Meet Ian Sleightholm, the gamekeeper featured in More4 series The Yorkshire Dales & The Lakes

Ian Sleightholm is head gamekeeper on the Bolton Estate in Wensleydale, owned by the Orde-Powlett family, Lords Bolton of Bolton Hall. He appears in the More4 series The Yorkshire Dales & The Lakes.

Ian Sleightholm on the Bolton Estate
Ian Sleightholm on the Bolton Estate

"The More4 programme The Yorkshire Dales & The Lakes came to Bolton Estate to film our work with waders and ground-nesting birds.

"The estate has 5,000 acres of heather moorland, managed primarily as grouse moors in agreement with Natural England and as a member of The Moorland Association.

"I was born and bred in Wensleydale and for me it is the most beautiful place in the world. Whenever I’ve been away for a few days on holiday or for work I am always longing to get home!

"I knew I wanted to work in a countryside job ever since I was quite small and my grandfather instilled in me a love of nature, animals and plants. He was very knowledgeable and I spent every spare moment I had with him.

"Now my family and I are lucky enough to live in Wensleydale and my children are able to enjoy the same lifestyle that I had growing up. I hope they will have the same opportunity that I did to look after this land for future generations to enjoy.

"The management work that we undertake on the estate benefits a wide range of other rare plants and wildlife. We have an established population of curlew, lapwing and snipe, ouzels, golden plover, stone chats and many birds of prey including merlin and short eared owl.

"These are some of the rarest birds in the UK and we are delighted that they live and thrive here. We work closely with the BTO (the British Trust for Ornithology), so that their experts can ring some of the most endangered birds. A ring is attached to the leg of the bird to collect data on their movements and monitor survival rates and other information such as their lifespan and productivity.

"The estate takes conservation work very seriously and it is a major part of my job. Currently myself and another keeper are training to be bird ringers ourselves.

"We also took part in a BTO project four years ago where cameras were installed on 30 of the nests to monitor the hatching of chicks and to understand in detail the reasons why some nests failed and the impact of predation on survival rates. The eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds are particularly at risk from predation by foxes, crows and other predators.

"The video footage from that project helps conservationists to understand how and why nests fail and what measures can be taken to help species survival.

"The estate is committed to maintaining the best habitats for wildlife and has also just completed an 18-month peatland restoration project. There are four Sites of Special Scientific Interest, two of which are also designated as a Special Area of Conservation and one is also a Special Protection Area. These sites cover over 2,000 hectares of the estate land.

"In a normal year (before Covid) we host a Curlew Festival every other year and we also offer curlew safaris so that members of the public can come out with the keepers and see some of the rare wildlife for themselves. That’s been incredibly popular and there’s always a waiting list.

"The best part of my year is the spring when all the new chicks are hatching and the moor is alive with the sound of birdsong. Not many people have a job as rewarding as mine."

The conservation work undertaken by Bolton Estate is featured in The Yorkshire Dales & The Lakes which will be shown on More4 on Monday, January 18