In­vest­ing in a grouse moor could bag some sub­stan­tial re­wards

If you’re game for a great in­vest­ment then a sport­ing es­tate is a sure fire bet. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

AT the break of dawn on Au­gust 12, Roy­alty and landed gen­try don tweeds and Bar­bours, fill up their hip flasks and head to the moors with gun in hand and a dog at their heels.

Over the last few years their ranks have swelled to in­clude celebri­ties, bankers, Rus­sian bil­lion­aires and en­trepreneurs all keen to cel­e­brate the start of the grouse shoot­ing sea­son, spend their “new money” and boost their so­cial sta­tus.

But the plea­sure and chal­lenge of try­ing to shoot a bird that flies close to the heather at speeds of up to 80mph comes at a pre­mium. A day’s shoot­ing costs about £15,000 and if you want the ultimate pres­tige of own­ing a sport­ing es­tate ex­pect to pay a few mil­lion.

Grouse moors with good sized houses are rare – there are only 350 man­aged grouse moors in Bri­tain and most are in Scot­land and the North of Eng­land. Just less than a third are in York­shire.

Wil­liam Duck­worth-Chad, of Sav­ills Coun­try Depart­ment, says: “They’ve been an im­por­tant as­set for the gen­try and the aris­toc­racy since grouse shoot­ing started in Vic­to­rian times.

“Over the last two decades we’ve seen a shift in own­er­ship. Some have been sold and leased to City guys, in­dus­tri­al­ists and en­trepreneurs. They love shoot­ing, but they are mainly ab­sent land­lords who see a sport­ing es­tate as a toy. They go up once a year for a week. The es­tate is a sta­tus sym­bol, but also a very good in­vest­ment.

“They are highly sought-af­ter es­pe­cially if they come with a de­cent house. I’m not talk­ing about a ram­bling man­sion, but some­thing man­age­able and big enough to sleep eight guns and their wives,” says Wil­liam, who adds that the wives are in­creas­ingly join­ing the grow­ing num­ber of women who take part in the sport. Ac­cord­ing to Guns on Pegs, Bri­tain’s big­gest shoot­ing bro­ker, 20 per cent of its mem­bers are now fe­male.

Real es­tate is im­por­tant but the real value of a moor is quan­ti­fied by the av­er­age amount of grouse shot on it.

This is ar­rived at by tak­ing a 10 year av­er­age of pro­duc­tiv­ity, which can be as much as £4,000 a brace (a brace is two grouse). This fig­ure peaked in 2007’s prop­erty frenzy at £6,000.

If the av­er­age num­ber of brace shot on an es­tate is 1,000 per year over a decade a moor could be worth £4m, plus the price of any prop­erty on the es­tate.

Own­ers also need to in­vest in the land and the an­nual run­ning costs are high, any­thing from £100,000 to £200,000 a year de­pend­ing on the num­ber of keep­ers and beat­ers you em­ploy.

It’s a con­sid­er­able sum but you can off­set the ex­penses. If you let a day’s shoot­ing you should get £120-£150 a brace, so 100 brace a day would be £12,000-£15,000. Rent out your moor for 10 days and you have cov­ered your an­nual costs.

An­other op­tion is to lease out your prop­erty, which is com­mon among gen­try, who may be as­set rich and cash poor.

Wil­liam Duck­worth-Chad says: You choose to lease it out to peo­ple who are in the re­verse sit­u­a­tion cash rich and as­set poor.”

So­lic­i­tor Ed­ward Bromet is co-owner of Bin­g­ley, Bur­ley and Hawksworth moors and his con­sor­tium also won the lease for Ilk­ley Moor in 2008 af­ter sub­mit­ting an im­pres­sive plan to re­vive the ecol­ogy of the land­scape. He is pres­i­dent of the Moor­land As­so­ci­a­tion and says own­er­ship comes with a great deal of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“A grouse moor needs size­able an­nual in­vest­ment and a lot of in­put and ad­min­is­tra­tion to pro­tect the heather moor­land and cre­ate the right en­vi­ron­ment for game birds.

“You have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to the en­vi­ron­ment in the up­lands and to the peo­ple you em­ploy.

“I think you re­ally have to be in­ter­ested in shoot­ing and con­ser­va­tion to take one on. I get a great deal of plea­sure from it. It’s won­der­ful to see a healthy moor, with the pur­ple heather in Au­gust and to hear curlews.”

The golden rule if you re think­ing about buy­ing or leas­ing a sport­ing es­tate with a grouse moor is that you must be pas­sion­ate about the sport.

“It re­quires time, com­mit­ment and money to en­sure a moor is looked af­ter, but if you in­crease the num­ber of birds then you will be greatly re­warded,” says Wil­liam.

“Sport­ing es­tates have out­stripped the coun­try house as­set class in terms of per­for­mance and that is be­cause there is a lack of sup­ply and a high de­mand, plus grouse shoot­ing is a sport unique to the Bri­tish isles and it’s the most ex­cit­ing form of shoot­ing there is. Peo­ple will pay a pre­mium for that.”

AIM­ING HIGH: Anna Thomas and Wil­liam Duck­worth-Chad on the Eg­ton es­tate near Whitby. He says: “If you in­crease the num­ber of birds, then you will be greatly re­warded.”

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