There is something about Yorkshire’s countryside that levels you. Vast, dramatic, stark; yes. Undeniably fascinating, beautiful and captivating all at the same time; absolutely.
These are big places that make you feel small, in a way that humbles and elevates you all at once. Wide landscapes where you can feel the space around you; the freedom to just be.
Walking across moor carpeted with heather, you feel the peat underfoot pushing back at you, as if transferring the energy back into your own legs.
Lowland pastures, too, stretch into one another, marched by skilfully constructed dry stone walls, hallmarks of this part of the country.
As far as the eye can see, the world around you brims, albeit quietly, with nature.
Curators of the moor
The truth is that these magical places don’t look after themselves. In upland terms, 79 per cent of the North York Moors and Pennines Special Protection Areas are managed for grouse. Roughly 2,500 people are employed in grouse-related roles across the UK, with a significant number of these calling Yorkshire home.
In the region of 19.3 million people visit the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks, plus Nidderdale AONB, every year. Ninety per cent of English grouse moors fall within designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or National Parks.
Should you have visited any of these places, chances are you would have tread on land curated by gamekeepers, farmers and other land managers.
A delicate balance
Those charged with managing moorland strive to balance and protect this wild yet delicate habitat. Yorkshire peatland provides the UK’s largest store of carbon, preventing over 61,000 tonnes a year from being released into the atmosphere.
Seventy-five per cent of the world’s heather moorland is found in the UK thanks to its intrinsic relationship with grouse moor management. With conservation and climate issues rightly sitting high in our consciousness, surely their mission to preserve Yorkshire’s uplands has never been so crucial.
Challenges and partnerships
In appreciation of its outstanding beauty, the Yorkshire Dales was recently voted as the best National Park in Europe.
Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Neil Heseltine, praised the efforts of those who work to preserve the regions, saying: “I hope that farmers, gamekeepers and other land managers who look after the landscape and make it so accessible and beautiful take credit”.
However, maintaining areas such as the Dales National Park as a haven for wildlife and people alike is not without significant challenges. Without careful management, moorland heather would soon become a serious risk for wildfires, be they accidental or deliberate.
Upland gamekeepers’ expert knowledge of their land and terrain is crucial to local fire crews. Indeed, it was reported that by August 2020, gamekeepers had dealt with over 1,000 fires before the fire brigade even arrived on site.
Yorkshire’s shooting grounds are rich in biodiversity and wildlife and the county’s lowlands benefit from game shooting to the same extent as their upland counterparts.
From stunningly diverse woodlands to conservation crops, all these spaces are quietly managed by the shooting community. Whilst the benefit of this to the countryside is all around us, the £1.7 billion economic impact of UK shooting is not one to be discounted either.
Farming and shooting are intrinsically linked, with gamekeepers working in partnership with farmers to control pests that pose a danger to livestock such as foxes and crows.
Woodpigeons too have a penchant for oilseed rape, peas and cereal crops, meaning that the role of the ‘keeper in managing numbers is vital to animal and human food production.
The people behind the people
Behind every good gamekeeper or land manager is a great shooting organisation. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) is an important voice in rural Yorkshire. It exists to support anyone with a vested interest in the countryside to work to sustainable principles, fostering best practice across the board.
BASC also plays a vital role representing shooting to government, ensuring that its community is heard and listened to. It also promotes the benefits of game as a sustainable food source.
It is on the ground providing educational opportunities, driving conservation initiatives and undertaking and promoting research, enabling decisions based on scientific evidence.
BASC, alongside the curators of rural life that it represents, sits at the heart of Yorkshire. Together, they work with partner organisations to preserve its stunning landscapes in their natural form, driving economic investment and allowing all that lives there to flourish.
The next time walk across your local moor or rolling hillside and woodland, take a moment to reflect. What you are seeing is the result of hours spent and lives dedicated to the preservation of all that surrounds you.
BASC benefits the rural community
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) is a strong voice at the heart of rural Yorkshire. BASC has more than 150k members and exists to support sustainable shooting and conservation.
BASC benefits the rural community by promoting scientific research and advocating and helping to implement best practice in firearms licensing, habitat preservation, wildlife conservation and game management.
The UK’s largest shooting organisation provides education streams and invests in outreach initiatives for young people through legacy funding. It also promotes the benefits of game as a sustainable food source.
BASC plays a fundamental role in representing shooting to government, ensuring that the voice of its community is heard and that the benefits it brings to the British countryside are understood and recognised.