed from the waist down and had lost all vision in her right eye. Her hearing, too, was damaged.

It wasn’t long, however, before Mel was itching to get back to her archery. Doctors, family members, and friends all said that this was impossible and that they wouldn’t allow it. But Mel was a determined young woman, and eventually her persistence paid off.
Mel Clarke Paralympic Games
Being right handed, Mel had previously relied on her right eye for archery, and her blindness in this eye posed problems. Rather than train her whole body to left-handed shooting, Mel began to shoot with her head turned to the right, allowing her to use her left eye whilst drawing with her right arm. This awkward-looking stance has become second nature to Mel, and familiar to her fellow shooters and her fans.

Life goes on

Paralysed from the waist down and blind in one eye, Mel continued to attack life’s challenges with her own characteristic vigour. The additional disabilities that were a result of the Lyme Disease did not deter Mel from resuming her role of teaching assistant at Bignold Primary School, near Norwich. I spoke to some of Mel’s former colleagues.

“She had the ability to motivate and inspire – to build a nurturing rapport with individuals and groups,” Laura Bounden told me. “I’m sure the children were influenced by her determination to achieve her many goals, even when faced with really difficult situations.”

“The children never saw her disability as a barrier,” said Julie Formoy, “because she was able to overcome any barriers she came across.”

Janet Wright, former headteacher at Bignold, said of Mel, “She showed everyone – staff and children alike – that disability in any form does not, and should not, stop anyone from always trying to do their best.”

Mel was now confined to her wheelchair full time – no longer able to get around using crutches.

“Mel’s wheelchair provided added excitement to our days,” continued Mrs Wright. “As well as trying to avoid her as she raced the thing though corridors and negotiated crowded classrooms, she decorated it to celebrate various events at school and in her own life. Flags, Union Jack decals, and flashing lights were quite normal – and Christmas brought out all the glitter imaginable!”

Claire Gabillia summed up the feelings of the whole staff: “We are very proud to have met, worked with, and become friends with Mel.”

Mel worked at Bignold until 2007, when she left to begin full-time archery training in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. To this day, the staff and children of Bignold First School and Nursery continue to follow her career, and Mel is considered to be one of the greatest influences in the history of that little school.

Mel returned from the Beijing Paralympics with a bronze medal. The year after, she won Silver at the World Championships in the Czech Republic. At the 2012 London Paralympics, Mel won Silver, pipped at the post by her friend and fellow British competitor, Danielle Brown.

A combination of shooting, weight work, and wheeling, on top of an old injury, began to take its toll on Mel’s right wrist. During 2015, the pain and swelling in her wrist became so bad that Mel was no longer able to draw her bow. She therefore transferred this task to her elbow, using a bespoke release aid that she designed and built for herself.

“I used a tennis-elbow cup, climbing rope, carabiners … and a bit of initiative! I’m the only person in the world,” she added cheerfully, “who shoots using an elbow and the wrong eye!”

Mel Clarke Champion
This home-made release aid proved to be so efficient, that Mel built a similar mechanism for her team mate, Jo Frith. Jo, a world-class swimmer, who took up archery at the age of 51, has won numerous medals at international competitions, including a gold and a silver at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Jo is the reigning European para-archery champion.

Due to multiple health problems, including the wrist injury, Mel didn’t compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. With the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games in sight, though, Mel’s training is back on track. She shoots 200 arrows a day, six days a week, and works out at the gym on a regular basis.

But Mel always makes time for visits to schools, in her role as athlete mentor. She says, “I tell my story to kids, and talk about not giving up.”

The future

Once again, Mel’s life is changing dramatically, because she is about to become a mother. Mel and her long-term partner, 37-year-old Richard Hennahane (an archer who reached the last 16 at the 2012 London Paralympics), are expecting their first child in December, and the couple are to be married next spring.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken to people who know Mel well, and in every case, their words are full of love and admiration. One of her coaches told me, “She’s so unlucky. If anyone’s going to fall out of a wheelchair, it’s Mel!”

