Saturday cartoon by Ralph Underhill





I object!

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap) 1

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap) 2

butt track

I’m not the only one to have objected to this retrospective planning application for a ‘temporary’ track to a line of grouse butts.  You could object too, but comments have to be submitted by Monday so it is a job for this weekend.

At the time of writing this post, all 30 comments are objections but none is from a conservation organisation. In favour are the applicant and Natural England.

NEhouseYes, that’s right, Natural England, despite the fact that this application is made in the Peak District National Park, the Peak District Moors Special Protection Area for Birds, the South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation and the Dark Peak Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The application is made by Wakefield Farms Ltd who are based down the road from me here in Northants and it is reported that they are owned by Dan Richmond Watson, who has an interest in grouse shooting. Fair enough.

The reason for needing this track are ‘to facilitate plant access for moorland restoration and general management access. the material laid will not effect or alter the vegetation which is encouraged to grow through the matting to provide a stable platform to permit access.’ apparently. So it’s not just to provide access for shooters to the centre of a line of grouse butts, despite that being the thing that might immediately come to mind when seeing the location on the lowest of the three maps above?

Here are some images of the track – remember this is in a National Park, on an SSSI, SPA and SAC and that Natural England supports this retrospective application.




Photos (all three above): Bob Berzins

This is industrialisation of a National Park – and for what purpose? It couldn’t be for access to those grouse butts could it?

As an aid to moorland restoration it seems a bit of a failure.

This is my letter of objection:

I am not a local resident and I have never set foot on this part of the Peak District – though I do know the general area well and visit it frequently.  I have read the comments by others and support them all: I am particularly struck by the points made by Addy, Berzins, Besley, Clough, Grange, Hakes, Halstead, Minkovic and Wakeley.

National Parks exist to maintain and enhance natural beauty – this project is a failure at this as it is an eyesore and has caused habitat damage to an SSSI, SPA and SAC.

Others have suggested that this track appears to be used to provide access for shooters to a line of grouse butts, but this does not form part of the application unless grouse shooting is regarded as ‘general management access’.  I do not regard grouse shooting as ‘general management’.  Is it possible that the applicant has not fully disclosed the reasons for their need for this track? Any ongoing need for the track is unclear: the application should be refused and the applicant required to remove the track and make good the habitat damage.

Others have pointed out that this application is flawed in not fully describing the whole of the track and its impact on the environment. That, and the retrospective nature of the application do not increase one’s confidence that this scheme would be as described in the application into the future.

See images posted on my blog ‎which illustrate the damage caused to the habitat and the eyesore of the track.












35,000 – a good way to go into the weekend.


And there goes another milestone – 35,000 signatures. Thank you all.

The ‘200 Club’ numbers just one constituency:

  1. Calder Valley 228 signatures – Craig Whittaker MP, CON

But the ‘100 Club’ has swelled to :

