Kevin Hollinrake MP visits Snilesworth Estate

Friday 10th March saw Jimmy Shuttlewood Head Keeper welcome MP Kevin Hollinrake to the Snilesworth estate for a guided tour and informal chat about managed moorland and the wildlife residing there.

It was great to see the array of birds on show whilst driving around, Curlew, Pheasant, Golden Plover, Partridge and of course Grouse all pointing to the good work being done by Jimmy and his team to ensure the moors are buoyant with wildlife.

Heather burning was visible on the moor and it was explained that this is carried out on a 6-7 year rotational period in accordance with the estates agreement with Natural England.  Burning is essential practice to rejuvenate heather which helps to sprout new young shoots and encourage growth from seed germination in the spring.  On viewing the moor it should look almost like a patchwork effect, the older heather is excellent cover for breeding grounds for all ground nesting birds including grouse and the newer heather provides essential nutritious food for moorland sheep and wildlife.  The controlled burning undertaken ensures that only the heather is burnt and not the peat below meaning that it doesn’t harm the heather roots or other plant life, without controlled burning the risk of a wildfire which could have devastating consequences is more likely.  The habitat conservation is of tremendous importance and the moorland management is vital to biodiversity, heather moorland globally is rarer than rainforest and 75% of it is located in the UK and without this management the biodiversity would be lost.  If the moor was left to “it’s own devices” with no burning or sheep grazing it would become overgrown by fast growing trees and shrubs and the heather would be lost forever, Jimmy managed to show us an example of where this has happened.

Jimmy explained to Kevin the importance of providing grit for the grouse, this is required to aid the digestion of heather shoots which make up 80% of their diet, the grit is needed more in winter when the heather becomes more “woody”, the grit goes round in their gizzard and breaks down the heather, on average a grouse can consume approx. 35g of grit per month.  There are two types of grit available medicated and natural, worm counts are obtained to ascertain whether medicated is required, this option is used to try and avoid a crash as this would be a disaster for estates that are run commercially to provide an income.  Medicated grit is only available by licence and a vets prescription is required to purchase it, as with anything that is going into the food chain, the medication is to be removed for a period prior to it being eaten.  The grit trays have 2 sides, 1 medicated and 1 natural, currently medicated is on show but towards the middle of June this side will be closed and the natural grit side will only be available.

Snilesworth estate work especially hard on introducing children to the moors, this is very apparent on shoot days when Saturdays are classed as childrens days whereby the beaters used are children who are picked up (and dropped back off at the end of the day) from the local village.  The estate can have over 100 people working on a shoot day from the beaters, flankers, pickers, loaders to all the staff in the shoot lodge and the importance of educating children in this is paramount.  At the end of each shooting season all employees that have helped out on a shoot day, get to stand alongside a game keeper where they are shown how to shoot and the general etiquette required when shooting.

Kevin Hollinrake mentioned to Jimmy that we should get some other MP’s out on the estate to see for themselves the benefits of managed moorland of which Jimmy was in total agreeance and offered his services if and when this could be arranged.

Kevin is quoted as saying “The work done by Jimmy and the gamekeepers is important to this community. It provides jobs and supports the local economy as well as bringing people from the area together for shoot days. Farmers and the gamekeepers work together to preserve the land. This is part of our rural heritage and essential for keeping the environment for future generations to appreciate.

I am so grateful to Jimmy for taking the time to show me this beautiful part of the constituency and explaining the many ways the gamekeepers preserve it. His enthusiasm about nature and for this unique part of the country made for a very informative and enjoyable morning. The views were amazing and the wildlife we saw thriving was wonderful to see.”