Merlin Nest on Westerdale Moor

The photos below are of a nest of Merlin eggs found on Westerdale Moor. The Natural England Merlin group of volunteers along with the assistance of local gamekeepers are currently monitoring these.

The Merlin is the U.K.’s smallest bird of prey and there are only 900 to 1500 breeding pairs in the U.K. Because of the small number of these birds they are classed as a red status (highest conservation priority).

I think this has got to be looked on as a positive for the North Yorkshire Moors as we have several nests and sightings and work directly with the Merlin group to monitor these birds.

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SPEED KILLS – Slow Down On The Moors

The pictures below show incidents of animal and bird fatalaties on the roads over the Rosedale & Westerdale moors at the weekend.  The pictures show a hen grouse, a lamb, a curlew chick, a lapwing and a golden plover chick.
The high number of deaths relating to wild birds and sheep that have been run over and killed is alarmingly high.  Last year alone on the Rosedale & Westerdale estate there were over 30 sheep/lambs and 926 grouse killed on the roads (this was an increase on the 728 grouse in 2014 which then was thought to be really high).  It is also documented that an astonishingly high 80% of wader birds within 100yds of a public road also lose their life.
We can only stress the importance of curbing high speeds on moor roads as we try to look to protect the lives of as much wildlife as we can.
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To Burn Or Not To Burn? That Is The Question!

A very topical and much debated subject at the moment is the burning of heather, should we burn, what are the benefits and what are the downfalls.  Moorland burning is happening, so surely it makes more sense that it should be undertaken in a controlled environment as opposed to an out of control wildfire that takes out not only large areas of moorland but also the wildlife that resides on it.

You only have to look in the news in the last couple of weeks to witness the utter devastation that has taken place on the National Trusts Howden Moor in the Peak District where over 200 acres of heather moorland has been destroyed.  The moorland ground itself though is not the only casualty, there is no way of knowing the full extent of fatalities to wildlife and the environmental damage that has been caused, however this could have been even worse if it had not been for the valiant efforts of the gamekeepers who managed to save the historical hen harrier nesting site.  The devastating images of burnt nests, smouldering peat, Golden Plover, Merlins, Pipits and Stonechat overseeing their scorched habitats is a haunting picture that we do not want to see being repeated.  The Howden Moor fire was believed to have been started by a portable barbecue and this is an all too familiar careless happening on a nice warm sunny day on the moors.  The fire service undeniably did a great job while they were there but had the local gamekeepers not remained there alone overnight to try and bring the fire under control then it is estimated that some 8,000 acres of heather moorland could have been destroyed.  The main issue with this terrible occurrence is the fact that the National Trust who owns the moor have their own ideas on how the moor should be controlled and they do not follow tried and tested moorland controlled burning management practices.

Burning is essential to encourage the regrowth and healthiness of heather and each estate works in accordance with their own individual agreements with Natural England as to the amounts, areas and burning cycle that is required.  Nobody is saying that controlled burning of heather will prevent wildfires, however it will create firebreaks and this most certainly would help in containing a fire and limiting the damage it can cause.  The controlled rotational burning of strips of moorland removes the old and very dry surface vegetation and by strip burning this almost eliminates one of the main reasons why a fire escalates, spreads and intensifies so quickly.  After burning has taken place the heather rejuvenates over a period of time and acts as a major protein source for red grouse.  The majority of gamekeepers have attended the NGO ran burning course and this is to ensure that the correct procedures are followed.  Controlled Heather burning is undertaken between the months of October and April when it is not nesting season and the risks of damage to wildlife is almost minimal.  Strip burning of moorland gives wildlife the chance to move to a non fire habitat, whereas a wildfire spreads so quickly the wildlife stands only a very slim chance of survival, the breeding habitats are destroyed and this is not just in the case of grouse but also a vast array of conservation listed birds.

