We’re often told how ‘beneficial’ driven grouse shooting is to rural communities and how supportive local residents are of their nearby grouse shooting estate. There was plenty of testimony to this ‘rural idyll’ in the written evidence submitted to the Westminster Petitions Committee’s inquiry on grouse shooting. That’s hardly a surprise when some local residents will be directly employed by the estate – it’s in their interest be supportive. But when those without employment links, but who are still entangled in this feudal system, dare not speak out against a powerful landowner for fear of potential repercussions, their silence may also be used as evidence of ‘support’.
However, some local communities are far from happy with this fictional romanticism of their lives and are beginning to voice their dissent. As land reform gains traction in Scotland we’ve already seen proposals for community buy-outs of grouse shooting land at Leadhills (part of the Hopetoun (Leadhills) Estate, see here and here) and at nearby Wanlockhead (part of Buccleuch Estates, see here and here), where local residents are keen to escape the clutches of feudalism and instead improve economic development and enhance tourism and leisure opportunities in their area.
(Photo: Leadhills grouse moor looms large over the village)
Residents of the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire have long campaigned against the annual heather burning taking place on Walshaw Estate, which they believe has contributed to the catastrophic flooding of towns such as Hebden Bridge (see here and here).
And now residents living in the Yorkshire Dales National Park/Cumbria are beginning to raise their voices too. Remember the wildlife crimes uncovered at the Mossdale Estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in May this year, when a gamekeeper was filmed setting three pole traps on the grouse moor? The publicity surrounding those crimes (and the subsequent police cock up that saw the offender receive a caution instead of being prosecuted) appears to have acted as a catalyst and triggered a string of other complaints from local residents to the police about the alleged conduct of the Mossdale Estate landowner and his gamekeepers. The same complaints were lodged with David Butterworth, CEO of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
An FoI request has revealed local residents made the following allegations:
- Firearms discharged across garden with children in;
- Unattended firearms left on quads;
- Firearms being discharged next to (? Across) A684;
- Confrontation with gamekeepers and intimidation of residents
The full set of allegations can be read in this part of the response we received to an FoI made to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority: mossdale-complaint-local-residents
You’ll notice in the above correspondence that the residents also complained about the response they received from Cumbria Police. Since then (June 2016), further information has revealed that the Police eventually met with Mossdale Estate owner Edward Van Cutsem and his head gamekeeper on 22 September 2016 and they concluded that no offences had occurred.
There’s a lot more to this particular story than we’re able to publish at the moment but hopefully we’ll be able to in due course. Suffice to say, local residents are still VERY unhappy about the way their complaints were handled. Local MP Tim Farron has been consulted and it’ll be interesting to see whether he attends tomorrow’s Westminster debate on driven grouse shooting and speaks up for his constituents’ concerns.