Moors count cost as guns – and pubs – are si­lenced

The im­pact of ex­treme weather on the grouse pop­u­la­tion has taken a toll on lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Hay­ley Dixon

ON A chilly au­tumn evening, the pubs on the edges of the moors come alive with the sounds of cel­e­bra­tion af­ter a good day’s shoot­ing.

This year, though, the same pubs lay empty as a short­age of grouse saw 70 per cent of the shoot days in the North of Eng­land can­celled.

With the grouse sea­son com­ing to a close to­mor­row, it can be re­vealed that the short­age has cost ru­ral ar­eas mil­lions in lost in­come.

The shoot­ing com­mu­nity, which moves into moor­land ar­eas as the tourists be­gin to move out, has van­ished en­tirely in some places.

As well as busi­nesses feel­ing the pinch, lo­cal peo­ple who rely on ca­sual work as load­ers, beat­ers, flankers, and pick­ers have all been forced to tighten their belts.

The grouse num­bers were heav­ily de­pleted by a harsh win­ter fol­lowed by a hot sum­mer, and some es­tates said that the pop­u­la­tion of the birds was at its low­est level in liv­ing mem­ory.

One agent who man­ages 10 grouse moors in the north of Eng­land has es­ti­mated that the total loss to the lo­cal econ­omy from those can­cel­la­tions alone is in the re­gion of £3.45mil­lion.

Jim Sut­ton, the head keeper at one Peak Dis­trict moor, said: “Due to the lack of grouse we have only had four days’ shoot­ing this year.

“On av­er­age, we have about 15 days a sea­son, so it is quite a dra­matic de­crease. It has had an eco­nomic im­pact on the com­mu­nity. There is the knockon ef­fect on lo­cal busi­nesses, ev­ery­thing from the ho­tels and the pubs to the butch­ers that sell us our lunch.

“But there is also a larger so­cial im­pact as well.

“In moor ar­eas we are all aware of iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness in the el­derly peo­ple. We have a num­ber of peo­ple who come out on our shoot days who are re­tired.

“It makes up a large part of their life and the con­tact that they get.

“Nor­mally with the grouse shoot­ing sea­son it re­ally picks up just as the tourist sea­son runs out, and in ar­eas where it would go quiet, a vi­brant shoot­ing com­mu­nity comes alive.”

The 19 grouse moors in the Peak Dis­trict had 120 days planned, of which all but 37 were can­celled, mean­ing ca­sual employees lost out on £226,000. In the North Pen­nines, 13 of the grouse moors had a com­bined total of 350 days of shoot­ing planned for this sea­son.

But 308 days had to be can­celled, re­sult­ing in lo­cal ca­sual employees los­ing out on a lit­tle more than £1million.

For one of these es­tates, which can­celled 63 days, the es­ti­mated cost to the im­me­di­ate com­mu­nity was £400,000.

The three moors in the For­est of Bow­land can­celled all of their com­bined total of 24 days’ shoot­ing, caus­ing £58,000 of lost earn­ings to those em­ployed on their shoot days.

The knock-on ef­fect was felt by lo­cal busi­nesses such as the Inn at Whitewell, which lost £16,500 in restau­rant and ac­com­mo­da­tion book­ings.

Owner Charles Bow­man said that while it had a no­tice­able im­pact, his busi­ness was not the worst hit as some more re­mote pubs cater ex­clu­sively for grouse shoots.

“It is not just the can­celled rooms and the as­so­ci­ated food and drink, but I had peo­ple phon­ing up to see if we were serv­ing grouse as they wanted to eat it,” he said.

“I think that it would have been a com­plete night­mare for some of the pubs that are up on the edge of the moors.

“With­out the shoots, there is very lit­tle hap­pen­ing. It is a beau­ti­ful place to be but fairly quiet.

“Some of the pubs in the wilds of Cum­bria or Northum­ber­land would have been com­pletely empty.”

Adrian Black­more, the direc­tor of shoot­ing for The Coun­try­side Al­liance, said: “This has been a hard sea­son for many peo­ple who rely on grouse shoot­ing for part of their in­come.

“Our fig­ures show its sig­nif­i­cance to many up­land com­mu­ni­ties, where it can be the main eco­nomic driver, and

‘With­out the shoots, there is very lit­tle hap­pen­ing. It is a beau­ti­ful place but fairly quiet’

the im­pact to those com­mu­ni­ties when shoot­ing can­not take place.

“Grouse are a wild bird, sub­ject to the va­garies of weather and other nat­u­ral con­di­tions, so the oc­ca­sional bad year is to be ex­pected.

“For­tu­nately such years are rare, and it is thanks to the unique mo­ti­va­tion of grouse moor own­ers that their in­vest­ment into the man­age­ment of our up­lands con­tin­ues re­gard­less of whether or not shoot­ing can take place.

“This in­vest­ment means the shoot­ing will be back next year, boost­ing the ru­ral econ­omy, and the in­comes of so many hard-work­ing peo­ple, in our re­mote up­land com­mu­ni­ties.”

The keep­ers are hope­ful that the bird pop­u­la­tion will be back to nor­mal next year, but as grouse are wild birds it will de­pend on whether there is a good spring and sum­mer.

A head game­keeper on one of the Peak Dis­trict moors, also be­low, strides with his dogs across coun­try­side which has seen lit­tle ac­tion for the grouse shoot­ing com­mu­nity this year

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