The Peak District fire is not a solitary happening, there have also been two separate incidents within the Angus Glens region, two on Ilkley Moor and one near Osmotherley in North Yorkshire and these are only the ones that I’ve heard about, all of these fires were suspected of being started accidentally/deliberately.  However the major difference here is that on gamekeeper managed moorland, the fires were brought under control quickly, and in stark contrast to the Peak District fire it limited the damage caused to the moors and wildlife.

As the weather improves, the sun comes out, the tourists come out and the moorland dries out, the risk of fire increases greatly therefore it is an absolute must that the “no fires/barbecues” policy is adhered to.  Ignorance is partly to blame here as many people are unaware of the potential risks to having a barbecue for example and they do not realise the implications a dropped light may have.  It is our aim to educate as many people as we can about the fire risks and get the message across by interacting with people directly on the moors and also via social media outlets.

It seems inevitable that fires will start, whether that be by accidental or deliberate means so it is imperative that a common sense attitude to rotational controlled burning is put in place.  The overall care of the moorland and wildlife is paramount and the evidence speaks for itself, controlled burning HAS to happen, it HAS to be accepted and from this it WILL bring the right results and this is not just for the success of gamekeepers, it is primarily for the environment and the wildlife.  

On a final note common sense has to prevail, lessons have to be learned, and practices have to be put in place and adhered to by ALL moorland estates.  Safety and conservation is top of the agenda and to ensure this happens then controlled burning is the way forward.

Please like and share this article, many people make a voice and this voice needs to be heard!


NYMMO & NGO – Yorkshire Charity Clay Shoot

Please come and support us, have a great day out and really enjoy yourselves, a selection of all proceeds raised will be going to the Great North Air Ambulance.  Fantastic prizes, a great raffle, refreshments available and fingers crossed the sun shines and the weather is kind to us.  Hope to see you all there!

Yorkshire shoot

Golden Grouse Clay Shoot

The Golden Grouse Clay Shoot 2016

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Location: Spaunton Quarry, Spaunton Moors, Appleton-le-Moors, Kirbymoorside, North Yorkshire YO62 6NF
Date: Wednesday 8th Jun 2016
Time: 09:30am- last entry 1:00pm

This year’s Golden Grouse is being hosted on the Spaunton Estate, North Yorkshire by kind permission of George Winn-Darley. Last year’s winner Roger Ayton, headkeeper on Goathland and Wheeldale Moor is taking on the task of setting up an exciting 100 bird sporting layout in the Old Spaunton Quarry.

The day will be 100 sporting layout with classes for keepers, supporters, ladies and colts. Entry is £40 to include cartridges – pre booking is recommended. Spaunton Quarry is the perfect venue for this year’s Golden Grouse clay shoot, with ample parking and a brilliant landscape to put on a challenging and exciting shoot. There will be 10 stands, 5 pairs on each stand all simulating live quarry.

There will also be a pool shoot.

Rules for Golden Grouse/Pheasant clay shoots as passed by the national committee on 2nd Dec 2007

1. The Golden Grouse and Golden Pheasant clay shoots are open to all NGO members, consisting of 100 clays each, a pool shoot and a flush will also be run on the day.

2. Classes:-

  • Golden Grouse and Golden Pheasant. Only NGO keepers can enter these two classes and only moorland keepers can shoot for the Silver Grouse
  • Supporter
  • Side/Side
  • Ladies
  • Juniors (under 21 on competition day)
  • Overall high gun
  • Veteran

3. Keepers entering the Golden Grouse and Golden Pheasant must be wearing tweeds (consisting of tweed trousers/plus two/ plus fours, tweed waist coat, tweed jacket, collar & tie) if no appropriate clothes are worn they will be entered in to the supporter’s class. In all other classes a suitable dress code will apply NO DENIMS, TEE SHIRTS OR SKEET VESTS to be worn after signing in or during shooting; any one breaking these rule will forfeit their card.

4. Having won the Golden Grouse or Golden Pheasant he/she will not be allowed to enter the competition the following year as he/she or their region will be invited to set up and run next year’s competition, but can enter every year from then on. This rule applies only to this class.

