NEWS: National Trust opts for shooting in Peak District


The National Trust today advertises for a shooting tenant for its land in the Dark Peak from which its current tenant, Mark Osborne, will soon be exiting.  This represents about 40% of the NT landholding in the High Peak and so is a substantial decision over the direction of land management on NT land.

This can only be seen as a slap in the face for the c5000 people, many of them local to the Peak District, and many of them NT members, who signed a petition asking their organisation not to renew the shooting tenancy in their local National Park. Last week the NT postponed at the last moment a scheduled meeting for the campaigners to meet senior NT staff. At the time I took a generous view of that move, given that I usually prefer cock-up to conspiracy as an explanation, but I may have to revisit that charitable view. Obviously NT knew that they were posting this advert on their own website and now a meeting to listen carefully to the views of their membership and local people seems rather pointless as the decision has been made.  The online petition is still open!

The National Trust was keen to tell me that it remains committed to its conservation-led vision for the High Peak (see Inglorious pp161-3 for an account and my praise for it) but this move, to seek a shooting tenant, is puzzling in that regard as no-one could argue that grouse shooting is necessary to the delivery of the NT’s vision for wildlife which majors on birds of prey, Red Grouse and Mountain Hare (see recent blog on Raptor Persecution UK of continuing Mountain Hare persecution in Peak District).

There are three main possibilities to my mind lying behind the NT’s decision, which they knew would come under the spotlight, and I’ll go through them today. But the NT has been good, better than any other organisation I think, at responding on this blog to criticisms made of it and I would welcome a guest blog from them on this subject. It would be good to receive such a blog by Thursday evening so that it could appear here before groups of people assemble at Hen Harrier Day events across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and mutter together about the National Trust’s position.

  1. the most charitable explanation: NT don’t want a shooting tenant but feel they have to go through the pretence of looking for one before announcing that they have failed – thus putting the blame firmly in the lap of recalcitrant and obdurate grouse shooters.
  2. the middle way:  NT want to do what none of the 140+ English grouse moors has achieved so far (to my knowledge), and demonstrate that economically viable grouse shooting and birds of prey, Mountain Hares and a range of other species can co-exist.  They are seriously looking for a compromise position that cannot yet be seen on the ground anywhere in the UK that I know.  Maybe, they are looking for a tenant who will carry out a few days of walked up shooting. Who knows – NT hasn’t said?
  3. the least charitable explanation: the NT, packed to the gunwales with land agents and with strong links to large landowners, really is in thrall to the grouse shooting gentry and cannot bring itself into the twentieth, let alone the twenty-first, century as an ambitious innovative land managing organisation.

This is where I should repeat my offer to NT of a guest blog here this week to state their case – particularly as in their last guest blog here they avoided the subject very pointedly.

Now, I understand that it would be difficult, nay impossible, for NT to say that they are following Option 1 as that would rather blow their cover! However, if Option 2 is their preferred route then there is absolutely no reason for them not to be clear about it now. Some will praise them and the rest of us can decide whether to disinvest from our expensive NT memberships. Many will believe Option 3 whatever the NT says – I wouldn’t count myself in that number but it is a thought that is never too far away in my mind.  Over to you, NT.




59 Replies to “NEWS: National Trust opts for shooting in Peak District”

  1. 100 years ago the “toffs” decided to drive men into the machine guns in Belguim. In a few days time the descendent of these “toffs” will “celebrate” by driving grouse into shot guns. You can not teach those who will not learn.

    1. One of the biggest myths about WW1 is that the upper class got off lightly.

      Although the great majority of casualties in WW1 were from the working class, the social and political elite were hit disproportionately hard by WW1. Their sons provided the junior officers whose job it was to lead the way over the top and expose themselves to the greatest danger as an example to their men.

      Some 12% of the British army’s ordinary soldiers were killed during the war, compared with 17% of its officers. Eton alone lost more than 1,000 former pupils – 20% of those who served. UK wartime Prime Minister Herbert Asquith lost a son, while future Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law lost two. Anthony Eden lost two brothers, another brother of his was terribly wounded, and an uncle was captured.

      1. But the same aggression and desire to dominate drives the killing of British wildlife as it does in the enaction of wars. We’ve lost so much that these losses diminish happiness and knaw away at the soul. Those fighting for wildlife are the same folks who would work to stop violence and war-mongering in humans.

      2. Cynically it could be said that the role of the junior officers was not provide an example to the men but to ensure that they obeyed orders. That’s why officers were armed with a revolver to shoot anyone who held back.

