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”
Rebecca Avison alongside keepers at the Yorkshire Show