5. First card only counts in all classes.

6. In all classes there will be a 1st, 2nd, 3rd trophy

7. Only FELT/FIBRE cartridges that are provided can be shot on the 100 bird competition but shooters can use their own cartridge on the pool and flush stands but they MUST BE FELT/FIBRE WAD anyone breaking this rule will forfeit their card with no refund, 12 and 20 bore cartridges only, will be provided (28, 16 and .410 will not be available).

8. Shooting starts at 9.30am last entries to be signed in by 1.00pm

9. Food and drink will be provided (lunch included in entry fee) for anyone wishing to buy on arrival and during the day. There may be a bar, but shooters are warned that anyone caught drinking while shooting will be asked to stop shooting and forfeit their card.

10. In the event of a tie, if time allows a shoot off will take place, if not then a count back will take place with the referee (The Organiser) starting on stand five, will count the hits, the one with the most hits on stand five will win, if cards are still tied then he/she shall carry on to stand 4, 3, 2, 1, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, or until he/she has got a winner.


CONTACT NAME: Ann Robinson-Ruddock
CONTACT TEL: 01883 660869



Damage To Traps – Increased Risk To Ground Nesting Birds

The traps shown on the pictures are Fenn traps which have been set on wood rails, these traps are crucial to gamekeepers in their battle to help protect ground nesting birds.  Unfortunately if you look closely at the pictures you can see that these particular traps have been set off by a member of the public with a piece of heather stick.  Regardless of whether this was done as a silly prank or done with malicious intent the only real damage being done by springing the trap is the increased risk to the ground nesting birds from predators.

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The importance of a good trapping programme is essential in successful moorland management, the 3 main traps that are used are Fenn, Larsen and Multi-Catchers.  The Fenn traps are used to try and catch stoats, weasels, rats and squirrels and these traps have mesh guards attached to them to try and prevent any other non-target animals from entering.  The Larsen and Multi-Catcher traps are used to try and catch Crows, Magpies, Rooks, Jackdaws and Jays as these are the birds that would normally suck the eggs, the pictures below show grouse and pheasant eggs that have been targeted.  The sucking of eggs is a real problem at nesting time and the lapwing, ring ouzel and curlew nests are much less concealed than the grouse nests so they are quite often easier targets.

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Trapping for predators is a vital job that a gamekeeper does and this is why it is so disappointing when traps are tampered with as this increases the risk of decline to the moorland bird population.  The overall numbers of all ground nesting birds not just the grouse would suffer if the gamekeepers were prevented from setting traps to catch predators, this job is done to protect all ground nesting birds on the moors and ensure their survival.



Ring Ouzel Chicks on Westerdale Moor

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The above 3 great pictures are of Ring Ouzels on the Westerdale Moor, this is one of the nests that has been closely monitored for the last month.  The Pictures show the development stages from the starting out as eggs, to the newborn chicks and then the growing of feathers.  The camouflaged nest wasn’t as well positioned as you might think it was in a really close proximity to a railway line being only 2 metres away from it!

There are only between 6,200 and 7,500 breeding pairs of Ring Ouzels in the U.K. and they are classed as a red status (highest conservation priority) bird.  There have been many sightings by the keepers on Westerdale moor and I think we are very lucky to have these birds nesting on our well managed North Yorkshire Moor estates.

An update on the Ring Ouzels on the Westerdale Estate, another great success story, as you can see from the pictures the chicks have now fledged, a successful outcome and this can only help the Ring Ouzels in their conservation status.

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The British Trust for Ornithology – Ringing on Bransdale Moor

Yesterday there were 2 members of the British Trust for Ornithology (B.T.O.) out on Bransdale moor ringing birds.  Keepers Murray and Tom met up with them while they were out on the moors and offered to lend a hand.  Prior to the keepers help the 2 B.T.O. members had spent 3 hours and had ringed only one lapwing chick, after another 2 hours with the assistance of the keepers they’d managed 8 lapwing chicks and 4 curlews. I think this highlights again that the keepers knowledge of both the moorland and the birds is invaluable.

