The tradition archery shooting seasons are 1st April to 31st October outdoors and 1st November to 31st March indoors.
An indoor shoot extends the shooting season of any club allowing members to shoot in the evenings all year round, as few archers are prepared to shoot outside at night under floodlights, especially during the damp, cold winter months, and the majority of the membership of Stalybridge AC are no different.
An indoor shoot keeps members interested during the darker days of the year and it develops a certain kind of camaraderie amongst those who take part. Lots of clubs without indoor facilities tend to loose members during this period, which is never a good thing for any club.
A few members used to shoot inside the club house on standard round straw bosses, but the internal distance was only about 10 yards at that time and thus was to short to shoot a recognised round. Also the club house could get very cold during the winter and members had to wear several layers of clothing as well as woolly hats etc. They did have a small gas heater, but this gave off very little warm unless you stood close to it. It was not unusual during freezing weather to have ice forming inside the club house on the windows and even has icicles hanging from the ceiling, this coupled with illumination provided by gas mantles meant it was also fairly dark and gloomy and few members liked it for shooting.
This state of affairs continued until the mid-1980’s, which effectively meant the club closed from the end of September until the beginning of April, but with the influx of new members the idea of hiring a venue was raised, and one the new Secretary, Terry Gregory, pursued.
The first real indoor shoot away from the club was at the Etherow riding centre in Broadbottom, which Terry negotiated the hire of for once a week during the indoor season, it had good lighting and a large shooting area long enough to shoot 20 yards. It did however have drawbacks.
The members who attended were required to move the riding centres horses, which were loose stabled in what was to be the shooting area. They had to tie them up in stalls on the left hand side of the hall, in a safe area, before shooting could start.
The stadium owners graciously allowed us to store targets and stands on site and we also had the use of the car park for free.
The club shot there happily for three seasons, however during that time the stadium owners kept increasing the weekly rent which was considered rather mean spirited as the members did have to round up the horses each week, as well as having to lock the premises and set the alarm system whenever they left.
Unfortunately we were to lose favour with them one Christmas when during a round, one of the junior members accidentally shot several arrows off the button on her bow. The arrows all sailed over the top of the target, and by accident landed in a large plastic Father Christmas which was hanging on the wall behind the targets. It just happened that that particular evening the owners were holding a Christmas party for the local worthies and several local council members. You might be asking yourself “Did they see us shoot Santa!?”. The answer, yes they did.
They were watching us with a set benevolent smile on their faces, some with hands shading peering eyes looking out through the glass at us shooting.
However when Santa got shot you could see the expression change and the smiles faded as they realised we had just shot their Santa.
Their action after this unfortunate event was not one you would expect during the season of goodwill. They promptly cancelled our agreement with them and told us to remove our equipment from the premises.
As it turned out however they did us a favour. Shooting at that stadium was not without its problems as on several occasions the horses just did not want to be rounded up, at which times the shooting area looked more like a Wild West show with horses everywhere. It took an age getting them into their stalls, using chocolate or sandwiches as bribes. Horses can also be sneaky, a number of them would rap on the stable doors with their hoofs and would not stop until you fed them, but by far the worse is having a horse relieve itself when you are at full draw and just about to ease through the clicker. Nothing destroys your concentration quicker.
Our next indoor shoot was in a church hall in Godley, which was sourced by Neil Foden, who was the Secretary at the time. The hall was well lit and quite warm with white washed walls and a raised stage area where the targets stood. However it was too small to shoot recognised rounds, but it was free and under the control of its caretaker, who was an ex First World War soldier. He regaled us on many an evening with stories of his time in the trenches. It turned out he had been a first class shooter and section sniper and this led him to wonder if it was possible to snipe with bows.
Because of the length of the range we only shot there for one indoor season.
The TA armoury in Ashton was to provide the club with its next indoor venue, this however had its own unique problems as the area provided by the TA, although long enough and wide enough, had unfortunately a glass faced highly polished wooden case containing the army book of remembrance in it, straight in the middle of the area.
This of course had to be protected from arrow damage at all costs, so to help protect it we would put a large wooden board in front of it and then in front of that we erected several large safety nets attached to wires stretch between aluminium poles. Who knows what would have happened if we had shot that. It was always a major concern while we were there and it placed an unnecessary burden of responsibility on all of us. Yet again this venue revealed that it did not really want us there as the rent rose significantly when we tried to hire the hall the next year.
