Dax Miller plans to make airgunning the next big thing at his Wold Farm base. Mat Manning catches up with him to find out more.
The owner of a nationally famous fishing venue is turning his Midas touch to airgun shooting.
Wold Farm Fisheries and Country Pursuits has established itself as an angling Mecca over recent years. The picturesque grounds of mixed woodland and carefully managed lakes are a favourite with the fishing media and regularly attract ‘celebrity’ anglers to take part in high-profile competitions.
But Wold Farm owner Dax Miller is a shooter at heart and wants to encourage people of all ages and abilities to embrace the sport he has loved since boyhood. Situated between Bedford and Wellingborough, the venue already features a remarkable array of shooting opportunities for airgunners, from zeroing ranges to HFT (Hunter Field Target) courses, so Dax laid on a free open weekend in August to show people what he can offer.
Fuelled by the wave of positive feedback from all who attended that inaugural event, Dax now has even bigger plans. He will be hosting a major European target competition later this year and has his sights set firmly on creating one of the biggest events in the airgun shooting calendar for 2022.
Eager to find out more about Wold Farm and its sudden explosion onto the airgun scene, I caught up with Dax and quizzed him on his ambitious plans.
Wold Farm is already firmly on the national angling map. Can you tell us a little bit about the fishing you have there and the anglers you have attracted to the venue?
We have five lakes offering a huge variety of fishing, from specimen carp and catfish to big-weight match lakes and mixed silverfish waters—we even have a trout lake.
Over the years we have built a very good relationship with Angling Times and the magazine’s tackle editor, Mark Sawyer. We also work closely with Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine. Being so picturesque, they shoot a lot of features here and we are regularly visited by the likes of Phil Ringer, Mark Pollard, Tony Grigorjevs, Keith Arthur, Tony Curd and the Matrix guys.
Why did you decide to add airgun shooting to the list of attractions at Wold Farm?
I am passionate about shooting, and have been a gamekeeper running my own shoots for more than 20 years. Airgunning as a youngster with a simple rifle is where it all starts for most of us—stalking a rabbit for tea when you’re a kid and learning basic fieldcraft.
As you go through life you want bigger guns to make life easier but the roots are there from where you began. This is what gave me the inspiration to set up the range. I wanted it to be something different from anything out there so I started planting trees and hedgerows many years ago and I think we have the basis for one of the best airgun ranges in the country.
What facilities do you have available currently to airgun shooters, and can they just turn up to use them?
Yes, people can can just rock up and meet one of our team from 9am. They will be given a safety briefing and asked to read our rules and sign in.
We have a designated zeroing range with paper target holders to get your eye in before you enter onto our 150-metre plinking range, which has four undercover buildings—one can accommodate up to 14 people, one 12, one 10 and the smallest one can accommodate seven people. This range also has some Field Target and some outside benches, and it has disabled access.
We also have a huge building, measuring 80ft x 20ft, that looks out onto a 115-metre range. There’s a permanent woodland walk competition course laid out in beautiful mature woodland, with huge towering oak trees and other mixed hardwoods. On top of that, we have 70 acres of woodland that we will be using for competition courses.
Some of our targets are very different to what shooters are used to. We have put a lot of thought into them in order make people’s shooting as fun and challenging as possible.
Your recent open weekend went down well. What prompted you to host it and what activities were people able to take part in?
Wold Farm is a hidden gem, so we held the open weekend to show people just what we have here.
There was so much going on that visitors couldn’t possibly get bored. People could try fishing under expert guidance and we had an instructor teaching clay-pigeon shooting. And, obviously, there were all the airgun ranges, including a great HFT course set out in the woodland walk.
Everything was free apart from the clay shooting, which we offered at cost. Even the tea and coffee were free, and we got through plenty of that.
Food was provided by street food caterers Feast, whose meat is locally farmed and supplied by Woburn Country Foods.
How well attended was the inaugural open weekend and what sort of feedback have you had?
The open weekend went better than we could ever have expected. We had hundreds of people of all ages here. It was great to see so many families with small children, and to see so many smiling faces. Feedback has been great and it seems that everyone had a great time—some of them have already been back.
I have heard rumours about you wanting to make the open weekend even bigger and better next year. What sort of an event would you like to see it grow into?
After all the positive feedback from the open weekend I am planning to go the extra mile next year. My intention is to host one of the biggest airgun shows in the UK. Our hope is that it will be attended by all the big names in the trade. There will be camping for visitors and full hospitality, including some great music at night.
You are hosting the BFTA Euros 2021 this month. Is the event open to the public and what can visitors expect?
Yes, the European championships will be taking place here over the weekend of 18-19 September. It will be open to the public, so people can come along and watch. We will also be offering camping and full hospitality. Feast will be back with their street food and we’ll have a bar that is very different to any bar people have seen before. You’ll have to come along if you want to find out about that.
Aside from the regular annual open weekend, do you have any other airgun-related developments planned for Wold Farm?
My goal is to make Wold Farm Fisheries and Country Pursuits one of the biggest ranges in the country. The plan is to have a 100-metre indoor range with a cafe and a huge gun shop for all to see and enjoy. It is important to us to have full disabled facilities—I am very proud that everything I have done can be used by people of all abilities.
Right now, we have Bedford and District Cerebral Palsy Society here using the fishing.