The ringing scheme run by the B.T.O. aims to monitor the survival rates of birds and collect information about their movements.  The information gained from this scheme provides vital support for conservation efforts as it helps to understand how the processes influence the population sizes over time and identifying these mechanisms is the first step in reversing declines.  If you would like to help them in their work, keep an eye out for ringed birds and log them on the B.T.O. website.


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Trailblazing Funding For The North Yorkshire Moors

A really great article below has been published on the North York Moors National Park website, the highlight for us is the investment that David Ross (owner of Rosedale & Westerdale Moor) has invested through the David Ross foundation.  The total budget for the project is now upto £3.5m.

“The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a £2.8m grant to protect and raise awareness of one of the unique landscapes of the North York Moors National Park.

Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, the project will help understand and enhance the landscape and its legacy of 19th century ironstone exploitation, preserving it for future generations and making connections to Teesside, the industrial area that it created.  Geoff Taylor vice-chair of the TEL Executive Group commented: ”The success of our bid brings to fruition a truly cooperative endeavour by groups across and around the North York Moors. We are now enabled to preserve the extraordinary efforts of pioneering Victorian railwaymen, ironstone miners and steelmakers for future generations and that is a source of great pride. Local history groups play an increasingly important part in the life of our communities and they will take heart from this.”

The dramatic and distinctive landscape at the centre of the project, entitled ‘This Exploited Land’ (TEL), tells a story about the importance of the pioneering ironstone and railway heritage of an area from Grosmont, through Eskdale to Kildale and then on through Rosedale to Rosedale Abbey, which is being eroded over time. It will also encourage rare wildlife, ancient woodlands, wild daffodils and the special species of the River Esk.

The project is a culmination of hard work and vision from local communities, the Authority, volunteers and ‘This Exploited Land’ Partnership and its Executive Group, and is something that communities in the National Park have wanted to do for a long time. With match funding from the North York Moors National Park Authority, the David Ross Foundation and other partners it takes the total budget for this project to £3.5m. David added: “The David Ross Foundation is delighted to be supporting this exciting project, preserving the landscape for future generations and helping to establish an education centre in the North York Moors National Park. Giving children the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of this beautiful landscape and partake in outdoor adventures will help them discover their strengths, build confidence and make sense of their surroundings.”

Andy Wilson, CEO at the North York Moors National Park Authority said: “The Heritage Lottery Funding will help ensure the story of the landscape will be a source of inspiration and pride for years to come. This is wonderful news for the National Park and we’re very excited about starting the projects and working with the TEL executive and local community to deliver on our vision.”

The grant will ensure the conservation and interpretation of features relating to the 19th century industrial expansion along the remote valleys of the North York Moors. The project has three interlinked components; archaeology and built heritage, the natural environment and interpretation, education and engagement.

There will be 46 individual projects being carried out from 2016-2021 across the landscape area – ranging from the conservation of the iconic structures, such as ironstone kilns in Rosedale and mines in Kildale, reconnecting habitats and restoring ancient woodlands, removal of fish barriers along the River Esk, to working with schools to encourage children to connect with and learn more about the landscape.

Doctor Louise Cooke, Heritage Officer TEL at the North York Moors National Park Authority said: “The scheme is really diverse, with lots of opportunities for people to get involved. It’s really exciting after years of intense project planning to see our long- term aspirations being turned into reality and getting the go ahead for our projects to begin.”

The TEL project area covers a sweeping arc from Goathland to Grosmont, then westwards along the Esk Valley to Kildale, finally crossing the moors south eastwards to reach Rosedale. A patchwork of habitats occurs across the area, from ancient semi-natural woodland and upland hay meadows to riverbank habitats along the River Esk and its adjoining streams.