        1. The only thing correct in that comment is that it’s cynical.

          From May 1915, the Webley Mk VI revolver was adopted as the standard sidearm for British troops and remained so for the duration of WWI, being issued to not only officers, but also airmen, naval crews, boarding parties, trench raiders, machine gun teams and tank crews. It proved to be a very reliable and hardy weapon, well-suited to the mud and adverse conditions of trench warfare.

          Soldiers shot for cowardice were court-martialled, before going in front of a firing squad.

      3. And then there was the Old Etonian and polymath, JBS Haldane, who served on the Western Front as a lieutenant in the Black Watch. He was renowned for his ferocity in battle and described by his commander as ‘the bravest and dirtiest officer in the Army.’
        Somehow he survived and went on to become the father of population genetics and modern evolutionary theory.

        1. And here’s another Old Etonian who survived against the odds, Lieutenant Harold Macmillan. (The Germans found it easy to pick off British officers whose uniforms stood out and who were always expected to lead from the front.)
          During his long service in the WW1 trenches he was wounded three times. On each occasion he was leading his men in battle. The last wound was the most severe; it left him in pain and partially disabled for the rest of his life.

          1. I think you’d enjoy ‘Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War’ by John Lewis-Stempel, Murray, if you’ve not read it already.

      4. Yes, so callous are the British upper classes, that they will even kill their own children with utter incompetence. “Man up my boy. It’s your turn to stick your neck out for Queen and the future of the aristocracy.”

        1. I don’t think the parents had much say in the matter. Nor were they fighting for the Queen – George V presided during the Great War. And there was no future of the aristocracy – the war ensured that a great number of titles went extinct and many great houses were subsequently pulled down.

          1. Mr Hutchings, your comments are not only historically inaccurate, they also have nothing whatsoever to do with the important subject under discussion.

          1. And the comments I’m replying to do?

            Pray tell me where I’m historically inaccurate?

  2. My Vision is, If they would stop killing Birds of Prey. And most other Wildlife they feel is a threat to the precious Grouse, we could all be Happy.

    1. Bill if you listen to the Likes of Avery you will develop a very twisted view of what is happening on moors from the propaganda spread from various groups of so called conservationists and barefaced liars like avery.

      1. Norman – you don’t know Bill, I assume. He has plenty of experience on which he bases his own views.

        Thank you for your rude comment.

      2. You illustrate the style of elements of the shooting industry perfectly, Norman Murray, and why decades of talks haven’t got anyone very far – and why it’s time for change.

      3. I must say as somebody who has been going on moors for much of my life and known and talked to many keepers, owners, shooters, countryside rangers, conservationists, naturalists fellow birders and friends including people like Bill Murphy, who I am proud to call friend the only liars are very clearly in the pleasure killing industries of game shooting.
        Technically of course Mark is not barefaced, unless he has recently shaved off the moustache and nor do I believe him to be a liar, perhaps you can provide examples.

        1. I am can give a very good example of a a straight up lie by Avery. Roughly four years ago I asked him in on twitter in response to a tweet calling for a ban on grouse shooting, if he had a plan for how moorland should & could be be managed in the event of a ban. His response was ‘no’. Within 5 minutes the comment was deleted & to this day he denies ever making it or deleting it.

          That is my experience of the man. he obviously believes a single unprrovable lie to me is better than a tweet he would rather not have written.

          1. Jerry – I have no recollection of that and it’s lovely of you to follow it up after all this time. It sounds a bit unlikely as I have practically never deleted a tweet – except ones where I have cocked up the link or something similar. What is your Twitter handle by the way?

            But instead of living in the past, why not read my book Inglorious – Chapter 6 would be a good start for you.

          2. WOW Jerry – this is HUGE! Hold the front pages. If this was a Trump tweet it would be grounds for impeachment!

      4. What are the Likes of Avery? They sound like Tolkeinesque characters.

        Oh, I see, grammar issues.

      5. Oh, I take it you’re a fully paid up member of the shooting fraternity. How did I guess?

        Mr Murray, you may dislike Mr Avery, but that does not make what he says untrue.

        In my opinion it is the exclusive grouse shooting “club” that is chiefly responsible for propaganda.

        A sport of a tiny, unpopular minority. You and your chums in Westminster do not echo the views of 99% of the British public.

