Following on from the unexpected meeting with Bruno the other day I had a surprise of a different sort today.
The approaching storm Babet seems to be passing us by. Yes it is windy, but the rain forecast has gone elsewhere leaving a sunny morning. A good opportunity to get up to Dunsop Bridge and have a better look at The Trough of Bowland Quarry which I’m supposed to be assessing for an upcoming new guide book to Lancashire climbing. I had a brief look in back at the end of July, but there were Peregrines about and the high bracken made exploration impossible.
The roads are quiet, and I enjoy the ride out through the Hodder valley and into the jaws of the Trough road.
A faint path leads into the quarry, all is peaceful and yes I’m out of the wind below the 70-foot wall of limestone. I have brought my extra long rope, so I should be able to abseil to the ground on it doubled. The bracken is dying back, and I can make my way up the right-hand side. It is steep, and I’m out of puff by the time I’m at the top. I’m concerned about where I can abseil from, the ground slopes steeply down to the top rim of the rock. I seem to remember from years ago trees above the main part but some of these have gone, and I’m limited to the far right side of the quarry. Being extra careful on the steep slope a solid birch tree is selected well away from the edge and using a sling around it I am able to anchor my rope. Gingerly I lower myself to the edge and peer over, my double rope makes the ground when I toss it down, that’s a relief. I should have had a photo looking down for those of you with a tender disposition.
I start to lower carefully as the top rocks are loose in . Before I toss any loose stuff down I bring my ropes back up out of the way, not wanting them damaged by falling rocks. One of the climbs here is called Guillotine, on the first ascent a dislodged rock cut through the climbers rope – not what you want to happen. I am starting to enjoy myself and the rock is generally sound. There is some good climbing here. I clear away a few saplings from some of the ledges as I come down, but this is just a preliminary inspection before deciding whether it would be worth the effort of a proper clean – yes we climbers are a bit obsessed. After some lunch I will go back up and have a closer look. On the photo, if you enlarge it, you can see my rope coming down just right of centre.
As I am reaching the bottom I hear vehicles ascending a track on the fell on the opposite side of the road from the quarry. Strange. I thought I had heard voices up above me a little while earlier. Was I going to get challenged as to my right to be in there in the first place? By now there is a quite a crowd gathering across the way, and worryingly they all are carrying guns. The penny drops, and I realise I’m in the middle of a shoot. The beaters are coming across the fell above me and the guns are waiting to fire at whatever prey they are after, hopefully not me in the middle.
Time to get out of the firing line, I don’t know whether they can see me. Pull the rope down quickly, but no it keeps jamming. No shooting yet. Eventually I can just shove the rope into my sac and set off to walk out. They can see me now. I can vaguely hear them discussing me and expect a reprimand when I reach the road. But no they all seem friendly and wonder what I was doing in there, I apologise for getting in the way, but they don’t seem concerned as they are now banging away at birds flying over them. It gets very noisy. I try to take a video of the commotion, but it is difficult to anticipate when the birds will appear and the firings start.
Back at the car, now surrounded by 4X4s. I talk to a man involved with the shoot – he is actually the caterer for their slap-up meal later. He tells me they are partridges and this is a sporting shoot as they fly so fast. Maybe only one in ten bite the dust, as opposed to grouse shooting when every two or three are shot. The shoot releases over three thousand partridges on this fell alone every year for the ‘sport’ – can you believe it. I bite my lip, I’m not as strong protestor as Greta Thunberg and I feel intimidated by all the guns. I do try to get a gentle dig in about whether they are still using lead shot, he is evasive with his answer and explains that most aren’t for consumption as there is little meat on them!
So it’s all for fun, as if I didn’t know it.
I’ll stick to enjoying the countryside in my own way and will be back in the quarry another day, but perhaps not on a Wednesday.