A group of 16 ramblers from the Bradford area got a behind the scenes look at the workings and wildlife of a grouse moor when they walked Ilkley Moor with head gamekeeper Simon Nelson.
The Bradford CHA Rambling and Social Club saw a red kite, a number of endangered curlew, skylarks and, of course, grouse as they walked across the 1,000 acre moor, which is leased from Bradford City Council by the Bingley Moor Partnership.
The event on 13 July was organised by the Countryside Alliance as part of a programme of walks to encourage discourse between those who work on and those who live near shooting estates.
Mr Nelson explained to the group how the shoot conserves the land it leases from the council, by removing invasive plants, like molinia grasses and bracken, to allow the native cotton grasses and heathers to thrive and produce habitat for the grouse and other ground-nesting birds, like wheatear, golden plover and merlin.
Terry Brown from Bradford said: “I’ve walked across this moor many times, but didn’t know much about what does on here. I don’t oppose grouse shooting but don’t think I would be in support of them using the moor if they didn’t do the conservation stuff.”
And Connie Jackson from Liversedge said she had heard local opposition to the Bingley Moor Partnership’s lease of Ilkley Moor being renewed when it ends in 2018 and wanted to see the issue for herself.
The Partnership pays the council £12,000 a year to use the moor for eight days’ shooting each year, each day for around two hours – just 16 hours of shooting but a year’s worth of conservation.
Ms Jackson added: “The grouse would not be here on the moor if it were not for the shoot and I think it’s better for them to have a good, if short, life here on the moor, rather than none at all.”
And Ray Wilkes of Haworth said: “I don’t shoot but I’ve written to the council saying the lease should be renewed. The council doesn’t have the money to manage the moor, so why not let the shoot do it? The council also needs the money.”
Bradford bird-spotter and amateur botanist Sally Tetlow said she had enjoyed finding out more about how the moor was managed by the Partnership. “I’m a big fan of raptors so I was pleased to see a kite wheeling around above us,” she said.
Simon Nelson said he was delighted to have been able to show the walkers his workplace. “They asked me some interesting questions about heather burning and predator control but I think they understand how important it is to do this and other work if we want our moorlands to thrive,” he said.