Pubs lose out amid grouse shoot cancellations

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Out with a bang: pubs in the north of England lost thousands of pounds after grouse shoots were cancelled
Out with a bang: pubs in the north of England lost thousands of pounds after grouse shoots were cancelled

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Cancelled grouse shoots have caused problems for some rural pubs, with sites in Cumbria and Northumberland reporting tens of thousands of pounds in lost income.

A shortage of the birds meant that some 70% of planned shoot days in the north of England were called off, leaving many inns with quiet bars and empty rooms at short notice.

Local businesses in grouse hunting areas felt the force of the knock-on effect of cancellations this season, according to analysis from the Countryside Alliance.

The moors in the Forest of Bowland cancelled a combined total of 24 days, which caused a £16,500 loss in restaurant and accommodation bookings for the nearby Inn at Whitehall.

Adrian Blackmore, director of shooting for the Countryside Alliance told The Morning Advertiser​: "If there is no shooting, there are no beaters, loaders, pickers, or flankers out on the moors being paid as casual employees.

“Therefore, at the end of the day, those people aren't going back into pubs to spend some of the money they have earned.”

Empty rooms

The Elks Head in Northumberland said it lost thousands of pounds this summer
The Elks Head in Northumberland said it lost thousands of pounds this summer

Tori Miller, manager of a Northumberland inn, said cancellations caused an income loss of around £10,000 to £15,000.

The Elks Head, situated in the foothills of the Pennines, is part of the Whitfield sporting estate and usually accommodates shooting parties from mid-August to early February.

"We lost essentially a month's worth of business in August, which includes the accommodation, food and drink," Miller said.

The 10 rooms at the pub would usually be fully booked in the shooting season.

“The shoots come and stay here more often than not,” she continued. “It is a very busy time of year, it is actually our busiest season but, this year, it did not get going until the beginning of September.”

It could take a couple of years for the grouse to get back up to the levels the pub needs, Miller estimated.

Cancellations came through at the last minute and so it is a case of “wait and see” as to what trade will be like next year, she explained.

“We're still recovering. We're lucky we belong to the estate, for an independent I imagine the impact would have been a lot worse,” she said.

Sharp dip

Kenny Bushnall, co-owner of the Rookhope Inn in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, said grouse shooters occupied the pub “all the time” when he first arrived five years ago.

However, there has not been as much traction in the past couple of years, and this season was particularly quiet with a “sharp dip” in numbers, he said.

The Countryside Alliance said the occasional year with a shortage was to be expected as the wild birds were subject to weather conditions.

Critics of the sport believe simulated shooting, which uses clay discs instead of live birds, would provide a substantial investment for rural communities.

Nick Weston, head of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said “a small army of loaders, technicians, catering staff, garage owners, publicans and landowners” would benefit from a whole replacement.

He said: “Rather than damaging the ecology and regional economy like its live-quarry-counterpart, simulated shooting allows the countryside to be conserved by benefiting all wildlife beyond the red grouse.”

Wider socio-economic benefits would include an end to flooding, landslides and water pollution caused by shooting practices like burning, he added.

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