  1. Ross, Skye, Lochaber 166 signatures – Ian Blackford MP, SNP
  2. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey 145 signatures –  Drew Hendry MP, SNP
  3. High Peak 142 signatures – Andrew Bingham MP, CON
  4. North Norfolk 139 signatures – Norman Lamb MP, LIB
  5. Brighton Pavilion 135 signatures – Caroline Lucas MP, GREEN
  6. Skipton and Ripon 132 signatures – Julian Smith MP, CON
  7. Argyll and Bute 125 signatures – Brendan O’Hara MP, SNP
  8. Isle of Wight 122 signatures – Andrew Turner MP, CON
  9. Bristol West 121 signatures – Thangan Debonnaire MP, LAB
  10. Derbyshire Dales 121 signatures – Patrick McLoughlin MP, CON
  11. Westmorland and Lonsdale 119 signatures – Tim Farron MP, LIB
  12. Penrith and The Border 119 signatures – Rory Stewart MP, CON
  13. Sheffield Central 114 signatures –  Paul Blomfield MP, LAB
  14. Central Devon 113 signatures – Mel Stride MP, CON
  15. Dumfries and Galloway 113 signatures – Richard Arkless MP, SNP
  16. Suffolk Coastal 113 signatures – Theresa Coffey MP, CON
  17. Torridge and West Devon 112 signatures – Geoffrey Cox MP, CON
  18. Totnes 112 signatures – Sarah Wollaston MP, CON
  19. Thirsk and Malton 112 signatures – Kevin Hollinrake MP, CON
  20. Norwich South 111 signatures – Clive Lewis MP, LAB
  21. Bridgwater and West Somerset 111 signatures – Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, CON
  22. Wells 109 signatures – James Heappey MP, CON
  23. Sheffield Hallam 109 signatures – Nick Clegg MP, LIB
  24. South Norfolk 108 signatures – Richard Bacon MP, CON
  25. West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 108 signatures – Stuart Blair Donaldson MP, SNP
  26. Dumfries and Galloway 108 signatures – Richard Arkless MP, SNP
  27. Scarborough and Whitby 107 signatures – Robert Goodwill MP, CON
  28. Stroud 102 signatures – Neil Carmichael MP, CON
  29. York Central 102 signatures –  Rachael Maskell MP, LAB
  30. Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale 101 signatures – David Mundell MP, CON
  31. St. Ives 101 signatures – Derek Thomas MP, CON
  32. South Cambridgeshire 101 signatures – Heidi Allen MP, CON
  33. Edinburgh North and Leith 101 signatures – Deidre Brock MP, SNP
  34. Arundel and South Downs 100 signatures – Nick Herbert MP, CON


Please spend a few minutes this weekend thinking about who else you could ask to sign up to our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. And go out and enjoy a warm spring weekend!


Congratulations to Andy Wightman

Andy Wightman with Henry

Andy Wightman with Henry

Any friend of Henry is a friend of mine! And now Henry has a friend in Holyrood as a successful Green Party candidate on the Lothian regional list.

Andy Wightman co-authored a report on grouse shooting with Ruth Tingay last year.

A nation celebrates – but I don’t see Scottish Land and Estates Doug McAdam in the crowd.



Dear Mr Pursglove


Dear Mr Pursglove

May I thank you for your response to my previous letter on Fineshade Wood. I very much appreciated it and I am glad that I can agree with my local MP on a very local issue. Thank you again. Now that the weather has turned to a more reasonable and seasonal temperature I hope that you will find the time to visit Fineshade Wood fairly soon as it is looking at its very best now.


I thought I would keep you appraised of the progress of my e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting: it currently stands at over 34,000 signatures and we are still in week 7 of 26. It seems unlikely to me, but it is just possible that it will reach 100,000 signatures and receive a Westminster Hall debate which, if it did, I would hope you might attend.  Our constituency of Corby has 65 signatures to date, a little fewer than the average constituency across the country, but that is probably because of the large number of Labour voters in our marginal seat – support is highest in Tory and LibDem constituencies (and SNP and Green of course). But there has been a recent development – the European Commission has begun infraction proceedings against the UK government (against Defra in particular) for failure to implement the EU Directives on Birds and Habitats – which brings us to another subject on which you and I do not agree.

You might, though I wouldn’t wish to prejudge this matter, suggest that the EU getting involved in ticking off the UK on how English moorlands are managed is a rank example of EU interference. That isn’t how I see it. I see it as the EU pointing out to one of its member states that it should meet its responsibilities under the commitments it has made by joining the EU – commitments that the UK had a large say in shaping. And in any case, I welcome the EU prodding the UK when it falls down on its environmental obligations to protect nature because I am rather keen on nature. Maybe you would you call that red tape?

By the way, did you know that Stanley Johnson (yes, Boris’s sire) was instrumental in writing that particular red tape, the EU Habitats Directive? Stanley is also a leading member of Environmentalists for Europe. I can’t find an equivalent of Environmentalists Against Europe, can you point me in the direction of a well-reasoned environmental case for Brexit please?

In a previous response to me you suggested that if we left the EU then we could give more of our money to farmers – a suggestion that seems very odd to me and unlikely to be very popular. I notice that the NFU doesn’t seem to think it very likely either as they recently voted in favour of the Remain side of the argument.

