The Youngest Keeper

Last months BASC magazine covered the story of Britains youngest keeper.   Today it is picked up in the Torygraph….

At an age when most 12-year-olds are nagging to be allowed on their computer games, Robert Mandry is itching to get his homework finished in time to check on his pheasants, set his traps and get in a bit of conservation work before it gets dark.

PlayStation, Game Boy and X-Box hold no thrall for him. There is much to do outside, even though the next shooting season is still seven months away. Building on the success of four shoots this winter, Robert now has young birds to rear, vermin to keep at bay and new cover crops to grow.

He is Britain’s youngest gamekeeper. Looking after the shoot on his parents’ 190-acre arable and beef farm in Hampshire is not just a pastime, it is his passion.

The British Association For Shooting and Conservation, the biggest body representing sports shooting in the UK, said it knows of no one younger than Robert who could be classed as a gamekeeper. And it is full of admiration for his dedication and enterprise.

David Kenyon, BASC regional officer for Southern England, has participated in a shoot organised by Robert and said he was extremely impressed. “The depth of his knowledge is excellent. He ran the day,” he said.

Robert’s parents, Charles and Rosie Mandry, allowed Colin Parson, a local gamekeeper, to run a shoot on their land. When he retired last year at the age of 73, Robert was dismayed.

“I had been following him around since I was seven,” he said. “When he went I wanted to carry on.

“When I come home from school I cannot wait to get outside. I don’t mind computer games but I much prefer being a gamekeeper.”

His mother said: “It is the most important thing to him. He lives and breathes gamekeeping.”

Robert spends two hours on gamekeeping each evening and most of his weekends, assisted by his under-keeper, his 10-year-old brother Tom.

His family farm, near Basingstoke, offers about 25 acres of woodland and cover.

Since taking over, he has negotiated with his father to increase cover crops, organised guest and paying guns and recruited and supervised the beaters.

His father holds a shotgun licence and Robert is able to shoot under supervision.

Last year he incubated, reared and released 60 of his own birds as well as buying in 100 poults.

“I plan to hold about four to five shoots next season. I love every minute of it,” he said.

Heartening stuff indeed.. now, I wonder if there is any chance of our two nippers taking an interest…..

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