Wharfedale gamekeepers to thank for hen harrier sightings

Anti-shooters who spot hen harriers on the Denton Park estate in Wharfedale can thank gamekeepers for the conservation work that brought them back.

A story in the Yorkshire Post suggests that shooting is banned at Denton Park. The newspaper quotes convicted animal rights extremist Luke Steele, saying: “It’s fantastic to see these magnificent birds of prey choosing Denton Moor to make their home.”

Happily, shooting is alive and well at Denton Hall, and advertised on the GunsonPegs.com website. ‘This beautiful venue comprises 2,500 acres of Yorkshire’s finest countryside with dramatic views towards the historic spa town of Ilkley, the River Wharfe and the famous Ilkley Moor.

‘The estate is farmed in hand and consists of grass, heather and woodland terrain, making it a versatile shooting landscape, whether for simulated game or the real thing.’

At the heart of the estate stands Denton Hall, designed by architect John Carr, which has an imposing south-facing frontage and beautiful grounds, providing a backdrop for post-shooting meals or accommodation

Denton Hall offers a shoot calendar consisting of 20 driven pheasant days and up to 25 simulated game days hosted throughout the year. Its game days range from 100 to 200-bird days with the bulk of the shooting in November and December.

The shoot boasts a variety of terrains with the main of the game shooting taking place in and around 500 acres of woodland and more than 20 acres of game crops. The estate says it releases  2,000 partridge and 7,000 pheasants, ‘with a real emphasis on the quality of the shooting experience for the teams that visit us’.

Thriving: the advert for Denton Park on GunsonPegs.com

A media campaign by Steele forced Leeds-based engineering firm NG Bailey, which owns the estate, to end grouseshooting there in 2019. In 2017, a gamekeeper employed by a shooting tenant on Langbar and Middleton moors was convicted of killing a badger in a snare.

The area is thoroughly keepered, with enough predator control to allow hen harriers to thrive. There are a further four shoots within two miles of Denton Hall.

One local shooter reports: “The hen harriers on Langbar, Middleton, Beamsley etc haven’t returned because they never went away. I saw two a couple of weeks ago at Beamsley Beacon which is bang in the middle of those three moors and Bolton Abbey Estate.”

2020 has been a bumper year for hen harriers on keepered estates. In the north of England, 60 hen harrier chicks fledged this year – the most since 2002.

Misleading: the Yorkshire Post article

On estates run by anti-shooters, results are poor. Former grousemoor Geltsdale in Cumbria, much of which the RSPB bought in 2002, saw both its hen harrier nests fail.

Of the £750,000 that 3,500 acres of Geltsdale cost, the taxpayer paid £230,000 (The Countryside Agency £221,000 and English Nature £9,000) and another £263,000 came from lottery money. At the time, the BBC reported the RSPB’s promise that the land, ‘will be a home for species such as black grouse, golden plover and hen harriers’. Nearly 20 years later and the organisation is yet to deliver on that.

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