It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of His Grace the Duke of Westminster at the age of 64.
Simon Hart MP, Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, paid tribute to the late Duke, saying: “He was a consummate countryman and had been involved in rural campaigning for many years, helping to set up the Countryside Movement, the precursor to the Countryside Alliance. Vice President since our inception the Duke was passionate about standing up for the countryside, especially fieldsports as they came under increasing political scrutiny. He was also a noted conservationist and took his role as custodian of his estates extremely seriously. Our campaigning work carries on and we will remember him with huge gratitude and affection. Our thoughts are very much with his family and friends.”
The Unsung Heroes of the Glorious 12th
Grouse shooting is shooting on a grand, sweeping scale. The speed and agility of the birds, the breath-taking majesty of the landscapes, the centuries of countryside tradition. Maybe it’s unsurprising that when we talk about the benefits grouse shooting brings to countryside we speak in similarly grand, sweeping terms. Landscape scale conservation means internationally threatened wader species are 3.5 times more likely to raise a chick to fledging on moors managed by gamekeepers. £100m invested annually in conservation by grouse shoots in England, Wales and Scotland. Tens of millions of pounds invested in remote rural communities every year by moorland managers and travelling grouse shooters.
But perhaps we risk getting lost in these numbers. Just prior to the 12th, gamekeepers and their families in Scotland reminded us of the human face behind the statistics, as they marched through Edzell in Angus. Escorted by pipes and drummers, these proud countrymen and women, children in tow, captured all that is great about grouse shooting. Real people, real families, exemplifying decades of accumulated countryside wisdom and skills. People whose livelihoods wouldn’t exist were it not for grouse, the people who shoot them and the people who eat them. These are the people who support the local schools, shops and services in the remote corners of our countryside. These are the people who undertake the countryside management that delivers those remarkable conservation successes.
It is the individual victories of every gamekeeper that combine to make up the triumph that is grouse shooting. I was recently out on the hill with a group of ramblers and a keeper. I barely said a word. Faced with an expert who has dedicated his professional life to the grouse moor he stewards, our visitors wanted nothing more than to chat about his personal successes: the tourists who cross the Atlantic to shoot his grouse and the numbers of curlew, merlin and wheatear he had encouraged to nest on his moor. A similar tale could, and should, be told on every moor across the country.
When we celebrate the start of the season, we’re celebrating the culmination of months of effort from the people who deliver all the benefits of which the shooting community is so justifiably proud. So here’s to the countryside, conservation and community.
Liam Stokes, Head of Shooting Campaigns at Countryside Alliance