The original shooting field was not as you see it today, it was possibly an ornamental garden to the estate owned by the Cheetham family from whom we get the name of the park the ground is a part of i.e. Cheetham Park.
By the time the estate was taken over, under covenant by the then Stalybridge council, the field had reverted back to a rough grass meadow.
We believe the field was used some times as a holiday paddock for horses from the horse drawn tram companies that used to be in existence at that time, or the local milk men who used to have horse drawn carts, who knows, but certainly some horses were stabled in what is now our target shed.
Up to the mid nineteen eighties the field, which was very badly neglected, having knee high grass in most places along with marsh tussocks and a pond that appeared periodically at the present seventy metre line, complete with frogs. We still get frogs appearing on the field during the mating period, presumably looking for the pond.
The shooting lanes, if any, took up half the width of the present field and the shooting line was always a muddy, boggy area in wet weather.
It was normal at times like this to wear Wellington boots as the mud was that deep.
If members wished to shoot 100 yards at this stage in the clubs history, they could only do so on the right hand side of the field, next to the club house, it was that bad. After the mid-eighties the field was slowly worked on to improve its appearance and drainage by the now slowly expanding membership.
To the rear of the shooting line, where the palisade fencing now stands, there was a large number of rhododendron bushes, which intruded into the field some six foot or more and were very high. When in full bloom these were delightful, however they also harboured huge numbers of midges, and during the summer months they would come out of the bushes causing considerable annoyance and irritation to members trying to shoot, and could be so bad at times they would stop the shooting.
The wind during the winter and summer used to rattle through these bushes as well, making the shooting line an uncomfortable place to be. To overcome these problems the bushes were dug up and removed for us, by the council estate gardeners. They were then replaced by a line of conifer trees and a wire & rail fence.
This sparked a series of further improvements to the shooting range, starting with a wall being built to the left hand side of the range to widen the access to the ground and allow a carpark to be formed for the growing number of members with cars. The wall was of dry stone construction, using whatever stones were donated by the club members, there were even broken grave stones, which with other stones came from a local deconsecrated grave yard that was being cleared and were supplied free to us by Stalybridge council. There were also several pieces of white marble contained within the finished structure. The wall was built by Clive Stewart-Milner and John Shenton. John later took to planting flowers in the nooks and crannies of the wall.
Following on from this the front shooting line, and then the back shooting line were paved, most of the flags for these came from the old stone flag roof that used to be on the target shed. Over the next 15 years or so, as more flags were donated to the club, both the front and back shooting lines were widened, till only a strip of ground was left between the two, where members could place bow stands.
In 2015 the club applied for and got a grant from sports England. A major part of the grant was to improve the shooting range, which included draining and levelling the field, tarmacking the shooting areas and building a new gabion wall to retain the parking area. These works together with several more improvements took place over the winter months of 2015/2016, and totally transformed the look of the field.
The original field distance markers from the 1950’s till the mid 1970’s were very simple, they were just a small diameter wooden post driven into the ground at set distances along both side’s of the field, each post stood about 12 inches high with a small cross plate, bearing the relevant distance written upon it, and as any vandal will tell you small item’s are good to kick and thus destroy, and that is what happened to them on a regular basis.
Our field markers were being destroyed faster than they could be replaced. This situation was fast becoming a problem, which would have to be solved and soon. The solution was to manufacture distance markers that were very heavy and strong. Your average vandal tends to be very lazy and anything heavy and awkward will soon cause them to lose interest.
After several false starts and revised designs two club members John Shenton and Terry Gregory set about producing these heavy duty field distance markers manufactured with the committees approval and the material costs payed for by the club.
The first stage required an open top, closed bottom box mould 12 inches high, with four in-line compartments, each approximately 12 inches square and manufactured from recovered wood and screwed securely together.
Each box required 2 tubular steel uprights approximately 20” high and set a suitable distance apart which matched the true distance plate fixings points, and pre-drilled to carry a temporary spreader.
The paired uprights were put into the boxes in their final working position and then concrete, which was mixed on site, was poured in and around the uprights filling the boxes fully and then left to set. You get through a lot of stone chippings, sand and cement when making concrete and it was hard work.
Over a period of weeks this procedure was completed some 7 times. Producing a total of 28 units in all. This was enough blocks for the field requirements at that time.
If you ever get the chance to look at the back of the distance markers you can see large initials “F S”, these were the company logo plates which were screwed onto new machinery manufactured by Francis Shaw’s, which was an engineering company with manufacturing premises in Clayton, Manchester. The works closed in the 1980’s and all its buildings were removed, the site was then redeveloped to become an ASDA store which is next to the new Manchester City football club stadium, which was originally built for the 2002 Commonwealth games.
