2 Nov 2016

The Great Atypus Hunt

Pontesbury Crag, Wednesday 12th October 2016 

So - (have you noticed everyone interviewed on TV for whatever reason always starts replies to questions with “So” e.g.  “What brings you to this remote spot in Outer Mongolia, Dorothy ?” “So my greatuncle, when he was ..... blah blah blah” !) - anyway So there we were assembling in the Earl’s Hill car park about to embark on the Great Atypus Hunt when a party of schoolchildren emerged noisily from their  school bus all attired in climbing gear (the children not the bus).  As they passed by I asked one of their teachers where they were climbing as we were looking for a spider which, lives in cracks and fissures in the rockface at Pontesbury Crag. “That’s where we’re climbing”, he said, and added pensively, “I tell the kids to stick their fingers in the cracks and fissures to obtain a handhold !”.  I went a bit pensive at that point !

Following a quick H&S briefing – “the rocks are high, the ground is hard and the acceleration due to gravity is 9.8 metres per second per second  - give or take a bit” and a briefing on what we were looking for

we set off up the track and avoided being led down the wrong path again (like last time) by the tried and tested scientific method of shouting.

We trudged uphill and downhill and uphill again and a little bit more downhill and then – well you get the picture. Remarkably we moved at a near Staffordshire Invertebrate Group pace and only stopped a couple of times to hit things with sticks and peer myopically into white trays. Cries of “Are we there yet ?” and “Why is it all uphill now ?” were met with the unsympathetic answer “We haven’t even started – wait till we get to the scree slope !” Clearly this was a man with a mission !

We eventually straggled up to the bottom of the scree slope and after a few “Yes really. Yes up the slope. Yes that one there.” we ascended to the base of the rockface.

Remembering that there might be sundry young persons clambering around on the rockface sticking their fingers where it might not be advisable, we circumnavigated the climbing area and made our way further upward.

After finding nothing at a sensible height, our brave and fearless County Spider Recorder (oh alright it was me !)  scrambled up the face of the rock whilst another member of the gallant band held the rockface steady with a stick.

And Lo it came to pass that we found what we’d been looking for:-

Yes that small vertical dirty sock/dog poo stuck to the rock with a silk attachment at the top -impressive eh?

Not to be outdone the youngest member of our gallant band sprung like a mountain gazelle to greater heights and found a sizeable colony of tubes.

It seems now that we must record three dimensional gridrefs.  Forget “Shropshire Firsts” – the new challenge is to obtain the highest record in the County (without the use of long poles or other artificial aids e.g. stilts, oversized prosthetic limbs etc.).

We now had our collective eye in and began to find tubes at a more sensible level.

All told we must have found in excess of 30 individual tubes so sat and had our lunch at various different heights due to the inclination or otherwise to risk necks etc. climbing up rocks. The only slight disappointment was that we did not see any actual spiders wandering about.

We then meandered slowly back to the car park – oh and we found some other stuff on the way !

Thanks to those who supplied photos of this epic adventure.