Shooting Field Stone Wall Protection
The stone wall behind the trees at the far end of the shooting field has always been considered both a threat and a deterrent to missing the target when shooting 90m or 100 yards. Arrows that missed the target, could end up hitting the wall. If the archer was lucky, the arrow might just bounce back having hit the softish mortar between the stones, alternatively it could hit the stone and shatter into several expensive pieces.
This was taken as an acceptable risk until the early 1980’s when the new Secretary, Terry Gregory, decided to reduce this potential damage and proposed to sandbag the wall up to four feet high for the full width of the range.
The initial work was carried out by a determined group of members, Terry Gregory, Clive Stewart-Milner and John Shelton, but they only managed to achieve a height of just over two feet for about two thirds of the length before insufficient materials, bags and sand, and the drive to continue stopped them.
The bags on the right hand side are covered with astro-turf. This was obtained from a sport complex on Brisco lane in Newton heath, which at the time was having its football pitches all weather surface replaced.
Having obtained permission from the sports complex management, the club was allowed to take any amount of the used Astro turf that they required.
John Shenton, Clive Stewart-Milner, and Terry Gregory duly took as much as would fit rolled up on top of the car that they went in. They went back for a second visit, but by then all the material had all gone.
The work of bagging was later continued at the start of the 1990’s by Charlie Backhouse and Peter Farrell, who were helped on and off by several other club members.
The bagging was finally finished by other club members during one of the annual shutdown weekends soon afterwards.
The First Safety Nets
Once the drive to bag the wall had dwindled, it was decided that hanging safety nets would be a practical, not to mention less strenuous, option.
To help raise the funds to buy the clubs first safety net, a big heavy white one, the club did one of its first “have-a-goes”, which was at a church fair held at Mottram Parish Church.
The fair was held in a field at the rear of the church next to the cemetery, where one of the club’s original founding members, Frank Smith, is now laid to rest
Three club members ran the have-a-go Clive Stewart-Milner, John Shenton and Terry Gregory. They used three straw bales for target bosses and charged 10 pence for 6 arrows. At the end of three hours work, on a very hot summers afternoon, they had raised the princely sum of £75, you can sit down and work out how many arrows were shot that day. However, they had raised the money the club needed to purchase the net.
This net would have a double use, both as safety netting at the club, but also as backstop netting at future have-a-goes.
For this latter use the net would be hung from a frame which would be held in place with guide ropes.
The frame was composed of hollow square section aluminium, originally supplied as just long bare sections by Clive Stewart-Milner, from his glazing business in Ashton, where they were used in the manufacture of double glazing units. These sections were cut into 3 meter lengths with one end then fitted with a wooden block which had a 6mm diameter x 200mm long aluminium spike fitted into it. The spike would go through the steel ring at the end of the net and anchor the guide ropes.
Several sections were deliberately cut shorter, with one end being fitted with a square section wooden peg, 300mm long, 150mm would be secured into the section while the other 150mm would extend beyond the post, allowing it to fit internally into any other post and connect them together.
The post bases were manufactured at Francis Shaw’s by the metal fabrication department and were constructed from four lengths of 20mm diameter steel rod, welded to a 100mm length of square section steel bar, that would fit internally to the posts. One length of rod was connected to each side of the bar to form a cross. In total four bases were manufactured.
The First Field Safety Net System
The first system for hanging the safety nets at the end of the shooting range was simple and basic, 100mm long nails were driven into each of the trees at a height of about 3m.
The nets had to be hung from the nails before shooting could commence, which involved setting up and climbing up a ladder, hauling the net up by hand and then hooking the ends over the nails using one of the eyelets along it top edge. Sometimes if you used the wrong eyelet, and the centre of the net hung too low, you would need to go up and down the ladders again to reposition the net.
However, the upside was the nets could now be moved along the line of trees as required. The downside was that at the end of a days shooting the nets had to be lowered from the trees, using the ladders again, and placed back into the target shed. If it had been raining during the day the nets would be wet and heavy making the task that much more difficult. If the nets were really wet they would have to be hung out to dry in the target shed, otherwise they would start to smell very reminiscent of a damp dog.