Some plates have the letters “B T” on the backs, these also came from Francis Shaw’s, but they were originally from a company called Bradley and Turton of Bolton, which was purchased by Francis Shaw. Francis Shaw’s also provided all the tubular steel piping, cut to length, all the screws, nuts and washers for the plates, although these items were replaced several years later when the field marking was revamped.
All the logo type plates are of cast aluminium and were donated to the club prior to the 1980’s from Francis Shaw's easily accessed stores along with everything else and more besides. Oh happy days.
In the early 2000’s with the advent of the junior club, additional new markers were required for the shorter distances shot in junior rounds, these new plates were produced by Peter Gregory and made or timber. These plates lasted about 12 years before they needed to be replaced. The replacements were all manufactured from steel plate, which was purchased from Gareth Williams sheet metal company, who together with his parents Ann and Dougie, had all been members in the 1980’s and 1990’s. For these extra plates a further 12 concrete blocks were manufactured using the same process as for the originals, the work this time being done by Terry Gregory and Bill Blake.
All the plates, old and new, were fully painted and the distances marked on them by Terry Gregory. The colour code used for painting the plates was, RED for metric distances, BLACK for imperial distances. There were also a few specials for distance that are allowed to be shot from the rear shooting line, these being 90m, 70m, 100 yards and 80 yards, the colour code in this case is BLACK & BLUE for imperial distances and RED & BLUE for metric distances.
Over the years the club has used several means to identify the points on the ground at which a target stand centre is to be set, for each distance down the range. None were satisfactory and all had weaknesses. The first method used was to paint lines at each distance, across the full width of the field, with a short line drawn to indicate the centre of each target. These lines were drawn using creosote. The drawback of this method of marking was the smell and the possibility of getting the creosote on your clothing or footwear. The application process was also very tiring, and also had to be done accurately, which meant bending down to paint the lines. This could give you back ache for several days afterwards if you were not careful, needless to say it was not a popular job and few members would do it.
This method was abandoned when creosote was no longer allowed to be sold because of the health risks associated with it.
For a while after this plastic circular disks, about 2” in diameter, with a 6” nail to hold it down, were used, but these were susceptible to vandals, both human and badger, and sometimes even the grass cutter, pulling them up.
The next attempt was to use plastic tent pegs, these being bright orange and about 10” long, which were knocked into the ground till only the top was visible. While these worked reasonable well they were a little hard to spot if the grass was not cut short enough or the leaves were not moved in autumn, also the badgers seemed to take them as a challenge and try to dig them out.
The current method is to use 63mm lengths of 63mm square white plastic down pipes. These are filled with earth and laid on their side in a hole, then tamped down. Finally the target number is written on the exposed face with a permanent marker. While not perfect, this system is working satisfactorily at the moment.
The original shooting line and target position numbering system is not really known, but by looking at archive photographs of the time it would appear that the shooting line is a creosote line with small white disks, which could be target pins, indicating the target centres, but no numbering system is evident. It is also presumed that this system was used until the shooting line areas were paved.
When the area of the shooting lines were paved the actual shooting line was painted on to the flags using white gloss paint and the target centres where denoted by a short white line crossing the shooting line at 90°, with each of these being numbered by painting the relevant number next to it, starting at the left hand side of the field with number 1 and 8 on the right hand side next to the pavilion, this was the front shooting line.
The rear shooting line, because of the boundary line at the time, started at number 2 on the left hand side and finished at number 6 on the right hand side. This was later increased to number 7 following the removal of a few smallish shrubs to extend the rear line in the early 1990’s.
At around the same time it was decided to opt for a more permanent form of marking the target centre, as the painted centre lines faded or peeled and had to be reapplied on a regular basis. The committee approved the manufacture of several steel plates approximately 50x100mm, with a steel spike on the underside. The plates were painted a dull red with the numbers on them in white. The plates where initially just pushed into the ground in front of the flag at the desired centres, but this quickly became a bad idea as every time the grass was cut they had to be removed or the mower blades would catch them, there were also the ever present badgers who took to lifting them up. After a year or so it was decided to modify the plates by cutting the spike off the back, drilling two holes in the plate (one on each of the short edges) and to repaint the plates yellow with black lettering. The paving stones were then drilled and rawl plugs inserted at the appropriate positions and the plates were then screwed down securely. All the modifications and fitting of the plates was undertaken by David Littlejohn.
This system was used until the ground improvement during the winter of 2015/16, when the existing shooting area was completely dug up and landscaped with a tarmac finish. Both front and rear shooting lines, the target centres and the numbers are now drawn on the tarmac using the same white lining material used to mark roads. The number of target centres was also increased to 9 on the front line and 7 on the rear line.
