Chefs and other staff from London’s oldest restaurant, Rules, made the trip up to Northumberland on Wednesday (5 August) to visit the moors and see where the red grouse that they serve in the restaurant each season comes from.
The visit, which took place on the Newbiggin and Hunstanworth Estate, was organised by Adrian Blackmore, director of shooting for the Countryside Alliance, to coincide with the start of the grouse season, which opens next Wednesday, the “Glorious Twelfth”.
Whilst some of the members of the team had visited grouse moors before, and were extremely well versed in game management, for others it was their first opportunity to hear from those responsible exactly what goes into the management of this totally wild game bird that is unique to Britain.
Head keeper Rob Mitchell and beat keeper and rabbit catcher Darren Jacques explained the importance of the habitat management and predator control that is undertaken on the estate and which benefits not just grouse, but many threatened species of ground nesting birds that share this rare habitat.
For many people living in our upland areas, grouse shooting can also be the main economic driver and it was explained how a large casual workforce is employed on each shoot day, whether it is as beaters, pickers-up with their dogs, flankers, or loaders for the guns.
But as Adrian Blackmore explained, it goes beyond the financial benefits. “Grouse shooting in our uplands is not about landowners, employees or individual interests, it is about whole communities,” he said.
Ricky McMenemy, managing director of Rules, said: “The opportunity for us to get out on a grouse moor, especially so close to the start of the season, is a rare privilege. All the team came away with much more appreciation and understanding of the work the guys at the estate have to do and to hear them talk with such passion about their work was really special.
“It was not just the birds that impressed us but the importance of the shoot to the flora and fauna and local community. We came away with a really positive feeling about the grouse we serve in our restaurant and their role in conservation of the Newbiggin and Hunstanworth Estate.”