Recent changes to access at Wilton 3 have caused concern amongst the Lancashire climbing community, but the BMC and local climbers have met with Bolton Gun Club (the owners of Wilton 3) to resolve any problems. A new access route has now been agreed which works for climbers whilst helping the Gun Club maintain safety on a live firing range and the future is looking positive for climbers and shooters at Wilton 3.
Bolton Gun Club (BGC) have recently had to improve their security at Wilton 3 at the request of the police, in order to make it harder for illegal shooters to access the range in the quarry, as well as reducing the likelihood of a member of the public walking onto the range whilst firing is in progress. The objective of the BGC is not to prevent climbers from accessing the quarry – in fact the BGC hope to see more climbers using the crag on climbing days as we help to discourage illegal shooters and other anti-social behaviour.
There has been a change to how climbers access the quarry however, and access is no longer possible through the front gate. The main access route for Wilton 3 now starts from the layby car park below the quarry and follows the main path toward Winter Hill for approximately 75m before taking the second turning left towards the quarry. (Don’t be tempted to take the first turning off the Winter Hill path as this leads up steep, badly eroded and unpleasant ground.) This path will lead over a short section of climber friendly post and rail fencing due to be installed in the next week (to replace the existing temporary barbed wire fence which can easily be skirted around). This path joins the vehicle access track from the front gate where it bends into the quarry. New permanent signage is currently being made and will be installed ASAP to direct climbers to the new access, but in the meantime a temporary sign is up on the front gate with access details. Access to Wilton 3 is also possible via Wilton 2 and 4 on all days except Mondays when shooting takes place in those quarries.
BGC have legitimate concerns about security in the quarry and the idea behind the new access route is that it is less obvious than the front gate to illegal shooters and unsuspecting members of the public who for whatever reason haven’t seen the flags flying and have been walking onto the range. By installing a post and rail fence, non-shooters will have to cross a physical barrier, which although easy for climbers, will hopefully make visitors think about whether it is a shooting day or not.
Making access more difficult for illegal shooters also benefits climbers, as these individuals have been known to fire at bottles and cans balanced on the range back stop, which means the bullets strike the rock face and damage routes.
In addition to the new access point, the BMC has also worked with BGC to install new belay stakes to replace some of the old rusty angle iron which was previously in situ. This has the double benefit of providing new anchors for climbers, as well as ensuring that they are situated well off to the side of the footpath around the top of the crag so as not to cause a trip hazard for anyone walking around the top. This is a particular concern for BGC as they now have to fly additional red flags at the top of the quarry whilst firing and have to walk further around the quarry rim than they did previously, often at dusk when fading light means stakes on the path can be hard to see. The new stakes have all been painted bright orange to help with visibility so they should be easily spotted even if grass grows up around them.
The future is looking bright for Wilton 3 and with continued good will and cooperation between climbers and BGC, we should all be able to continue with our respective sports together. Remember to check the RAD for any updates to the access situation at Wilton 3 or any other crag.
The Access and Conservation Trust
The BMC's charity – the BMC Access & Conservation Trust – promotes sustainable access to cliffs, mountains and open countryside by facilitating education and conservation projects across the United Kingdom and Ireland.
By educating climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to enjoy outdoor recreation while minimising their impact on the landscape, conserving the UK’s upland resources, and campaigning for improved access rights, ACT enables future generations to continue to enjoy outdoor activities and the physical, mental and social benefits they bring to individual lives and society in general.
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