The Second Field Safety Net System
To try and remove the need to climb up and down a ladder, the system was revised to incorporate a pulley. One pulley was strung around each of the trees at about the 3m mark again. A rope was passed through each pulley, and a hook was fixed to one end, to hold the net, whilst the other end had a loop tied into it, which could be hooked over another nail hammered into the tree at chest height. When the nets were positioned on the hooks, the ropes could be hauled on to raise the nets up the tree. This system worked for a short time but the pulleys kept jamming as the ropes would slip off the wheels, and when this happen the ladders would have to be brought out and then someone would have to climb up to release the rope.
Again with this system the nets had to be lowered down at the end of a days shooting, unhooked and placed back into the target shed, so there was no real improvement.
The club members who devised this system and put it into operation were many, however, sadly with the passing of time the only ones who can now be singled out for praise are Clive Stewart-Milner and Peter Farrell.
The Third Safety Net System
The first system of putting out the safety nets on nails had worked well for many years, so when the pulley system failed, the club reverted back to this system, however, rather than using the ladders to help raise and lower the nets a pole was designed in which the end of a net could be placed, the pole would then be raised and the net placed on the nail, which was still in the tree. Whilst this was a little tricky, both to handle the pole and position the net on the nail, once you got the hang of it, it was a quick process. Taking down the nets was the reverse process, but some members found if you flicked the end of the net in the right way the net would flick off the nail. Again there was a knack to doing this, but once learnt the nets could literally be down in seconds.
At this stage the club had about five nets, which meant all the spaces between the trees could be filled, but the sheer act of putting out and returning the nets into the target shed was becoming a problem for our growing number of members, especially the more senior ones.
The Fourth Safety Net System
Around 2012, the need to improve the net system was coming to a head. Our long standing neighbour over the wall was now well into his nineties, and the committee was well aware that when he died the land would most likely be sold, and any new neighbours might not be as comfortable with the presence of the archery club if there was not a visible safety system in place. This meant we needed a permanent net system in place, before this happened.
After considering building a scaffolding like structure to hang the nets from, a much simpler and elegant solution was proposed by Terry Gregory & Neil Foden. This proposal was approved by the committee and funds made available to purchase the necessary materials, as well as several additional nets.
The system comprised of steel cable, attached to galvanised steel brackets which would be fixed to the trees with adjustable straps.
There would be a single upper and lower row of nets. The upper nets, which were to the rear of the trees, would be fixed at the top and bottom to steel cables and would be opened and closed rather like theatre curtains, using cord ropes which were stored on wooden tree mounted wrapping points. The nets were opened and closed by hauling on the cords, unfortunately this had to be done from a ladder otherwise the cord would be too long and become tangled.
The lower front nets were hung from another steel cable and were raised and lowered, much like a Venetian blind, using cord ropes again, which were also attached to wooden tree mounted wrapping points. The nets were raised and lowered by releasing or hauling on the cords as required.
The system of brackets and cables, together with the galvanised steel post attached to the Target shed gable end, were installed by the following club members.
Russell Lear and Andy Wardel, aided by Robert Cheetham and David Littlejohn, when required. Russell, Andy and Robert also installed the upper row of nets.
The lower row of nets were installed by Terry Gregory, who was assisted by David Littlejohn and Neil Foden,
The steel cables, clamps and shackles were sourced and purchased for the club by Terry Gregory from a company in Stalybridge.
The galvanised steel post and brackets were purchased from the company Russell Lear worked for.
It soon became apparent however that the current system of lifting and lowering the nets was impracticable, so a new system had to be devised, which entailed several months of experiments.
This involved standing in front of the net, which you would then start to roll up from the lower left hand side along the lower edge while slowly ascending a ladder. This created a large diagonal sausage shape, stopping at the top left hand corner. The next step required you to hold on to the lower net cable with one hand while the other hand held on to the rolled up net, you would then start swinging the net, to and fro, until it could be swung up and dropped into the sling created by the upper net attaching to the cable. To get the nets out also involved climbing up ladders to haul the lower nets out of the sling. This system worked quite well, but it needed practice, and unfortunately the use of ladders, so not every member of the club was physically able to do it.
To get away from using a ladder and thus make it safer it was decided to try using a pole to lift the lower nets in to the upper net loops. The pole could also be used to push the nets out when required.
The pole was 2.1 metres long with a piece of flat timber, 100mm wide by 600 mm long, attached to the pole, along with two 150 mm long supporting side pieces to form a bracketed letter T.
Because using the pole was still physically demanding, a new club member, Walter Spence, suggested lifting the lower net up using a simple pulley block and rope, the pulley block could be fixed centrally on the front upper net support steel cable.