To summarise:

  • thank you for your support for Fineshade Wood
  • please note the progress of my e-petition
  • would you like to comment on EU infraction proceedings against the government for failing to protect upland habitats?
  • can you point me towards a well-argued environmental case for Brexit, please?

Yours sincerely




And thank you Wales


And here are the results of the Welsh jury… (in red, constituencies which registered more signatures in six months last time, than in six weeks this time around; in blue, constituencies which have already surpassed their previous total):

Ceredigion 95, 82

Montgomeryshire 79, 72

Brecon and Radnorshire 62, 72

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire 54, 59 

Dwyfor Meirionnydd 62, 58

Cardiff West 44, 58

Ynys Môn 49, 56

Cardiff South and Penarth 54, 53

Monmouth 51, 53

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr 54, 53

Clwyd West 44, 51

Vale of Glamorgan 49, 51

Preseli Pembrokeshire 66, 50

Cardiff North 49, 49

Arfon 57, 49

Bridgend 33, 48

Aberconwy 49, 48

Delyn 56, 48

Vale of Clwyd 31, 41

Llanelli 22, 41

Cardiff Central 38, 40

Neath 40, 37

Gower 45, 37

Alyn and Deeside 37, 37

Caerphilly 31, 37

Clwyd South 37, 36

Torfaen 27, 32

Ogmore 22, 28

Pontypridd 29, 28

Swansea West 37, 28

Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney 19, 25

Blaenau Gwent 25, 24

Aberavon 17, 24

Islwyn 25, 23

Cynon Valley 24, 22

Newport East 28, 22

Newport West 20, 22

Swansea East 18, 22

Rhondda 18, 17

Wrexham 22, 19


Wales, you appear to be a little bit slower than Northern Ireland and Scotland, so far, but thank you for your support!  Every signature on the e-petition to get a debate on the future of driven grouse shooting is very welcome!


Another BBS first visit


I surveyed my second BBS square on Tuesday morning.  It was sunny and there were lots of birds.

This site starts and ends in a village which is packed full of birds; heads out along the River Nene where there are quite a lot of birds; and then before returning to the village traverses some arable farmland where there aren’t many birds.

What were the ‘top birds’? Well, Lapwings were good, there were quite a few Whitethroats, a pair of Red Kites flew over, and there were loads and loads of House Sparrows.

The whole point of these surveys is to monitor change through thousands of randomly chosen sites and I am very happy to play my part. We don’t get paid and we give, very happily in my case, our time (2.5hr in the field and travelling + an hour entering data online) and our expertise (48+ years learning how to distinguish the song of a Great Tit from that of a Sedge Warbler and the sight of a Red Kite from that of a Blue Tit) too.

I like the idea that others are probably out with their ears, eyes, binoculars and datasheets at the same time as I am – and I like the fact that they are doing their best, as am I, to record the birds accurately each time. Our hundreds of thousands of records, each an anecdote really, add up to an accurate picture of the year-on-year changes in bird numbers but only after several years do our records really tell an important tale of trends in bird numbers. This year, whatever the overall results, might be ‘explained’ by the cold spring or some other story, but the long-term trends are real.

I’m looking forward to the second visits to my two BBS squares in a month’s time. Are you?


