Domino effect?

By aussiegall - [1], CC BY 2.0,
By aussiegall – [1], CC BY 2.0,
 The week started badly with a flaccid statement from the ‘campaigning’ RSPB but ended well with firm action from the staid NT.

Readers of this blog may well be up to date with many aspects of the NT’s decision to terminate a shooting let through the excellent Raptor Persecution UK blog or through Martin Harper’s blog. In essence, the NT has terminated Mark Osborne’s relationship with them on this land because NT did not have confidence that Mr Osborne was working towards the same vision for the area as their own.  The NT are looking for tenants who can progress that vision including increasing the raptor populations.

Well, well, well!

It would be unwise to speculate on exactly how the two parties fell out but the NT seem very keen on seeing more raptors and they seem less keen on seeing Mr Osborne managing their land.

The NT has a very good and fairly clear vision for their landholding in the High Peak area of the Peak District National Park, and it is a vision which this blog has supported throughout (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here here) even to the extent of encouraging you, dear readers, to write to the NT when it consulted on that vision.  Inglorious praises the NT High Peak vision (pp161-3) and the current Director General of the NT, Dame Helen Ghosh, for standing up for it in a meeting in Penrith in 2014 (185), as well as signalling its potential importance in Chapter 6 (p260).

The NT High Peak vision is a pretty good blueprint for the future of many of our uplands but it is not very close to the state of affairs required for driven grouse shooting.  It is very good to see the NT sticking to its guns and requiring its tenants to deliver that vision rather than do their own thing.  Well done NT! We knew you had it in you but we were wondering whether it was ever going to come out!

But you can be quite sure that the NT came under considerable pressure from the shooting industry behind the scenes, and sometimes in public, over this vision. That pressure will have been counteracted to a large extent by the focus put on NT activities in this area by this blog and that of Raptor Persecution UK (and no doubt by behind the scenes support by other conservation charities).  The NT knew that it was under considerable scrutiny and it seems to have been determined to deliver its far-sighted vision whether the shooters wanted it or not.  Anyone who has ‘liked’ my blogs on this subject, commented favourably on them, written to encourage the NT or taken to social media to highlight what NT should do can take satisfaction, and some pride, in this small step in the right direction.  The NT is accountable to us – not to the shooting industry.

So, well done NT!

The importance of this move is that it might make others more determined to follow suit and we might see a domino effect.  Despite the fact that NT say they will consider a shooting tenant they don’t have to choose another shooter, and if they do, then it doesn’t have to be one who wants to carry out driven grouse shooting – it could be a walked-up shoot. It is even feasible that you and I, and others clubbing together, could buy the shooting rights and then not exercise them. I wonder how the NT would react to such a suggestion? Mind you, I wouldn’t want to pay too much for them.

I’ve written before about how the Peak District could be, and should be, a fulcrum for change. If we could end driven grouse shooting here than we would have a comparison with other sites. When the landscape, wildlife and people didn’t go to hell in  a handcart, in fact when they prospered, it would undermine the flawed arguments of the grouse moor industry very effectively. What the NT has done appears to be a small step, but an important step, in the right direction.  I know of one reader of this blog who will be very pleased and she won’t be the only one.

Let’s hear it for the falling domino, the NT!

Danilo Škofič, via Wikimedia Commons
Danilo Škofič, via Wikimedia Commons

There is more to say about this matter, and about the players in this game, so I will be blogging over the weekend (that’ll teach me to be away from a computer for a couple of days!).


Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting to send a strong signal that you would like to see all landowners taking firm action against the damaging sport of driven grouse shooting.

That NT statement:

The National Trust has given notice that the current shooting leases at Hope Woodlands and Park Hall in Derbyshire will end in April 2018.

The charity said it had taken the decision to exercise a break clause in the lease to end the relationship four years early.

