Estates within the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation (NYMMO) are reflecting on the latest grouse season with many hailing it as one that bucked the national trend and local businesses claiming it one of the best on record.
The iconic wild red grouse is a very hardy sub-Artic bird but its breeding success can be unpredictable. Unlike elsewhere in the north of England, across the North York Moors the grouse braved the ‘beast from the east’ and then the drought with the population sustaining a full shooting programme right the way through the four-month season (13 August to 10 Dec).
Red grouse is one of only a handful of birds native to the UK alone and only lives on moors. Having managed the habitat all year for the birds to thrive, if there is any risk of unsustainable shooting gamekeepers take the responsible decision to cancel shooting programmes, as was the case elsewhere in the country.
Managing moorland for grouse shooting is vitally important to remote rural communities in terms of economic, environmental and social benefits and is a lifeline for many local businesses in North Yorkshire, with a full season being significantly more beneficial.
A recent survey conducted across eight out of the eleven estates in the NYMMO group has found that a total of 177 driven shoot days were hosted throughout the four-month season on these estates across the North Yorkshire region.
On average, each grouse moor employs an extra 34 staff on each shoot day which takes in to account beaters, loaders, flankers, pickers-up, house and catering staff.
This equates to an estimated total of 6,018 workdays of additional employment having been provided throughout the 2018 grouse season, benefiting local youngsters, pensioners and migrant workers.
This seasonal work is in addition to the 45 full-time gamekeepers employed year-round by estate members of the NYMMO group to manage the moors for grouse shooting.
Tina Brough, of the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation, said: “The success of this season across the North York Moors is testament to the hard-work and dedication of our gamekeepers and grouse moor managers who work year-round managing our land for red grouse. This benefits the local community and businesses whilst also supporting vital conservation efforts in the North Yorkshire region.
“Grouse shooting is an important tradition and helps to sustain the rural economy, especially during the off-season when tourism is limited. Essential part-time and seasonal employment is provided throughout the shooting season in remote rural areas of the country that would otherwise be lacking. To be able to support over 6,000 extra work days of employment over the past four-month season is extremely important for the survival of small villages in North Yorkshire and offers a vital lifeline for many residents and businesses.”
One local Rosedale resident who has benefited from employment through grouse shooting is 75-year-old John Dent. John joined the army when he left school and when he came out of the army went into civil engineering. John has been working across the North York Moors for the past seven years driving the field truck that transports the beaters up the moors on shoot days.
Seasonal grouse shooting worker, John commented: “I am out each day during the grouse season and enjoy every minute of it and will continue to drive the truck as long as I can. The beaters range in age from young to old and you get to meet so many great people and hear all their stories, it keeps you young. Rosedale is home to me, I have lived in the same house for 75 years and enjoy the great community spirit as a result of grouse shooting.
“I know many who rely on the employment provided by the local sporting estates. For me, it is a fantastic social occasion getting me and many others outdoors and into the community as we will all go for a few beers after a day on the hills. I had a go at beating when I was 11-years-old and back then got paid ten shillings, it was such great fun and I am so lucky to still be a part of it.”
This season also brought both UK and international visitors to North Yorkshire offering a welcome tourism injection to the local area, with hotels and restaurants continuing to benefit. One of the North Yorkshire hotels benefiting from the grouse shooting season is the Black Swan Hotel, Helmsley.
Lis Rickleton, manager of the Black Swan Hotel, said:“Helmsley and the surrounding community have been, for many years dependant on the downstream revenues generated by shooting during the season and we believe very strongly in supporting our local estates and businesses.
“We rely on shooting parties staying in our hotel to support our business in the off-peak holiday season. It also generates add on services which we can offer parties be it shoot dinners, ladies shooting lunches, spa days and even arranging tailored days out for partners and family members not shooting. Shooting is very much the backbone of our rural community.”
Moorland owners and gamekeepers of the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation carry out vital conservation work on precious heather moorland across the area, much of which is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).