Frankly, I’m amazed at how Mel Clarke has flourished through such overwhelming adversity.

Mel says simply, “You learn to adapt to anything in life.”

James Farquharson Shines at the Welsh Open

In late June, at the beginning of Britain’s glorious heatwave, James Farquharson, sponsored by Pellpax, competed in the Welsh Open Championships at Tondu, South Wales.

James described Tondu Target Shooting Club, with its five outdoor ranges, as an idyllic location. He said, “The weather was lovely and warm, and there was always the pleasant sound of a stream running close by.”

Tondy Shooting ClubHelping at UK Scouting

Shooting with his trusty Walther KK500 Expert, James came 5th in the 50m Rifle 3 Positions. In the 50m Rifle Prone event, he took fourth place in the final – the highest scoring junior. He also achieved a personal best score of 614.2.

A couple of weeks after his success in Tondu, James reprised his role of Range Officer at Gilwell 24. Gilwell Park, in London, is the home of UK Scouting, and this is the venue for Gilwell 24, one of the world’s biggest annual Scouting events. Over a period of 24 hours, Explorer Scouts (aged 14 to 17 inclusively) take part in a wide range of outdoor activities; James was one of the supervisors at the shooting range.

It was a bit stressful,” James said, with a wry smile. “Especially supervising the use of pistols. Being shorter, they’re easier to wave around.

A Desire to Nurture and Protect

One of James’s notable characteristics is his inclination to nurture and protect others. As a former mental health ambassador for his school, and with qualifications in advanced first-aid and water rescue techniques, this talented young target shooter is now heading for a career in medicine.

I’d really like to study Paramedic Science at university,” James told me. “This course is approximately 50% theory and 50% placement. I enjoy practical learning.

It’s been a very busy summer for James, so far. In July, he spent a week at St George’s and Kingston Hospitals, doing work experience, and was thrilled to be placed under the tuition of Parag Patel, a well-known and well-liked ENT consultant. Mr Patel, who performed a tonsillectomy on James a few years ago, was the winner of six medals in full-bore rifle at three consecutive Commonwealth Games.

I asked James if he and Mr Patel had discussed shooting at all, during their time together.

We talked a bit about shooting,” James told me. “But what really made an impression on me was just how highly he was thought of. I was told countless times that Mr Patel was ‘a lovely guy’.

James Farquharson competition shot

You may be wondering where water rescue comes into James’s agenda. However, you won’t be surprised to learn that this young action man is a keen and skilful canoeist. James took up canoeing at 14 years old, as an Explorer Scout. (“Everything I do has been through Scouts.”)

Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme

James chose canoeing for his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. I got the impression that the canoeing option came about by virtue of being the lesser of two evils! However, having discovered the joys of canoeing, James was keen to continue with the sport, and joined Kingston Scout Canoe Club.

When he was 16, there arose the opportunity of gaining the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award – again, through Explorer Scouts. Sadly, it looked as though the expedition would have to be cancelled, due to insufficient numbers. Not being a man to stand by and do nothing, James, along with his girlfriend, Niamh, and two other friends, took on the task of organising this event.

The weather was good,” James told me, “apart from a period of severe thunder storms. We were holding metal paddles in water, but it never occurred to us that we should get out of the water!

In order for the DofE expedition to go ahead, it was necessary for James to engage a supervisor, and he managed to procure the services of Nick Poole, the organiser of Search & Rescue in the South East of England. In payment for taking on the role of supervisor at the DofE expedition, Mr Poole accepted assistance from James and Niamh at Blenheim Palace, for BBC Countryfile Live. For this event, James did the British Canoeing Foundation Safety & Rescue training.

Next Steps

James’s next competition will be the Junior International at Bisley National Shooting Centre, in Surrey. This event takes place from Monday 6th August to Thursday 9th August.

