When Prince Harry went down to the woods…

It is 10 years ago that three observers (one a minor) were watching Hen Harriers coming in to roost at Dersingham Bog NNR when the birds fell out of air and shots were heard.  I’ve always believed that those birds were shot and that it wasn’t a made-up account. Indeed, I have also thought the worse of those who tried to denigrate the observers by suggesting that it was inconceivable that any such thing happened.

But I’ve never thought I’ve known who was responsible, nor have I ever claimed that I did know.

Assuming that the incident did occur, then there are only three people who probably do know what happened: Prince Harry, his friend William van Cutsem and David Clarke the gamekeeper who was with them near to where the incident happened on that late afternoon.  Unless one of them makes a public statement on the matter then it will always remain in the ‘unsolved crime’ category as far as I am concerned.

These days, as can be seen above, Prince Harry seems to be putting some of his efforts into a range of good causes including wildlife ones.  Indeed, the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry has wildlife conservation, particularly illegal wildlife trade as an area that it supports. That’s good to see although, as said before, there seems to be quite a lot of wildlife crime in the neighbourhood of various royal properties (Balmoral and Sandringham) not just abroad.

At the time of the Dersingham Bog incident Prince Harry was 23 years old – just a kid in many ways. Ten years later he seems, as far as one can tell from what emerges in the media, to have grown up a lot but still to have an interesting degree of independence and edginess that would probably make him an interesting person with whom to share an evening.

It would be very good to see the royal princes speak out against wildlife crime in this country but I doubt they ever will.

Meanwhile, in these days even when someone is allegedly filmed allegedly shooting an alleged Hen Harrier, as below, we don’t see a court case.

But we can still highlight the need to be tough on wildlife crime by being tough on the causes of wildlife crime – please sign Gavin Gamble’s e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.



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18 Replies to “When Prince Harry went down to the woods…”

  1. I've felt for some time that there's mileage to be gained from addressing the growing number of young men who have, or will soon, inherit great estates and power in our country. Cutsem, Prince William, Prince Harry, the Duke of Westminster.........you can probably cite others..........all of whom possess the power, given the will, to break with the loathsome traditions of theit forbears. Do we HAVE to think of a land where the same old habits will persist in 20 or 30 years' time? Or can we imagine an individual and collective will to say "Tell you what, fellas..........." ?

    1. Most unlikely to happen. These people are all at the apex of the establishment. To them, their politics is not really politics, their nationalism is not really nationalism and, in this case, their crime is not really crime. It is their critics who are guilty of these disruptive and dangerous things while their own view is just the natural order of things. So the Royal Family might be keen on saving elephants from the 'real criminals' but they still know better than you and me who the 'real conservationists' are and who the real criminals are around here.

      I've watched, over thirty years, the arrival on the landowning scene of lots of new figures, chairs of this or that landowning body, who were presented (by themselves) as a new wave of enlightened spokesmen throwing off the old privileged fuddy duddy image, keen on conservation, blah blah. Just a front, an attempt to change the image while everything including conservation was, as ever, to be on their terms. Some of the royals may now be trendy clubbers with exotic friends but they are still hard wired to 'traditional' landowning 'values' and their attitudes are ultimately what legitimises the current situation on grouse moors, where crime is not crime and no stigma sticks to the guilty.

    2. They all already shoot so whilst your proposal is a good one all those you mention are almost certainly already lost to the dark side.

    3. Yes, for a long time my opinion of this is that their lands should be confiscated and given to any group of people, who giving the land to would anger Daily Mail readers.

  2. I was in Norfolk that week when the bird WAS shot. The day after it was all that local birders were talking about in hides and the first I had heard the news. I will say that no one even mentioned who had done the deed as it wasn't known at that particular time. There must have been six other toggers I knew personally who were talking about it and others from the local bird club so the incident did happen regardless what anyone may claim.

  3. I could forgive someone brought up in an environment where raptors are considered vermin, with a bit of youthful impetuousness. Especially if they renounced wildlife crime now and applied what they said on this to themselves.

    Just imagine, you are out with your mates, fellow young and wealthy future leaders, feeling all confident and in control, on your own land and a dirty, stinking brown gled, fly's over. You've always been told that this bird is vermin, everyone you have ever met, who you have had the course to discuss it with, has told you that this bird is vermin. You have been brought up thinking that songbird populations depend on the control of this bird. Golden plovers, lapwing and curlew are thriving in areas where this bird is controlled.

    You are also taught that quick thinking and decisive action are what makes a man. Why not take a pop, after all it's your own land?

    1. Have to admit, was thinking about the Winslow Boy, which I read 40 years ago, when I wrote that. PH hardly likely to post his confession here though.

      1. Suppose I could have written "one of the witnesses reported the bird was flying backwards at the time it was shot, indeed their initial thought was that it was a
        Canada goose."

  4. Mark, you and I both. I remember our visit to the agents office to discuss and the inward joy when your reply after listening to descriptions of how conservation minded the estate was to invite it to be the release site of WTE I had to dodge the spray of tea! one of my key memories of my 24 years with the RSPB

  5. An evening's wildfowling. Two guns. Four barrels. Three shots fired. If you believe the witness statements, simple mathematics alone would appear to confirm the identity of the guilty parties.

    1. Why be so specific Brian, there are many of us who have been to a Harrier event every year they have taken place but have not been to a Bowland one. I doubt he will be at or speak at any Harrier event next year or in the future, I will of course be happy to be proved wrong.

      1. I'm being so specific and sarcastic Paul,because he was just down the road from Bowland in Lancashire !

  6. Yes, what about Prince Harry smiling beside the dead, I think buffalo?, he had shot on a reserve in South Africa about 10 years ago. Now certain members of the Royal Family lend their voices to various wildlife causes such as campaigning against ivory poaching.
    Slightly hypocritical?

  7. The rot continues with the 'nouveau riche', who think it denotes status and success to go shooting......I'm thinking the Vinnie Joneses and the Guy Richies. Just shows how revered the 'tweed' set are in the consciousness of the wider society. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone like this would through their weight behind some serious conservation, instead of reaching for the gun?


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