  3. Our Moorland Vision coalition are deeply disappointed to see this advertisement appearing. We have just published a new blog post indicating a likely handover on Tuesday morning of our petition to Andy Beer, Regional Director for the Midlands, who is the person responsible for this issue. If confirmed, we will meet at Kedleston Hall near Derby (another NT-owned property with concerns over shooting restricting visitor access to its land).

    Our hope is that Mark’s ‘most charitable explanation’ is the true picture and that Mr Beer’s actions are akin to an accident-prone man in a sewage works, in that he’s just going through the motions to get out of an awkward situation.

    It will be interesting to see who will dare risk having all evidence of moorland wildlife crimes in the Peak Distriuct dropped onto their shooting estate; how the Trust would balance walked-up shooting with safety and public access, or how it could genuinely believe that driven grouse shooting could help it meet its vision for the High Peak. Those we’ve heard from in that arena wouldn’t touch this estate with a barge pole, knowing the scrutiny and opposition it would be under from all quarters.

    There’s still time to sign our petition before tomorrow’s handover:

  4. Your right Mark, NT membership is expensive. I’m sure my and my wife’s money will be spent a lot more wisely by BAWC or LACS.
    Hopefully many more will join us.

  5. “The rest of us can decide whether to disinvest from our expensive NT memberships”. Some of us – including me – already have, and won’t be giving the NT so much as a brass razoo unless and until they ban all forms of hunting on the land that the membership pays for. It started as a trickle and becomes a stream; if the NT really want to see that stream turn into a major river in full spate then they’re going the right way about it.

  6. I will not knowingly hand over any membership monies whatsoever to an organisation that supports or promotes the killing of any animal for any so called sport. People who kill for fun / sport are mentally twisted scumbags. No creditable organisation should deal in any way with these sorts of people!

    1. Members can bring resolutions to the AGM. That is why I and originally 90 others, have brought a resolution for change. Ours refers to hunting with hounds. I couldn’t believe my money was supporting land to be defiled by so called ‘Trail Hunting’. It would be great to see a proper debate of this with the NT who hide behind their smokescreen interpretation of the law.
      They are currently avoiding giving out any information at all on licenses while they ‘review’ procedures.
      As members will have a vote on this at the AGM , or by post/ online up to 7 days before, you would expect a charity to want its members to be as informed as possible.
      Could Mark Avery help facilitate this?
      We would love to debate the IFAW report ‘Trail of Lies’, I’m sure the League would love to discuss their failed meetings encouraging the NT in their monitoring ( or lack of monitoring).
      Do the Trust dare to answer questions in a meaningful way or are they going to hold on to their hear no evil, see no evil stance to the bitter end?

  7. I think there’s an urgent need for an alternative nature conservation focused national Land Trust in the UK. One that accommodates all wildlife.

    The National Trust receives a lot of membership fees and donations from people to acquire sites of high wildlife value and potential. Land is bequeathed to them.

    The trouble is they then let these areas be used for wildlife killing – they’re not the safe havens for nature that people expect.

    That’s sad, but it’s true.

    1. I think you’re right, but acquiring land is an expensive business. Finding the start-up funding for such an organisation that will be in immediate direct competition with the NT won’t be easy.

      1. Absolutely. But once it’s up and running donors will be presented with a choice, and given the size of some of the donations the NT gets for land acquisition it wouldn’t take long for a conservation-focused, non-compromised Natural Land Trust to have an impact.

        1. Have been thinking this for sometime and might be worth trying one of the crowdfunding avenues?
          Recently I was reluctant to renew my NT membership as visiting historic houses gets tiring but I do lots of walking and was happy to hand over my membership fee to help maintenance of land. Wish I hadn’t now.
          With a large community of “animal-cum-trophy hunters” around it’s not hard to imagine that NT will receive a good level of interest in the opportunity they’re advertising.
          I like the RSPB as an alternative but perhaps there is room for a new organisation.

          1. Mark Avery has suggestions for your donated money, but also your LOCAL wildlife trust, and British Trust for Ornithology, would be very interested!

          2. Good to hear from you Paul. The RSPB is good (well, outstanding) when it comes to land acquisition for bird conservation.

            I’d like to see a Natural Land Trust with a broader interest – all biodiversity – and less inclined to see ‘traditional land management’ as the be-all and end-all of conservation delivery.

            I actually think such an organisation would be very timely: I see marginal land as becoming increasingly available over the next decade or two, as we depart CAP and if Gove’s inner thoughts about countryside support come to fruition. Taking ‘spare’ land on for people and nature could be the next big thing in nature conservation.