To keep up to date with James Farquharson’s shooting activity, read the Pellpax blog and follow James on social media:

Facebook (www.facebook.com/JHFarquharson)
Twitter (@JHFarquharson)

James Farquharson joins our Sponsored Shooters team

A New Partnership for Pellpax

Based in Norfolk, Pellpax is a nationally recognised company, led by a strong ethos of giving something back to the community. Sponsorship of James Farquharson, a talented target shooter from Worcester Park, London, is one way in which Pellpax is helping to nurture the future of British shooting sports.

James Farquharson is an intelligent and compassionate young man, skilled in a wide range of outdoor pursuits, with an exceptional talent for target shooting and archery. He has gained numerous sporting qualifications, including a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Advanced Open Water Diving certificate, and a BCU (British Canoe Union) Canoe Coach certificate. Among his many shooting qualifications, James has achieved an NSRA Tutor Diploma.

Dedication to the Shooting Community

Since the age of eleven, James has been competing in 10m Air Rifle, and for the last three years, in 50m Prone and 50m Rifle Three Positions, winning a total of twenty-two golds and nine silvers at national and international level. A volunteer in the running of Youth Proficiency Schemes in air rifle shooting, James specialises in the coaching of youngsters with behavioural issues or learning difficulties. As a schoolboy, James’s position as mental health ambassador for his school was testament to his insightful empathy and his commitment to the provision of opportunities for all individuals.

It’s hard to believe that James is just seventeen years old.

Pellpax’s relationship with James is still very new, but it was apparent to us, right from the start, that this focused, articulate young man was serious about his sport, driven by a determination that’s mirrored in his pursuit of a career in medicine. I asked him if it would be possible to continue his shooting career alongside that of a doctor.

“Yes,” he told me. “I’m sure that’ll be possible. Just look at Parag Patel.”

Aiming to Help

Parag Patel is one of James’s sporting and medical idols. The forty-two-year-old ENT consultant, who is well known in and around London for his expertise in the field of ear, nose, and throat surgery, won a total of three golds, a silver, and two bronzes in full-bore rifle at three consecutive Commonwealth Games. James had a story to tell about Mr Patel, for it was the great man himself who removed James’s tonsils.

“At our first meeting, he seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place him. While arranging a date for the operation, I turned down one or two options because they fell on competition dates. ‘What do you compete in?’ he asked. ‘I do target shooting,’ I told him, and Mr Patel asked, ‘Which discipline?’ That isn’t a usual question I’m asked. I told him about it, and then he told me that he, too, was a target shooter, and when I got home, there he was, on the front cover of the NRA Journal I’d been reading!”

Following his tonsillectomy, James was instructed by Mr Patel to keep himself in quarantine for two weeks, in order to avoid picking up infection.

“I didn’t want to miss a competition,” James told me. “So I ignored his advice.”

And who did James meet on the range? That’s right: Parag Patel!

The Pellpax team looks forward to joining James Farquharson as he continues his journey to shooting success. Keep an eye on the Pellpax blog for the latest news.

Pellpax sponsors another young Olympic shooting hopeful

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Hill, a sixth-form student at Paston College, North Walsham, is a champion in the making.

Olivia HillThis talented young shooter, who took up the sport less than two years ago, has already reached a high competitive standard, and is training hard for her climb to the very pinnacle of success: the Olympic Games. Combined with unwavering support from her mum, Lisa, the financial assistance from Pellpax will provide Olivia with the means to train hard and to attend competitions.

Olivia – currently the only competing 10m Precision Air Rifle shooter in Norfolk – is a member of the Norfolk County team, the National Scout Rifle Squad, and the GB Rifle Talent Squad. In March this year, Olivia was accepted by the England Rifle Academy (an ESSU project), established for the enhanced coaching and training of talented individuals. Besides shooting practice at North Walsham Rifle and Pistol Club, and Norwich City Target Club, Olivia’s training schedule includes balancing exercises, dry firing, and a conditioning programme for stamina and strength.

Gaining Personal Bests

In February this year, Olivia took part in her first international competition, the 41st InterShoot event in The Hague, Holland. She performed well and was delighted to achieve a personal best score. In 2018, there will be many more opportunities for Olivia to build on her experience.

