The glorious 12th?

The Red Grouse, from the RSPB website

Apparently it’s anybody’s guess whether the shooting season really will start today; not only has the weekend weather been terrible, but grouse numbers are expected to be quite curtailed, compared to better years.

Grouse moors are all around us, up in Sparty, and we hear the pop-pop-pop of the shotguns echoing from afar during the season. Wikipedia insists that the red grouse are not actually farmed, but that their nurturance is crucially weather-dependent. Yes, but the burning of the heather is an obvious grouse-rearing practice, as the young shoots emerging after the flames are life-saving delicacies for grouse chicks, as we have discussed on the 1st of March in the diary. But weather conditions during the spring were not, according to those close to the local gamekeepers, particularly felicitous for the fledglings.

‘Not a bit of it’ trumpets GunPlan, opining that the East Arkengarthdale moorland below Barnard Castle will be the very best shooting area in the country throughout the season, thanks in particular to the adult grouse ‘left over’ from last year’s shoot. If that area has good grouse numbers, it’s hard to countenance that the East Allenheads estate, one of the ten largest grouse moors in the land, will not.

So we’ll keep an eye and an ear cocked to determine whether the season really will start with a bang today. If so, then the parade of black Land Rovers will head on out from their Allendale staging post, and up onto the moors. Local young folks will be struggling along in their beating endeavours, returning home cold, wet and hungry by the end of the day, totally beat themselves! There’s nowt much else to do during the summer for them, and they’ll be grateful for the cash.

We’re likely to see some waifs and strays from the bird community making their way into the private fields around us, as they escape the guns. On the other hand, the shoot may be cancelled, owing to the miserable weather, the boggy moors, and paltry grouse numbers.

We’ll just have to wait and see. But today is not a good day to be taking a leisurely stroll up on the moors.