In the early years of the club, in an attempt to keep the grass cut and the field looking reasonable to shoot on, the club was using a small petrol powered grass cutter, the size that you would use in a small domestic garden, it was undriven and needed pushing about the field, which made it unpopular to use as it was dammed hard work.
The field was also in a poorly drained state with standing water in places, so that it was always getting bogged down. It just wasn’t good enough, so something more suitable had to be found for the job.
The club next obtained a homemade grass cutter which was purchased from a friend of a club member, Paul Dingley.
In looks it was a squat machine with a substantial petrol engine, driving a single cutting blade set under a metal casing, with four small undriven wheels, one on each corner.
It quickly earned the nickname of “The Lada” because of its blockish appearance and simple construction. However not being driven it still had to be pushed around the field or sometimes even pulled by several members using ropes along the edges of the field where the grass grew quicker and thicker. It was a good cutter, but very tiring to use, especially as it vibrated like a mad washing machine and your hands and arms would tingle for quite a long time after you had used it. It was an act of devotion to the club that members were prepared to do the job. However like all the grass cutters we have used over the years on the field, it just packed up one day and that was it.
The clubs next machine was a Mountfield petrol driven cutter. This was a real step up and for a while members were volunteering to cut the grass just so they could have ago with the mower. It took a little bit of getting used to, getting the right speed to walk at and the cutting depth, these were all new to the members. This machine cut the time in half to mow the field, but it would still take a good 2 hours. The Mountfield gave many good years of service, but eventually it to succumbed to the inevitable and gave up the ghost.
At this stage the club was starting to increase it membership and had built up a good surplus at the bank, so we splashed out and bought our first sit on mower.
Clive Stewart-Milner and Terry Gregory went to the local Costco store and purchased the mower. Before it could be used however the committee agreed that only certain members should be allowed to use it, so as to prevent it being over used or misused. The job of cutting the grass therefore went to a small dedicated group of retired or semi retired members. These members included Cliff Lewis, Bill Blake and Terry Gregory. This mower gave about 12 years of faithful service finally being retired in about 2012. It needed a few repairs and regular servicing but it paid for itself many times over.
Our next mower, now we had the taste for it, was another sit on, but this one was about half as big again as the previous mower and twice the power. We purchased this one from Leeches of Stockport, and even managed to get a reasonable trade in on the old mower. It is currently giving a good and reliable service to the club. It has to be noted however that the day it was delivered to the club, Terry Gregory was like a child on Christmas morning, eager to play with his new toy, and as soon as it was unloaded and fuelled, he was off.
During one of our many times hauling “The Lada” grass cutter over the field edges, the blades hit a large flat stone flag several times, set low in the ground near the seventy metre mark on the left hand side of the field, damaging the blades.
It was eventually decided to try to remove the stone flag, but after clearing away the grass covering it and then slowly and carefully lifting it up, it was discovered that the flag was acting as a cover to the entry section of a large square Victorian manhole constructed of brickwork. The chamber was at least ten feet deep by six feet square, with a four point drain system in the bottom. Fluids could be seen flowing along the channels, so it was obvious it was still connected to working drains, therefore the cover stone was lowered back into position.
Several years later the cover stone was lifted up to check the condition of the chamber, at which time it was found to have a lot of debris choking up the channels, so Bill Blake clambered down and cleared most of it out. As you can imagine this was not a very nice job, but typical Bill, he just got on with it.
Over the years there have been several attempts to improve the drainage of the field, especially between the 50 yard and 80 yard marks, which before the field was levelled in 2016 formed a small depression running straight across the width of the field. We believe that this area had several hole’s dug in it over the years which were filled with stones and rubble to act as soakaways, however they never had the desired effect and a pond would periodically develop in this depression during wet weather periods. It was finally decided to try and solve this problem in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, the exact date cannot be recalled. The date was set for a Saturday during a period of long dry weather, there’s a novelty for you, and the time arrange to start was about 9:00am. On arriving at the field we were greeted by the sight of John Shenton and his son Matthew, who was about 12 at the time, standing in a hole they had dug, which was about 3 feet deep by 8 feet long. Apparently John could not sleep and had been down at the field from about 6:30am. The other members, who included Neil Foden, Terry Gregory, Clive Stewart-Milner, David Tuxford, Peter Farrell and several more who’s names have been lost in the sands of time, then set about extending this trench so it spanned the from one side of the field to the other, increased its depth to about 5 feet deep, dug out 3 or 4 new soakaways, then placed a 10 inch diameter perforated pipe in the bottom of the trench, connecting up the soakaways, them backfilled everything with stones and rubble for at least 2 feet, before filling in with sand and finally topping off with soil. The trench and the soakaways were all dug out, and filled in by hand, and was all finished for about 6:00pm. Ever member who turned up that day worked extremely hard.