Andy Beer, National Trust’s Director for the Midlands, said:

We have a clear vision for land management and wildlife restoration on the High Peak Moors, which was developed in full consultation with our tenants and other key stakeholders.

All our tenants have signed up to deliver to the vision and understand their responsibilities. We work very closely with our tenants and support, consult and discuss any issues relating to the plan on a regular basis.

However, in this case we have decided, after a meeting with the tenant, that we should revoke the lease four years early as it became clear that we could no longer have confidence that they were committed to the delivery of our vision for the land.

We have given the tenant 22 months’ notice and will start the process of looking for a replacement in 2017, when we will be happy to receive applications from partners who can demonstrate how moorland management and shooting can deliver great nature conservation in a way that is compatible with public access.

We remain committed to the High Peak Moors Vision. As with all our conservation aims, we review and evaluate progress periodically. When considering renewals of individual shooting leases in future we will take into careful account the extent to which our objectives have been me, in particular relating to increasing raptor populations.



28 Replies to “Domino effect?”

  1. At last, some positive action from the NT. Let’s hope the RSPB and others follow suit and the dominoes really do start to fall on the appalling ‘industry’.

  2. Interesting that the Moorland Association reprinted Andy Beer’s statement but accidentally missed off the last paragraph. They then spun this with a “NT Supports Grouse Shooting” headline. Just an oversight on their part I’m sure.

    As a matter of interest how many estates/moors does Mark Osborne manage and are any others of them on NT land?

    1. Strangely, the last paragraph has now mysteriously appeared on the Moorland Association’s website. Perhaps they realised what a gaff it was to omit it or maybe the NT complained.

    2. I believe he manages a few in Scotland too, his name came up in a conversation I had recently with someone who actually lives near them. Mark Osborne’s involvement apparently took them up to ‘another level’ (more grouse, less off everything else?) which must be why the NT wanted to part ways with him. He is the poster boy for grouse moor ‘management’ and this is a hell of a slap in the face to proponents for driven grouse shooting.

  3. Is there any rewilding group that feels they would be able to bid for the tenancy, basing it on wider public use? Who would be up for setting up a charitable crowdfunded group in order to bid for this? What criteria would we need, and where would be best to turn for advice on beginning set this up?

    1. R22 – a first step might be to make sure that George Monbiot and Rewilding Britain are aware of this development and would have support from quite a large body of people if they thought this could be a promising site for a different form of upland management.

  4. “However, in this case we have decided, after a meeting with the tenant, that we should revoke the lease four years early as it became clear that we could no longer have confidence that they were committed to the delivery of our vision for the land.” Oh to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting!

    1. It also suggests the tenant never believed that the ultimate sanction be enacted; i.e. they were ‘above the contract’.

      On a wider point, the pressure builds on external organisations such as the National Park Authorities (e.g. Yorkshire Dales) to follow suit and undertake necessary actions which I believe they are legally obliged to do anyway. For example, Section 62(1)(2) of the Environment Act 1995 (see


  5. Given they have a vision and a plan, along with a farming/land management tenant on the land do they actually need a shooting tenant? They have to ask what this extra person/organisation will bring to the party that can’t be delivered by the other tenure or a different model. Tradition isn’t a good reason to replace like with like so let’s hope they have a good hard think before imediately re-letting as the Moorland Association would like them to do.

    1. ‘do they actually need a shooting tenant?’

      This is question that gets right to the heart of this issue. The answer can only be yes if the NT deem one or more of the following to be an essential component of their future vision:
      – intensive predator / ‘pest’ control
      – cyclical heather burning
      – rental income over and above that paid by the farming tenants.


  6. Well done Andy Beer and the rest of the NT staff! Hopefully some of you are reading this and will be encouraged.
    Where is this ‘estate’ and how big is it? Doesn’t seem easy to find out anything about it online. Is it a sheep farm too? And do we know anything else about this Osborne person?

