Nidderdale Gamekeepers help 6th Ripon Scouts
Described here is "An Evening with Nidderdale Moorland Group" by Edward Dobbs (aged 12)
"I was excited to be going on this outdoor event with 6th Ripon Scouts. We drove past Masham and up on to the edge of Jervaulx Moor, arriving on a fine evening at 6.30pm. We met up at the Moor Gate, and the gamekeepers come to the gate to let us in. We drove up a rough track behind their vehicle to the stone shooting lodge about half a mile from the road. Here we were split into groups based on height and went round four different activity bases.
Our first base was pigeon. We were shown how to de-feather them over a bag and cut the breast meat out on a table - this was known as de-breasting. It was quite messy, but it was fun at the same time. The breasts were cooked for us while we moved on to other activities.
Moving on to base two, we had an opportunity to blast balloons with water from a pump that they would use to extinguish fires when burning back the heather. They need to burn heather to encourage new shoots and prevent bracken and other invasive plants from growing. The young shoots are what moorland animals graze on, and well managed moorland gives perfect nesting sites for grouse.
Our next base was all about vermin. The keepers explained how stoat, crows, weasels and rats are controlled to stop them stealing bird’s eggs and killing chicks. Foxes are also a problem. The keeps set humane traps where possible, but many vermin are also shot. We were allowed to try out some infrared binoculars which let you see the heat from animals even in the dark, and when they are a long way away.
From here our next base taught us all about the role of the beaters. On shooting days these are people who carry flags and move in a line to drive the grouse towards the guns which are positioned in special structures called butts. Shooting days bring in much needed income to allow the work on the moor to continue. The gun positions change so everyone gets a chance to stand in the best positions, but even people who work with numbers in their business sometimes need help to stand in the right place. If you are interested in becoming a gamekeeper you start by being a beater, and you can start when you are 14.
The next base showed trapping. A variety of cages are used which lure birds and animals in where they spring a door and are caught humanely. They can then be removed from the moor.
When we had visited all our bases, we met up back at the lodge for some hot food and a drink. We had burgers and sausage and tried the pigeon meat we had prepared earlier along with some pheasant.
The keepers were all very nice and friendly and taught us a lot, they had been very interesting to talk to. After a team photo we headed home as it was getting dark, feeling tired but full of exciting memories of the evening."
Many thanks for 'sharing', Edward - sounds like you had a great time AND learnt a lot!!