Following the installation of the new drainage the dry spell continued for several more weeks, but when it eventually rained the system did work, and continued to work effectively up to the levelling of the field in 2016.
A similar attempt was made a few years later, around the 20m to 30m area of the ground, but here the sub soil was found to be solid clay from about 6 inches down, which without the aid of a mechanical digger was impossible to dig through. It was therefore decided to try a herring bone layout of several drainage channels to direct the water to the edges of the field. While this did work, after a fashion, this area of the field would still become very muddy in wet weather, but it did dry out a lot quicker than it used to before the drainage was installed.
Another attempt to improve the overall drainage of the field was commissioned by Peter Farrell, who arranged for a company to come to the field and mechanically aerate it. This seemed to have a very positive effect immediately as water quickly drained into the aeration holes, but this this became less and less apparent as time went by. What most members will remember most about this period is that the field felt very springy for several weeks and that it was not a particularly pleasant sensation.
Over the years the shooting field has had its fair share of problems. The main one being the drainage, but the other big problem has been the recurring moss and the general quality of the grass.
The cutting of the grass and the general care of the field has never been a popular job with the membership, as it is just dammed hard repetitive work during the grass growing season. Terry Gregory used to spread fish blood and bone over the field a few times a year, but it was not till Bill Blake joined the club in the 1990’s and he slowly took over the care and maintenance of the field, with occasional help from others, that the feeding and weeding of the field took on a regular routine, this coupled to the regular mowing it now received with the sit on mower started to pay dividends and our field started to look like a lawn, mostly.
With the levelling of the field in 2016, a large area from the shooting line up to the 80 yard line was re-turfed, which did put the remainder of the field to shame for quite a period, but through careful maintenance and cutting the difference when you view the field is hardly noticeable now.
For many years the club had either used the conventional ground quiver for “Have-a-goes”, or the instructor held the arrows in their hand, neither option was really satisfactory, but it was not until Robert Cheatham, whilst helping out at a corporate have a go being held on the clubs grounds, that the light bulb moment happened.
Robert’s idea was to inset 3 x 63 mm diameter plastic tubes, each tube approximately 150mm long, into and level with the ground at each shooting lane point on the front line, from lane’s two to seven. Each tube was fitted with a black cap to keep out any soil, and internally the tubes have fitted a red bottom cap.
One tube is set on the shooting lane centre point with the other two tubes being positioned one each side of the centre by 600mm.
To complete the quiver each tube can have attached, when required, an above soil component, which is a black plastic tube approximately 750mm long which push fits internally into the sub soil tube thus forming a complete tube quiver.
All of the black plastic tubes were provided free by club member Michael Vincent who happened to work in the advertising signs and label manufacturing industry, with the tubes being a waste product after the contents have been used.
The manufacture and installation of the tubes into the soil was completed by Terry Gregory.
This system was used very successfully for a couple of years until the ground improvements during the winter of 2015/2016, when they had to be removed while works were undertaken.
To date the tubes have not been re-inserted into the soil, as the ground and turf are being allowed to bed in. The tubes have however been modified to fit on a short plank of timber which can then be placed on the tarmac area of the shooting line.
Since the ground improvement works and the levelling of the field in the winter of 2015/2016, the field suffered due to the retention of water. Over the next eighteen months the size of the problem became such that the committee employed the services of a professional drainage engineer to survey the land. The engineer, Paul Carnie, on arrival surveyed the field with a camera, which he attached to a drone.
After this survey, Paul gave the club his opinion of what needed to be done. This being the installation of a main large, deep soakaway type trench, on the right hand side of the field, and running the full length. The field, itself, would require four equally spaced, suitably deep, feeder trenches, which would connect to the main trench.
Other smaller sub trenches would also be dug, in herring bone pattern running into the feeder trenches. All the trenches would be backfilled with suitably graded stone and topped off with soil and grass.
All the trenches would be dug with slopping gradients to suit.
The actual costs for having the work done was much less than the committee was expecting, so the project was given the green light.
The work was undertaken over several weekends during March 2018, so as to avoid disrupting the club and members to much.
The machinery used was quite a small as the trenches were only about 500mm wide by about 750mm to 1000mm deep. Once the trench was prepared, a 150mm diameter plastic slotted pipe was laid in the trenches, which were then backfilled and topped off.