Archery resurgence in Stalybridge (with audio)
PUBLISHED: 17:23 23 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:13 20 February 2013
The sport of archery is enjoying a resurgence, with people of all ages queuing up to have a go, as Geoff Wood reports
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Archery Fact File
The British have a long history with archery - a bow dating from about 2690BC was found in Somerset. They were most commonly used for hunting.
It was only after the Norman invasion in 1066, when King Harold reputedly took one in the eye, that the longbow became a weapon of war.
At different times, kings banned games such as football, bowls and golf because they were distracting men from their archery practice.
The Grand National Archery Society, now called Archery GB, was formed in Liverpool in 1861.
Target archery is the most popular form of archery, in which members shoot at stationary circular targets at varying distances and is practiced indoor and outdoor.
Field archery involves shooting at targets of varying (sometimes unmarked) distance, often in woodland and rough terrain.
Clout is a form where archers shoot at a flag (known as 'the Clout') from a relatively long distance and score points depending on how close each arrow lands.
In flight archery the aim is to shoot the greatest distance and requires a large flat area such as an aerodrome.
There are several archery clubs in Cheshire, to find one near you, or for more information, go to www.archerygb.org.
The archers of England are again a force to be reckoned with. Their military prowess may merely serve to add colour to the history books, but archery as a sport is right on target as a leisure pursuit.
Clubs like Stalybridge Archery Club are bursting at the seams with young and old and families eager to grasp the bow, flex their muscles and let rip with a quiver full of arrows.
In olde England, bows and arrows were a weapon from the earliest times. King Harold succumbed to a Norman arrow at the Battle of Hastings but centuries later, the French crossbows proved no match for the English longbows at Agincourt.
Do not expect too many bodies littering the leafy glen of the club ground on the fringe of Cheetham Park, Stalybridge. There are targets, some up to 75 yards away, but all proceeds safely in an orderly fashion as befits a club which dates back 50 years and is one of the oldest of its kind in Cheshire.
Even bad weather cannot daunt these modern-day bowmen. When it strikes, they simply set up targets inside the long and narrow club house.
And with films like the new Robin Hood and archery success at the Olympics, it is no wonder there is a waiting list to join in what need not be a particularly expensive sport.
Margaret Shorrock, the clubs vice chairman, took up archery as a retirement hobby when she turned 60. She is now 78 and one of the oldest members.
She said: We have 60 adult members and 20 juniors. We also have a waiting list of people wanting to join. Bows and arrows have not been used militarily since the late Middle Ages but over the last 50 years it has really come on as a sport.
And just as enthusiasm for the sport has soared, so too has the technology, with your average archer now sporting a complex bow with a backward curve, a sight and a finely tuned balancing weight.
Archery is also very much a family affair. The current secretary is Tracey Mellor of Ashton who works in debt management and shoots with her sons Josh, 18, and Conor, 14.
Josh is quite a star, having broken six national records for juniors. He has also become the national junior clout (or distance) champion.
They were able to get involved relatively cheaply with juniors getting a starter set for about 170 and junior membership costing them (or their parents) 43 a year.
Mum Tracey said: The sport is really good exercise and builds muscles in the upper body. It can be competitive or simply a hobby. Archery is also sociable, but like some other sports it can be addictive.
Overseeing the archers at differing levels of ability is coach Peter Gregory. He has been into archery for 18 years and has had considerable success. His bow cost 1,400. But then, he is ranked number one in Britain for clout shooting, where the arrows are shot at a flag, and has been National Clout Champion six times.
But everyone has to start somewhere and young Aneke Mayer from Stalybridge is doing a sterling job as the youngest member. She said: I like hitting the target and its nice that my dad does this as well.