Re­becca Avi­son

Speaks to Re­becca Avi­son from the York­shire Dales Moor­land Group


What is your role at the group?

There’s So­nia Wig­gins and me, we’re both ad­min of the group. We help run it and put across a pos­i­tive mes­sage to the gen­eral pub­lic about our man­aged moor­lands. We have 28 es­tates in­volved and once a month we or­gan­ise the keep­ers to meet in a lo­cal pub and put to­gether our ideas about how we’re go­ing to fundraise, etc. to pub­li­cise what we’re do­ing. Then, So­nia and I go off and do those things. We’re kind of the or­gan­is­ers.

What is the York­shire Dales Moor­land Group?

It’s a Face­book page that helps fol­low­ers un­der­stand what moor­land man­age­ment is. It’s not fo­cused on grouse shoot­ing, but the money that it brings in and the wildlife that wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t man­aged – to be man­aged it needs to be funded. We’re ba­si­cally ed­u­cat­ing them be­cause peo­ple seem to think it’s just about the shoot­ing and don’t re­alise ev­ery­thing else be­hind it. Nearly ev­ery week So­nia and I get pic­tures and in­for­ma­tion to­gether from our keep­ers, so ev­ery­thing that goes on our page, leaflets and news­let­ters is from our­selves, there’s noth­ing copied from any­where else or from other game­keep­ers.

How did the group start?

We took over the group in May this year. We were aware of the York­shire Dales Moor­land Group and So­nia and I de­cided to take part as ad­min of the group. The keep­ers have all the in­for­ma­tion, but they don’t have the time to put it all to­gether and get stuff go­ing, so that’s mine and So­nia’s role. It’s all char­ity based, we don’t get paid. The game­keep­ers turn up ev­ery month for free. They come down to the shows with us and make an ef­fort, which is good be­cause they are the peo­ple that know the moor the most.

How did you get in­volved with it?

I’ve been work­ing in the shoot­ing in­dus­try for about 13 years, mainly on lo­cal shoots as a picker-up and I’ve al­ways helped out on the moors and grouse count­ing. Sonya is a head keeper’s wife of a grouse moor and en­joys work­ing and train­ing gun­dogs. So, the game­keep­ers ap­proached us to help or­gan­ise it.

How have you been get­ting the mes­sage out?

We’ve been go­ing to the shows along­side the NGO and have been set­ting up stands and do­ing quizzes. We went to Coun­try­file Live and set up a stand of a man­aged moor next to an un-man­aged moor to make peo­ple see the dif­fer­ence. We’ve been do­ing a lot of stuff like that and we’re get­ting pos­i­tive feed­back. We ac­tu­ally did a chil­dren’s quiz show­ing three pic­tures of dif­fer­ent birds, a lot of adults took part and it was sur­pris­ing how many of them didn’t know what the birds were. We also have chil­dren pluck­ing pi­geons and help­ing breast them for the butcher to cook – the kids loved it. It’s try­ing to make them re­alise that an­i­mals are food, there’s that dis­con­nec­tion now.

Is it im­por­tant to fo­cus on the younger gen­er­a­tion?

Def­i­nitelty. We’ve been do­ing school vis­its, which is some­thing our fund­ing goes to­wards. We hire a mini-bus for the day, pick the chil­dren up and go out onto the moor in spring time. We’ll give them some binoc­u­lars and make it a nice day for them, while ed­u­cat­ing them on all the wildlife and what will hap­pen if we don’t do this.

Why’s is the work the group does im­por­tant?

It’s sup­port­ing our tra­di­tion and ed­u­cat­ing the peo­ple that are not knowl­edge­able of what hap­pens on a man­aged moor hope­fully to change their opin­ion. Ev­ery­body has kept quiet for so long and no one has had any facts against the likes of Chris Pack­ham. Now peo­ple can read facts from the moor­land group and have an opin­ion.

“It’s not fo­cused on grouse shoot­ing, but the money and wildlife it brings in”

Shows Re­becca Avi­son along­side keep­ers at the York­shire Show

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