Hosting the first GWCT Welsh Game Fair this coming weekend (Friday to Sunday) is the perfect match for the Vaynol Estate at Y Felinheli, near Bangor which has been associated with game shooting since the 1800s.
Lords, MP, generals, colonels and landed gentry have been frequent visitors to shoots at the estate over the past 172 years.
Although not for shooting, whilst in the ownership of Sir Michael Duff and his wife Lady Caroline, Vaynol Hall hosted The Queen, the Queen Mother, Lord Snowdon and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
The estate’s current owners, Myfyr Jones and his family, will see their dream come true from September 9-11 when the GWCT Welsh Game Fair – www.welshgamefair.org – attracts thousands of visitors to celebrate the countryside, country pursuits and conservation.
Fishing, clay shooting, gundogs, game cookery, falconry, horses and hounds, as well as archery, rural crafts, food and drink will feature at the event, which is expected to attract more than 20,000 people.
The Jones family owns a collection of game books recording shooting on the Vaynol Estate dating back more than 100 years. These books and the history of the famous estate makes for fascinating reading.
According to research by Sheila Roberts, of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, the land was originally part of the Maenol holding of the Bishops of Bangor and was purchased in 1533 by the Williams family of Cochwillan, a Caernarfonshire gentry family.
The estate was developed and extended during the 17th century by William Williams, High Sheriff of Caernarfonshire who was created Baronet in 1622.
When, in 1696, the then William Williams died childless, his estate passed to the Crown and William III later gifted it to John Smith of Cheshire, speaker of the House of Commons, who described it as “a tract of bogs and stones”.
The succession of Assheton Smiths and Duff Assheton Smiths in the 19th century saw the transformation of the neglected estate to parklands and gardens, funded by slate industry wealth after Thomas Assheton Smith took over the Dinorwic Quarry at Llanberis in 1809.
George Duff Assheton Smith, who inherited the estate in 1869, was keen on shooting and stocked the park with deer and the semi-wild breed of Vaynol White Cattle which still survive as a rare breed today.
He kept a menagerie of exotic animals which accounts for the bison hut, bear pit, lion house and seal pond which are still in existence. In 1904, he was succeeded by his brother Charles who owned three Grand National winners and built an impressive stable block for them.
The gardens were developed by him for grand entertaining and it was not until 1984 that the estate was sold by private treaty into multi-ownership.
Visitors can see Vaynol Hall, fronted by a picturesque lake, and some parts of the estate close up during the GWCT Welsh Game Fair, which is being organised by Stable Events Ltd in partnership with The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).
Money raised at the event will go to support the GWCT’s charitable work. Leading Welsh celebrity chef Bryn Williams will be creating a bespoke menu for guests in a VIP Enclosure White Park Restaurant – aptly named after the famous Vaynol Cattle – which is being sponsored by Clogau, the iconic Welsh jewellery brand.
Visitors can look forward to a wide range of attractions, displays, shopping at hundreds of trade stands and family entertainment, all with a countryside theme.
Representatives from a range of conservation, farming, field sports and fishing bodies will take part in live debates on Welsh rural issues.
The event aims to foster greater communication and co-operation between sectors and promote the benefits of country pursuits and conservation to a wider audience.
The impressive Vaynol Hall and lake.