'˜You just focus on the target and de-stress' - aiming for success with the Gosport Bowmen
Flying through the air with speed and precision, a dozen arrows head towards their target.
With a thud, they embed themselves, scoring different points according to their position.
The bowmen who fired the shots are not Robin Hood-type figures or even medieval actors, but ordinary people taking up the sport of archery.
The Gosport Bowmen has been a well-established club since 1979 and invites people of all ages and abilities to have a go at archery.
With a wide range of ages, from Owen Jones at just 12 to fellow bowman Peter Judge, who is 82, members meet twice a week to practise and improve their skills.
But the group also gives members the chance to make new friends, build strength physically and mentally and test themselves to hit the centre of the target as often as they can.
Recently relocated to the new Bay Community Hub, a sports hall opposite Bay House School, the group has a 30m shooting range - one of the biggest in the area.
They used to be based within Bay House School, on Gomer Lane, but they grew out of the facilities.
When the new sports hall opened last year, Gosport Bowmen moved in and have been using it since September.
The new, bigger halls means they can cater for more members, something they are keen to do.
Elaine Barnett, from the club, says: ‘Our membership is definitely growing.
‘It has been really great over the past couple of years and now we are keen to get more younger people involved.
‘We can cater for more people now with our new space and anyone of any ability can join. At the moment, we have a member in a wheelchair who is completing the beginners’ course and anyone aged 11 or older can become a member.
‘You don’t have to be strong or sporty and I think that’s what makes archery so attractive to different people.
‘It doesn’t matter if you cannot do physical sports and any abilities are welcome. We have men, women and children who all take part. We even have one lad who has Aspergers who we help get involved too.’
The Gosport Bowmen meet twice a week on a Wednesday and Friday evening. During the two-hour sessions on a Wednesday, the club has a more formal meeting with members using scoring sheets. They use the time to get a personal best or a particular score.
Wednesdays are also the night when the members compete against other teams nationally by submitting their scores and comparing them with other leagues.
Then on Fridays the sessions are more relaxed and casual, giving members the chance to help each other and practise.
For those wanting to have a try, Gosport Bowmen do offer taster sessions.
Elaine adds: ‘We know archery might not be for everyone, so we offer the taster sessions for people to have a go.
‘Then if they like it, they can join the beginners’ course which is two-and-a-half weeks’ long. The sessions are quite popular and the one we have in April is already full. It normally fills really quickly.’
For chairman Maria Johnson, the taster sessions filling so quickly is no surprise. She has only been a member for around two years after wanting to try something new following her 50th birthday.
After completing the beginners’ course, the 52-year-old, from Stubbington, found archery was a good way to de-stress and she has been a member ever since.
‘I am not surprised that so many people want to try archery,’ she says.
‘It is a great way to de-stress as you just focus on the target and what you are doing.
‘We are trying to encourage younger people to sign up but we have got a good range here.
‘Some of our members are slightly more competitive than others but then, if you do want to do it as a hobby, you can.’
Maria says the sport became popular following the London 2012 Olympics.
She adds: ‘We are getting more women turn up which is great to see - that might have something to do with the popular Hunger Games films.’
The Gosport Bowmen attend different events in the town as well as surrounding areas. The have-a-go events at fairs such as the Wallington Village Fair and Bridgemary Carnival are a great way for people to try it.
Elaine says: ‘The events are a great way for people to learn about us and sometimes we have people join from having a go at the fairs.’