As the spelling suggests this is a form of shooting mostly practised in France and southern Belgium. It is the traditional form of target shot in the Archery Companies in France of which there are many. The archers shoots down a narrow tree-lined path some 58 yards (53 metres) long. Such tree-lined alleys later became Beursault gardens (les Jardins Beursault), where the trees were linked with yew or box-hedges or where the trees themselves were replaced by solid wooden guards.
Beursault gardens were installed in all major towns and cities in France and used by local militia and the military as training grounds. Parish and municipal records show some of these gardens date back to the 15th Century and possibly beyond. Seized during the Revolution, the 19th Century saw many restored to the reconvened archer Companies and often remain in their original location to this day.
Whereas for the English longbowmen a good judgement of the distance was seen as important, it appears that in France the ability to shoot in difficult light with sharp contrasts between light and shade was particularly prized. The narrowness of the shooting alley, together with the interplay of light and shade between the trees, guards and hedges makes this type of shooting both unusual and far from easy. The guards either side of the shooting alley, also make this a very safe form of shooting that requires only a small area. Waiting archers can walk either side of the alley in complete safety, protected as they are by the guards. The target spotter or "juge" can place himself within a couple of yards of the target-face which is very small.
The archer shoots a single arrow down the alley, through an open archway into the target-hut (the "logis") and onto the target face itself.
Once all are shot the "Roi" of the company walks down the alley towards the target-hut, while the other archers take the paths either side. The archers meet up and then shoot back the other way.
A well-appointed "Jardin Beursault" will have between two to six such alleys and often take up less ground than a single tennis court.
Originally shot with the English longbow, these days all types of bow are permitted (though at different handicaps).
The target face is basically white with three concentric circles. Many of the traditional faces are however exquisitely decorated.
Dimensions of the Beursault;
Length of shooting alley 52.80 metres or 28 "toises" (57 yards)
Total width of shooting alley 3.75 metres (12 ft 4"), inner or shooting alley 1.75 metres (5 ft 8").
Width of arch 1.75 metres (5 ft 8"), height of arch 2.10 metres (6ft 9")
Guards are 2.50 metres (8ft 3") high and a metre (3ft 3") in width. There are between three to seven of these either side of the alley.
Dimensions of the Target.
The target-face is 65 x 52 cm (26.5" x 20.5"); the diameter of the outer circle is 45 cm (17.7") and was derived from the width of a Medieval man's chest. Arrows within count for 1 point. Higher scores are achieved within the next three circles before one gets to the "petit cordon" of 12.5 cm (4.9") diameter; score three points. The back or inner circle measures 4 cm (1.6"), within this sits "la mouche", the fly which measures no more than 1 cm (0.4"). Small wonder that arrow hits are measured with a vernier gauge !