A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to be invited to view a new rifle range at Eskdalemuir in Scotland. It was a wet day and Marc Gardner, owner of Gardner’s Guns in Cumbria, took me the last mile up to the firing-point on his quad-bike. At that time, the vehicular access road did not exist and, although cold and wet, I was still in awe of the beautiful Scottish countryside stretching out into the distance – two miles into the distance to be precise! Over the next 12 months Marc put in an enormous amount of money and work to make Eskdalemuir an outstanding facility for long range rifle shooting.
However, over recent months there has been a lot of speculation and mis-understanding on social media, so here is an account from Helen of Gardners Guns as to what has really happened regarding the Eskdalemuir 2 Mile Range.
Marc Gardner set up the original range in partnership with the landowner over two years ago and it was an incredible achievement involving a significant amount of work plus site meetings with the relevant authorities necessary to get the approvals and permissions in place.
Whilst the firing-point and targets themselves were all sited within the boundaries of Over Cassock Farm, the Range Danger Area encompasses neighbouring properties for which Marc had taken on the lease for the sporting rights. Alongside this, the neighbouring landowner gave Marc and his club, Gardners Guns Rifle Range, permission to use the additional landmass for use as the Range Danger Area and to ‘over shoot’.
Two years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears later, the range was starting to gain worldwide renown with bookings for both our club and outside clubs increasing and interest from all over Europe to use the facility for specific training events. Then, the owner of Over Cassock dropped a bombshell on us just before Christmas – he was going to close the facility and we would need to vacate by 31st March 2020.
Obviously we were upset, however, we have had another range in development for the past 8 months that was aimed at being a purpose built College of Policing Training facility which we could utilize for our membership instead. So, plans were made to move our base of operations to the new site for a seamless transfer at the end of March 2020.
As part of the Scottish Government Home Office Approval for Eskdalemuir 2 Mile Range and our Club, we are legally required to notify them of any changes including a move of venue – which we have done. We also had to notify Police Scotland Firearms Dept and, due to the fact we were in the middle of a planning application on the site – which needed to be withdrawn – Dumfries and Galloway Council were notified also.
Our own Firearms Dept, Cumbria Constabulary, were also notified as they are responsible for our Club on the other side of the border.
Moving forward to just after Christmas 2019 and we were told by our Club members that they had heard from the farm manager of Over Cassock that the range wouldn’t in fact be closing but that the Fifty Calibre Shooting Association (FCSA) were taking over instead. We were told that this was negotiated between the FCSA and the landowner a number of months previously.
At this point we tried, without success, to point out to the involved parties that the range could not exist without the additional permissions given to Marc personally and via the lease, due to Over Cassock not having sufficient landmass for a legally required Range Danger Area and requested that the landowner reconsider his position with regards to asking Gardners Guns Rifle Range Club to withdraw.
We received no replies to this other than a change of date – now asking us to withdraw by 12th Feb instead of the previously agreed 31st March.
Following on from several phone calls to Marc, it is now apparent that FCSA have gone public with their intention to take over the range despite our advice that it is no longer fit for purpose. Furthermore, Marc was contacted by Police Scotland advising us to ensure none of our club members shoot at Over Cassock as the range is no longer fit for purpose.
Going forward, Gardners Guns Rifle Range Club members will still have a long range shooting facility. No need to panic, just send Helen an e-mail for more information to firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc is confident that any of you who have previously visited our 2 Mile range will have their socks blown off at the new one! In addition to the photographs accompanying this article which were kindly supplied by our good friend and shooting journalist Chris Parkin, there is a marvelous drone flyover of the Range on the Gardners Guns website at www.gardnersguns.co.uk
Marc is already hosting regular shooting events and competitions at Eskdalemuir and you can access information via the Gardners Guns Facebook page for all the latest dates.