            So maybe ‘we’ do need to move forward and form a Natural Land Trust. I just wonder who’s ‘we’?!

        1. Might be enough of us Messi to knock the idea around. Perhaps Derik Palmer and other’s are interested as well? Might be worth exploring the possibilities off-Mark’s-blog .. care to drop me an email [email protected]. From small acorns….

  8. Maybe, just maybe it’s option 1, the fact that Osborne got the boot shows that there’s a limit, a real one although probably still too ‘generous’, to what they’ll let grouse shooters away with. Combined with the upfront statements re conservation and maybe they are sending out a signal actually we don’t want driven grouse shooting. However, even if true shouldn’t the NT be saying publicly there are serious reservations about DGS’s compatibility with genuine conservation, shouldn’t we be beyond real conservation by the back door by now? Sadly the NT seems to be preserving certain attitudes towards wildlife as well as historic buildings. At best this is still only a very small, incremental improvement. Moorland Vision especially deserved better.

      1. Perhaps a consortium of falconers would be interested. The required number of grouse would be low and their attitude to raptors on the land would be benign.

  9. Shouldn’t this issue, at the very least, be discussed with the members at the AGM – a formal motion made? It is a fundamental principle after all. Do we want DGS & it’s associated “management” on National Trust members land? Or not? The membership should be allowed a vote. It’s not a trivial in-house management matter.
    I also feel that Moorland Vision have been treated with utmost disrespect by the NT – and as a long-standing member, I apologise. The last-minute cancellation of the meeting and then the advert being placed on the website is appalling.
    “Not in my name”.

  10. We have been members of the NT for many years. This summer we went to the Lizard, Cape Cornwall and A La Ronde near Exmouth. All of these sites were superbly managed for wildlife. So why on earth are the NT considering taking a backward step like this? The moorland could be managed to benefit wildlife instead of slaughtering it and consequently attract lots of visitors. NT, if you are reading this, we will withdraw our membership if you permit grouse shooting on this site.

    Sue & Chris Green

  11. I’ve just been on the phone to the National Trust Dark Peak Office, as I was, and still am, angry, disappointed and unconvinced by this fence sitting. In common with too many Wildlife Trusts, like my own here in Kent, protecting our wildlife doesn’t seem to include grouse or pheasants, hares or anything that gets in the way of the shooters pleasure.
    The Peak officer I spoke with explained things carefully as in Mark’s report, that they were trying to set example of grouse shooting where ‘all endangered species wildlife’ would be strong protected. He listened well to my arguments, but the bottom line is that I cannot see any justification for hunting and killing birds and animals for fun.
    Reading some of the earlier comments, I don’t believe that the answer is for NT members, like me, to resign, but to continue to campaign from within.

    1. Can I suggest you set a limit on the time you’re prepared to remain a member and campaign from within?

      An awful lot of members have been lobbying from within the NT for years and the organisation just hasn’t shifted. At some point we may need to just accept that nature conservation – providing safe havens for all wildlife – just isn’t what the NT is about.

      1. Messi and Paul – I agree with this suggestion. The NT appears to be listening to a small influential number of grouse shooters and not to their membership as a whole. The NT is trying to keep in with both sides of a debate – but that seems to mean maintaining grouse shooting which, in practice, is what only one side of the debate wants to happen. There is no reason why you, or I, should continue to support an organisation that treats the views of its members and local people with such public rudeness and disdain – eventually one has to decide whether the good things that the NT does, minus the bad things that it does, are worth the money that you give them every year and which could be spent differently.

        1. As long as lots more members don’t resign the NT will feel able to get away with cosying up to a minority of influential landowners.

        2. I stopped our long-standing family membership of the NT several years ago over the hunting issue. I can’t see the NT ever changing unless membership falls away alarmingly. If they’re still getting the numbers, they’ll just carry on as before, sadly.

  12. Wouldn’t it be worth the Moorland Vision partnership investigating whether it would be viable for a coalition of like-minded organisations and individuals to take on the lease, similar to the community buy-outs that have been successful in Scotland? I know the circumstances are different, in that the land wouldn’t actually be bought, but if as Mark suggests the rent is likely to be low, there may be a way to make it sustainable. At the very least it could force the NT to reveal it’s hand.

  13. I used to volunteer for them – I actually did 20 years of conservation and countryside work but no more. I gave up over their pro blood sports policy, and now regret ever falling for their professed interest in nature conservation. I now regard them as a shameful disgrace of an organisation and am glad I have never joined and added to their finances.

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