Natural England replies

NATURALENGLAND2Natural England has replied to me, and at least one of you, concerning our emails about the ‘Man guarding his model Hen Harrier in the Peak District’ affair.
The email does come from the email address of the Chair and CEO of NE but is signed by the Area Manager for the East Midlands.
Thank you for taking the time to contact Natural England about birds of prey in the Peak District, and for making us aware of the recent video footage that has been posted online.  As Natural England’s Area Manager for the East Midlands, which includes the Peak District, I am responding on behalf of our Chief Executive James Cross.
Our stance on wildlife crime and more specifically the illegal persecution of birds of prey is very clear – there is no justification for the illegal persecution of hen harriers; a species that has full legal protection under UK law.  Anyone who kills or injures a hen harrier is committing an offence and could face a jail term if convicted.  Natural England works closely with the police and other partner bodies on wildlife crime and we share any information we have in relation to suspected illegal persecution.
In respect to this particular report, the police are taking the lead on the matter. Any member of the public who suspects they have witnessed the illegal persecution of a bird of prey should contact their local Police Wildlife Crime Officer, or phone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
We will continue to work with the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative, as a partner, to reverse the declines of our birds of prey.’
This does actually answer the specific question that I asked – it says that NE is going to persevere with the failure of the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative. That seems a massive waste of my taxes to me – please go and do something more useful.
But it suggests that NE was unaware of the footage of the man taking his model Hen Harrier for a walk until I wrote to them. Really? Despite working closely with the Police on these matters?
My understanding is that the police are not taking this matter any further as no offence has been committed but NE seem unaware of that as they say the police are taking the lead on this matter.
I just have a feeling that if I were writing from a shooting organisation, and were a ‘stakeholder’ then a bit more thought might have gone into trying to impress me with the vigour with which NE is looking out for my interests – but as a taxpayer I get this type of response.



Well done Rob Sheldon!

7V92hZG4_400x400Yesterday, at midnight, Rob Sheldon could stop looking at how his e-petition was doing and relax.  His e-petition to ban the use of toxic lead ammunition had passed 17,000 signatures and had run its six-month course.

17,051 is a perfectly respectable total – and  is probably more than Rob had hoped for at the beginning, and feared at stages through the process, so he should be pretty content with how it has done.Well done! to him and thank you to all who signed up.

But there probably are some general lessons that can be taken from this e-petition and I’ll come back to them soon.

leadfinalThe map of constituencies above shows that places with WWT centres received high levels of signatures: Slimbridge (Stroud, highlighted in blue above), Barnes (Richmond, London), Arundel (Arundel and South Downs) and Welney (North West Cambs and South East Cambs) but there are some other strong ‘green’ enclaves too: Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk, Derbyshire and Inverness.

Here is the list of the constituencies which provided the most signatures (70+):

  1. Stroud 188 signatures – Ian Carmichael MP, CON
  2. North East Bedfordshire 102 signatures – Alistair Burt MP, CON
  3. South Cambridgeshire 91 signatures – Heidi Allen MP, CON
  4. North Norfolk 88 signatures – Norman Lamb MP, LIB
  5. Derbyshire Dales 79 signatures – Patrick McLoughlin MP, CON
  6. Skipton and Ripon 77 signatures – Julian Smith MP, CON
  7. Arundel and South Downs 76 signatures – Nick Herbert MP, CON
  8. Thornbury and Yate 76 signatures – Luke Hall MP, CON
  9. South East Cambridgeshire 75 signatures – Lucy Frazer MP, CON
  10. Richmond Park 74 signatures – Zac Goldsmith CON
  11. Bristol West 73 signatures – Thangan Debonnaire MP, LAB
  12. Suffolk Coastal 72 signatures – Theresa Coffey MP, CON
  13. Central Devon 71 signatures – Mel Stride MP, CON
  14. Torridge and West Devon 71 signatures – Geoffrey Cox MP, CON

All of these constituencies are in England, most are rural and most have Conservative MPs.



And thank you Northern Ireland!


Most of Northern Ireland is far away from any driven grouse shooting and yet the support for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting is growing all the time.

Here are the numbers of signatures from the 18 Northern Ireland constituencies this time (second number, and after just six weeks) compared with last time (first number, and after six months):


Belfast South 26, 35

Strangford 21, 32

North Down 24, 31

Belfast East 14, 30

South Down 12, 24

Belfast North 16, 23

East Antrim 22, 22

East Londonderry 16, 21

Lagan Valley 16, 21

South Antrim 16, 20

North Antrim 20, 17

Upper Bann 12, 16

Foyle 9, 14

Belfast West 7, 10

Fermanagh and South Tyrone 5, 8

West Tyrone 5, 7

Mid Ulster 13, 7

Newry and Armagh 6, 4


Every signature, from every constituency, increases the pressure on politicians to do something about driven grouse shooting – the cause of so much environmental and economic damage.

Thank you Northern Ireland for raising your voices to help.

Please continue signing the e-petition that will help bring change in the British uplands.