The question being asked now was, is it possible for the club to have our own indoor shoot?
We had the space available in the paddock to accommodate an indoor shoot, but was it feasible to build one?
As already detailed in these histories the club house has gone through several changes over the years and change is always driven by the members wishing to improve their clubs facilities.
Now the call was for an indoor shoot of our own.
The option of building a separate range was considered and rejected as being too costly, before finally deciding that extending the club house, at both ends, was the best option.
The process of converting the original pavilion into an indoor shooting range and club house would involve all the members of the club at some time during the build.
Any extension was also going to call heavily on the skills of a very limited number of the membership.
After much discussion and the occasional argument the club committee at that time, after reviewing the clubs financial state, decided that it could afford the extension, but only if we undertook the manufacture of it ourselves, with of course Tameside council’s approval.
The design of the extensions were discussed at several committee meetings prior to seeking planning approval from our landlord Tameside council, this matter was dealt with by Terry Gregory who with the help of Neil Foden produced all the necessary site, layout and detail drawings for the extension. Terry also produced the material lists and calculations required to obtain building approval from the council.
The finances were controlled and handled by Tony Taylor who was the clubs Treasurer at the time.
To keep costs down it was suggested in committee that as much second hand material as possible should be used. The responsibility for deciding where we would use new or second hand materials went to Clive Stewart-Milner, who would be over seeing the construction.
Clive would also source and obtain the relevant materials along with Terry Gregory.
Once finished the new indoor gave the club the ability to have two targets permanently setup for indoor shooting.
Initially members who shot inside paid £1 per session, to cover costs of petrol for the generator and faces. After a period of ten years rose to £2 per session, but this then dropped to 50p per session, when mains electricity was installed, and was eventually incorporated into the membership fees after a couple of years.
One of the draw backs of shooting inside the club house is that it is a long narrow, low ceiling structure and when the extension was first finished many members complained that it was like shooting in a tunnel, which was exacerbated due to the lighting. To try and alleviated this there have been several modifications over the years to try and improve the experience.
These modifications have included painting the walls and ceiling of the club house white and improving the lighting, both arrangement and type.
One problem did remain, which only really came to light when more club members started to shoot longbow indoors, and this was the ceiling height on the shooting line. Compound archers could shoot on the left and right side of the building, next to the walls, as these bows are short limbed. Recurve archers, depending on their height, tended to have to use the two middle positions otherwise their top limb might hit the ceiling, which follows the roof slope, and Longbow archers found they had a similar problem. When mains electricity was installed the interior of the club house was insulated and the walls and ceiling cladded. This made the problem even more acute, and depending on who was shooting could lead to three details to allow everyone a comfortable position.
This problem was finally solved in 2016 when the section of the roof over the shooting line was raised by approximately 500mm, thus giving enough room for all archers to shoot from any of the four positions on the shooting line.
Over the years the Indoor Championships have been held only if the venue being used at the time was suitable to shoot a Portsmouth round, so some years they have not been held.
With the extension to the club house we could now hold the shoot every year, but because of the limited number of shooting spaces, eight, three sessions where required to allow all the members to shoot, this initially included both junior and senior members. However as the membership grew the juniors were given their own shoot with two sessions while the senior shoot continued with three sessions. While this worked very well for many years it did mean that the prize giving was either very poorly attended and possibly missing the winners, or it had to be held on another day, neither scenario was suitable so the idea of holding the event at a separate venue was raised.
The first attempt was held at the Medlock Leisure Centre in Droylsden, and from a shooting stand point was a great success. However logistically because of the work involved in transporting all the shooting equipment there on the day of the shoot, setting up and taking down, and then returning it to the club, a majority of members at the time were not willing to help out, which left a small group to do all the work, and this was deemed by the committee to be unfair so the idea was shelved, that is until 2014 when Andy Wardle again raised the idea, but this time using Longdendale High School for the venue.
This venue is much nearer the club, easier to get to and a much better venue all round.
It also helped that the membership was much more willing to help out with the transportation and setting up.
This venue has been used since 2015 and now allows the club to hold both the junior and senior championships on the same day in one session.