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When your Club Captain is called "Mr Clout", you're gonna try clout whether you like it or not!

Archery for me, began on top of Almscliffe Crag. I was about 10 years old and Dad and I would often go rambling with his Wine Circle. On this particular Sunday we'd wandered round the Yorkshire countryside and found ourselves atop the massive millstone grit outcrop. There, bathed in the kind of sunbeam that suggests God is involved, was a bow. Obviously I'm being generous with that description, it was a bent branch held in tension with green wool. It was AMAZING. How it came to be on the Crag, who made it, and why they left it were questions for another time. It was MY bow now. No matter how straight I tried to whittle sticks from the hydrangea to be my arrows, it could manage a 2 yard twang at best. I played with it till the wool gave up.

My next experience with archery was this time under the gaze of the Cow and Calf on Ilkley Moor. This time it was a proper bow on an activity weekend with Girl Guides Young Leaders. The massive bruise on my forearm was a badge of honour, and only made me want to shoot more. I was invited by the instructor to shoot again, by which time I knew archery was the hobby for me. But it was time to go away to college, and as archery clubs are rarely in easily accessible city centre venues, it had to wait another 10 years.

I'd moved to Manchester, bought a car, and found a local club. Unfortunately some unwanted attention from a male club member moved archery from my ideal hobby to the Oh Well Never Mind pile. I'd kind of given up on the idea of archery when 22 years later, a friend was waxing lyrical about her new hobby, that I should give it a go, and join her club. Bows and arrows were back on the table.

I went along, did a beginners course (after 22 years it seemed the sensible route!) and joined the club. From the get go, the atmosphere was nice. Lots of friendly faces, doing something they loved and who were only too happy to share their enthusiasm, within a week of joining I'd been gently shoved into my first club comp and had a great time.

A couple of weeks later, the Clout Collective were hosting a clout instruction course for our club, down in Derby. I'd never heard of clout, but Wikipedia made it sound completely bonkers, so I went along. Changing my aim point from a goal post, to a tree, to a cloud, and getting to my anchor point then just giving it "a bit more welly" made it feel like a game of chance, a craps shoot... and my shots certainly were…

It wasn't until I went to my first clout competition at Neston a couple of months later that it all fell into place. Shuffling round the circle, the colour sergeants pick up the arrows that fall in their scoring zone, and lay them down for collection, that's when it made sense. This was a massive boss laying down, and these ladies were amazeballs! We were shooting further than Usain Bolt sprints, and arrows were skewering the flag! and at the end of my first clout comp, I came away with a third class score and a white metric tassel… and those tassel badges are soooo pretty… I wanted more!

However my 2nd competition was to be a rude awakening, not all clouts are created equal. My first was metric - big happy circle of joy, but my second at Blundellsands was a tiny imperial circle, it wasn't awful though. Clout has something of a relaxed atmosphere to it. The chatty stroll to collect arrows, the sharing of sweets, the collective conga/tango/mango song for the score 2,2,2. There's no po faces here, it's all rather fun. It was a blustery day with a little drizzle, but all in all rather nice… until the last minute of the presentation when the heavens opened. I stuffed my 1st place visitor lady barebow trophy in my pocket and we ran for the car. My white tassel badge was in the post!

The question of the Tri Clout kept being asked, eventually it was answered with me buying a tent and spending my 50th birthday at Neston. The first day was a two way clout - the glorious weather did nothing to soften the blow of a pitiful performance and a very angry knee injury. The small imperial circle of sadness took its second day's victim and I was it. However the third day was rather different. I'd considered pulling out and just sitting in the sun, watching the arrows fly and taking painkillers by the fistful, when it was suggested that someone else could collect my arrows. All I had to do was stand up to shoot and sit down again. The lovely big metric circle of joy was kind to me. I found an aim point, and was rewarded with clout after clout. At the end of the day I came away with a blue metric tassel, and a bowman score.

With a bowman score, I had to check if it was just a fluke, right? And we'd bought a tent… So York was promptly signed up for. The weather was reasonably kind, the rain held off, but the wind was vicious, great big gusts that were hard to predict and were taking tents out.... but the happy spirit was still there. Still we shared sweeties, still we sang and I came away with 100 points exactly, and my black tassel. It wasn't till the presentation that it struck me that I was at the Nationals. The scores were amazing, and I wasn't at the bottom. The second day was the metric shoot, and the chance to see if that bowman score was a fluke. Turns out it wasn't! Another bowman score meant I was starting to get the hang of it! But the end of the season was fast approaching, and it would seem a terrible waste of effort to lose those 2 lovely BM scores…

I signed up for the Shropshire County clout, Croesoswallt Archers shoot in the grounds of the National Ironwork Centre, under the watchful eyes of some crazy sculptures. The weather forecast suggested a mostly fine day with scattered showers. It was actually the windiest day ever with intermittent downpours. The windsock was whistling like a recorder, whilst the 30ft mech gorilla struggled to stay on his plinth. My big light Easton Jazz arrows were not ideal, but did their best to fly true. I was shooting remarkably well considering the wind, but by lunchtime was a few points off target. The weather didn't really improve in the afternoon and despite the support from the gold giraffe, I finished the day 8 points short of my 3rd BM score. But those 2 bowman scores also meant I had 2 first class scores, so my consolation prize was my first class clout classification. Oh and some first place visitor ladies barebow bling!

You can't do everything in the first year! There'd be no need to go back next year… And I am definitely going back next year.

Written by Lisa Goddard

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