Ring ouzels, mountain blackbirds, are an example of how the former industrial heritage has shaped the landscape for wildlife today. These birds are associated with the belt of land on the moorland edge around the disused railway and kilns in Rosedale. This species is a national conservation priority so by preserving this historic landscape and bolstering the habitat by providing more berry-bearing shrubs, the ring ouzel population will increase, helping to halt national long-term declines.

Louise added: “The still relatively remote landscape conceals a largely untold story of communities shaped by a century of intense industrial activity, a story of enterprise and innovation, of hard physical work at a scale hard to imagine, all in an area of outstanding landscape value, now protected by its designation as a National Park.”



Media contact

Tel: 01439 772700

Alison Harris, Media and Communications Officer, North York Moors National Park

The North York Moors National Park

The North York Moors is a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, spectacular coast, ancient woodland and historic sites. It was created on 28 November 1952 and became Britain’s sixth national park.

The North York Moors National Park Authority works with a huge variety of people to care for this beautiful corner of Yorkshire. Nearly 14% of its staff are apprentices from local families.

To view other press releases and for further information about the North York Moors National Park,

The UK’s 15 national parks are hugely popular with the public – in a poll undertaken by the UK Association of National Park Authorities in February 2013, 93 per cent of people felt national parks were areas of national importance. Public spending on national parks in England is less than £1 per person per year. More information on the UK’s national parks can be found at


Notes to editors:


  • The linear project area mirrors the rise and decline of the railways and the extractive industries. The coming together of people, technology, landscape and evocative remains is uncommon in the North of England.
  • At its peak in the mid 1870s-mid 1880s the ironstone industries in the area (alongside the remainder of the Cleveland Hills) provided 38% of Britain’s need for iron which equated to 20% of world demand.
  • Local technological developments in blast furnaces (such as the Cleveland Practice used at Grosmont ironworks) were for a time the most advanced in the world.
  • The impact of industrialisation on the landscape was in the creation of mines, the calcining kilns, construction of ironworks, the creation of mineral tramways and railways and the construction of accommodation for the increased population of the area.
  • The area contributed to the shifting industries in North East England and the establishment of Middlesbrough as a centre of iron-making and it impact on the nation and indeed the world. In 1851 38 Blast Furnaces were operating in the North East and 13 were supplied with ironstone from the project area, by 1863 108 Blast Furnaces with 78 supplied with ironstone from the project area.
  • 1835 Ironstone was first identified and the first underground ironstone mining commenced – representing the first such mining in the Cleveland Hills ironstone mining district. Following on from this first discovery Ironstone was identified and worked along the Murk Esk Valley at Beck Hole  and Esk Valley, then at Kildale and later magnetic ironstone was discovered in Rosedale.
  • The industry waxed and waned through the later half of the 19th century and into the 20th century, with the official closure of the North Eastern Railway Rosedale Branch in 1929. This followed the final closure of the Rosedale East mines in 1926.
  • Technological innovations in the design and workings of blast furnaces were pioneered in the area  with many of the great ‘Ironmasters’ including Lothian Bell, Hugh Bell, Henry Bolckow and Charles and Thomas Bagnell.


About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery @HLFYandH”

The Importance of Sheep on The Moors

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Chicks aren’t the only young that are out and about on the North Yorkshire Moors at this time of year, here we have a Swaledale sheep and newborn lamb on Bransdale Moor.  Sheep are invaluable to the moors as alongside best practice burning and mowing their sympathetic grazing assists in the control of the vegetarian growth, the sheep also play a major part in tick control as they act as “tick mops”.

Ticks are very harmful insects and if they infect ground nesting birds treatment is impossible, however in sheep they can be dealt with.  The “mopping up” of ticks by sheep also helps to lower the risks to human visitors and their canine friends from Lyme disease when out walking on the moors. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by infected ticks, it can usually be treated effectively if it’s detected early on, but if it’s not treated or treatment is delayed, there’s a risk it could develop severe and long-lasting symptoms.

This is another good reason why walkers should always keep their dogs on leads.