    Also, who are the Moorland Association? Could read their website but no doubt it would just be PR. Who are they really and what do they really stand for? (although I know we can work part of that out from their stupid statements).

      1. Thank you AP. I see RPUK is a good source for lots of stuff. Sounds like the
        only question is which circle of hell MO will end up in. I’ve only read a summary of Dante (so far) but I’m sure there must be a suitable circle for raptor persecutors. Seem to remember appropriateness was the key: traitors were embedded in an icy wasteland, with their bare backsides left stuck up into the freezing gale!

    1. I imagine that details of the agricultural tenancy – which as far as we can see is not affected by the current developments – would be covered by data protection law and if so I hope that none of my annual subscription would be lost to the Men in Suits following an injudicious release of protected information. Perhaps someone with expertise in that area would comment – Sage of Ottle?

      1. Expertise? Most amusing. Jack of all trades and a master of none.
        I think you are correct though Filbert – principals 1 & 2 of the Data Protection Act would need to be satisfied and, I can’t see how they would be. Not that SDA farmers are a particularly litigious bunch and in any case, the farming tenants shouldn’t be dragged into this as mud sticks. Most of them dislike the shooting tenants every-bit as much as the rest of us do.

  7. Just maybe I’m too negative, but why just one tenancy. Why not try an experiment on their land and evict three/four and leave them devoid of tenants let the area go wild and see the effect. We could monitor exactly what so called benefits to ecosystem the shoots bring if any.
    If the NT was bolder I’d consider rejoining I’d be curious to see a poll on current members too

    1. Douglas,not that simple I bet.
      Doubt you cannot evict a tenant without that tenant committing something that the tenancy agreement has in it.
      Be fair this is a really serious step for N T to take and is obviously meant as a really serious warning to other tenants.
      N T obviously need tenants as the income obviously is needed.
      Maybe just maybe conservationists might just have to have a think are they willing to take a softer view on sheep farming on this type of land as at least a better alternative to raptors getting killed.
      I have been on these moors quite a lot and find it funny that people complain about sheep overgrazing on them as the grass always seems really long.Maybe those few who complain about the sheep have managed to convince others who just believe them.
      Botham effect I suppose as people in the general public believe what he says about the RSPB.
      Fact is the N T will have to have some tenants on this land and some people will find fault with whatever they do.

      1. “the grass always seems really long”

        When there is a book to be sold, the grass will be short. Otherwise, send for the Belted Galloways

    2. Hi Douglas – in response to your point about re-joining the NT, could I suggest that you consider doing so anyway? The more people who think like you who are members of the organisation, the better the chance we have a persuading it to change its policy. It won’t be a quick process, but I think it would be possible in time. They’re not likely to listen to non-members as they have four million members anyway, but as the biggest conservation-sector landowner in the UK, their management practices have a real impact on wildlife, so it’s vital that we have an influence.

  8. Majority of members don’t have a clue what’s going on just like the RSPB membership. Like the fact if the NT all joined the Scottish National Trust they would get their membership a lot cheaper and still have the same privileges. Something the RSPB will have to think about when Scotland leave.

    1. actually you don’t get the same priveleges. You don’t get to vote at the National Trust AGM by being a National Trust for Scotland member. Small but significant difference.

  9. This is fantastic news as you say, Mark. Following the logic of your suggestion about buying up the shooting rights: there must be many wildlife enthusiasts and readers of this blog who are also members of the NT (there are at least two, because you and I are both members). Is there any merit in putting a motion to the NT AGM to end driven grouse shooting altogether on NT land? It’s not likely to be passed, at least not on the first attempt, not least because of the so-called handbag vote (see for an explanation). However, it would raise the profile of the issue enormously and I suspect it may force the NT to adopt the policy in time anyway as I would think that a large proportion of its four million members would be rather unhappy if they knew that grouse shooting took place on NT land.

    1. Agree. 2 more members here. How many have to sign up to put a motion forward to the AGM?

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