It was decided to give the idea ago, but first we had to purchase suitable pulleys. A search on the internet produced many places to purchase pulleys but all at a prohibitive cost.
It was while trying to source these pulleys, at a reasonable cost, that another new member, Andrew Massey, offered to try and supply the club with the pulleys it needed. It turned out Andy was a part-time sailor, owning and sailing a large ocean going boat which uses pulleys of various types in its sail control systems.
Andy generously offered to searched his spare parts store for surplus pulleys, which he did, and managed to find enough pulleys, and rope, to fit out the full net system with lifting gear.
Walter Spence, successfully installed one net with a pulley and rope to prove the system would work, which it did. One of the clubs junior members, Aneka Mayer, was recruited to be the guinea pig to test out the system, to make sure the nets could be raised up out of reach by a small girl, thus proving that any club member could then raise and lower them safely.
Following a trial period of this new system, feedback was received from other members who had used the pulley system and it was realised both nets, front and back, could be lifted simultaneously if the pulley was situated centrally between the upper cables.
This system was effective and worked well, however with a steady increase in numbers of club members using compound bows and more opting to shoot with larger draw weights, but more importantly faster arrows speeds, it was decided a single upper net would not be sufficient to stop all arrows shot from these bows, especially if they used X10’s or ACE arrows.
It was around this time it also became known to the club that the gentleman who owned the property behind the wall had died, and that his family had put the property up for sale. Not long after this the club became aware that a developer had purchased the land and was planning on building several detached houses, one of which would be considerably closer to the boundary wall than the existing buildings.
With this in mind it was decided we should do a major overhaul of the net system making it more substantial and effective.
The Fifth Safety Net System
This would involve a considerable investment of both time and money on the part of the club, which would include a new one piece fifty meter long net, which would become the new upper front net, and adding nets to the rear of the trees at the lower level.
Over the space of several weeks all the existing nets, first from the upper rear cable and then from the lower rear cable, were taken down and tied together using tie wraps to form a new fifty meter long net, this would be the new upper rear net.
The front and rear netting would now form a new upper double net system which would be permanently set out.
At this stage the lower front safety nets would not be disturbed.
The club cannot praise and thank enough the team that rebuilt the whole of the new double net system over the club's annual shut-down weekend at the end of March 2014.
The rear net reassembly and the pre-assembly work was carried out at the club by Terry Gregory, David Littlejohn and David Hankinson over several days prior to the big build.
Russell Lear yet again sourced the supply of the extra zinc plated tree mounted cable support plates and the steel cable anchor pole mounting brackets, which were required to install the new upper front row of nets. Russell also installed these brackets with the help of Andy Wardle.
The extra steel cables and all the extra clamps and shackles required were sourced and purchased for the club by Terry Gregory from the same company in Stalybridge as used previously.
Walter Spence, who turned out to have an excellent head for heights, reinstalled all the support cables, both front and back, as well as installing all the new nets. Other club members who helped out on the project included Robert Cheatham, David Littlejohn, Neil Foden, Ken Clough, Steve Wild, Andy Wardel, Russell Lear, Kerry Wymes and Peter Brown.
As work began on the property over the wall, the final stage of the net system was started. This involved adding in a new row of rear lower nets and increasing the length of the front lower nets, to give a loose net which is better able to stop arrows.
The existing front nets, which were about 4m long were taken down, bay by bay and replaced with a new net of 9.1m long. The nets taken down from the front were then joined to a new 6.1m long net using tie wraps. These new 10m long nets were then installed on the rear lower cable.
The new houses at this stage had had their foundations cast so the locations of them was all known, and as expected one was very close to the rear wall, so the net system had been installed just in time.
One final decision was taken as the houses were nearing completion, and this was to permanently leave the lower nets down, in their fixed positions. This would remove both the need to have members raise and lower them every time they shot, and stop any new neighbours worrying about the nets not being down.
All the new nets were purchased by the club from Archery World at Preston, and while the amount of money spent with them to purchase the required nets was several thousand pounds, no discounts were offered by them, even though they were politely asked, they even refused the offer of being advertised as a sponsor of the net system.
As with all safety aspects at the club, the net system is constantly being monitored and assessed to see if it can be improved. The cost to the club in purchasing the equipment and materials to erect the net system was considerable, but the consequences of not doing it would be even more costly, as a price cannot be put on the safety of the public, which must be the primary concern of all archery clubs.