In April, Olivia will be competing in the British Open Airgun Championships at Bisley Shooting Ground, in Surrey. This year, the competition has been pushed back from its usual slot in February, so that competitors can enjoy the new rules that see women and juniors shooting a 60-shot match (as opposed to the former 40-shot), which brings ladies’ and juniors’ events in line with the men’s. Later in the year, Olivia will be taking part in the ESSU competition, also held at Bisley.

Over the coming months, Olivia will be doing some product testing for Pellpax. Keep an eye on the Pellpax blog page to find out how rifles from some of the top manufacturers fare in Olivia’s capable hands.

Olivia Hill
Olivia Hill scorecard

Amy Brown – A Star of the Future

Based in Norfolk, Pellpax is a nationally recognised company, led by a strong ethos of giving something back to the community. Sponsorship of twenty-year-old Amy Brown, an exceptionally talented Olympic skeet shooter from Newcastle upon Tyne, is one way in which Pellpax helps to nurture the future of British shooting sports.

Darren Kirk, Pellpax Managing Director, explains: “Occasionally you stumble across someone with an exceptional talent or skill. Left un-nurtured, that talent may blossom, or it may not get the chance to grow to its full potential. Sometimes all it needs is some help – a little push, or encouragement. We feel that, in some small way, we can help those who have the potential to be the stars of the future.”

The first step on Amy’s shooting career ladder was success at the Target Tokyo trials, after being scouted by an APSI (Association of Professional Shooting Instructors) coach during the summer of 2015. Since then, she has competed in national competitions all over the UK, and in international events in Holland, Serbia, Málaga, the UK, and Malta. Amy’s performance at the 2017 International Malta Grand Prix was testament to her enormous capacity for focus and perseverance; knocked back by illness, she won bronze, just days after being discharged from hospital.

Amy says, “Winning a bronze medal at the International Malta Grand Prix last year was my proudest moment to date. I came back after illness and persevered through the entire competition. I came third in my first ever senior competition.”


Amy is a student at The University of Northumbria. Juggling higher education with a sporting career isn’t easy, but Amy’s tutors have always been sympathetic to her athletic commitments, and this support from Northumbria University has been extended to a Performance Athlete Scholarship. Her daily routine involves a tight schedule of lectures and seminars, fitness training with the university sports team, and shooting practice with her coach, Iain McGregor, one of the most highly qualified and experienced shotgun coaches in the UK.


Amy talks about the logistics of balancing study and training: “I take my work with me and complete assignments whilst I’m away training. The university are extremely understanding with this, and we work together to fit my academic studies in with my training.”

But intense training comes with financial cost.


“Pellpax have made all the difference,” says Amy. “I use approximately 1200 cartridges per month, and they’re expensive, so the harder I train, the higher the cost.”


Pellpax supplies Amy with Hull Pro One cartridges, which deliver such high performance that they have been selected by the World Class Performance Programme as the Olympic training load.


Pellpax contributes to Amy’s travel costs, too. “There are plenty of competitions I couldn’t have attended without their help.”


During training and competitions, Amy wears Pellpax clothing, and gives a glowing review of the warm sweatshirts and joggers that she has been enjoying during this winter’s low temperatures.


“There’s a strict training regime at the university, which has continued throughout the cold weather and heavy snow. My warm Pellpax clothing has been wonderful!”


Training to be a world champion, as well as studying for a university degree, might be enough on most people’s plate – but Amy is an exceptional lady. Together with her younger sister, Erin, she co-ordinates a ladies’ and girls’ shooting club. Proceeds from monthly meetings are donated to charities such as Bloodwise, an organisation striving to defeat all 137 types of blood cancer, and the Great North Air Ambulance.

This year, Pellpax’s Golden Girl will be shooting at international competitions in Malta, Italy, and Spain. And after that?


There is no hesitation from Amy: “I want to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. That’s my dream.” Then she adds, “I’m enjoying the journey towards it. I’m training hard and meeting so many people. It’s a really nice experience.”


… And Pellpax will be with her all the way.

If you are interested in providing further sponsorship for Amy, please contact Amy at [email protected].