Time to add my own recollections and ruminations from the very splendid Hen Harrier Day event in Derbyshire’s Goyt Valley.
I’m deliberately keeping it quite pictorial as others have written about the day at length, including Findlay Wilde, Billy Stockwell, and Georgia Locock. Mark Avery reported on the previous evening’s event in Buxton.
A feature of both events was this incredible model grouse butt, sculpted by the ever-creative Wilde clan (the link above includes a video of its construction). The butt formed an ideal and appropriate pulpit from which the speakers could hold forth.
“Testify!” shouted Jo Smith, Chief Exec of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Actually, she didn’t but she did welcome us to Derbyshire and spoke powerfully of her desire to see Hen Harriers thriving in the county.
Jeff Knott is a raptor spokesman for the RSPB. He described how he’d become dispirited by the lack of progress on raptor issues but had been re-energised by the Hen Harrier campaign. (T-shirt by @YoloBirder)
Although I think his expression in the next picture suggests he may be trying to read a grouse industry press release without laughing:
Never easy. Maybe something penned by this corporate henchman (Andrew Gilruth of the GWCT, who looked like he’d rather be anywhere else.)
Finally, Chris Packham took to the butt to deliver a rousing address, highlighting the widespread public revulsion over the killing of Cecil the lion as an indication that people generally do care deeply about wildlife.
Chris Packham’s full speech (approx 15 mins).
After the speeches, people milled about for some time chatting, making or renewing friendships and posing for photos with 6ft birds. Eventually some of us reconvened in Buxton’s genteel Pavilion Gardens where we were pleasantly soothed by the resident silver band (with its “prize-winning euphonium section”).
Being from Norfolk, I can’t visit anywhere at all rugged without looking for a hill to shin up and, if time (and energy) are in short supply, nowhere is better for that sort of thing than Mam Tor.
As I descended the less travelled and altogether more tricky side of Mam Tor, I came across this small area of fenced in young woodland, proof that diverse vegetation would have no problem thriving in the uplands if it was just given a chance.
After a well-earned bite to eat in Castleton I hit the long road for home. Not very far along it, however, I found myself driving alongside an area of moorland. Feeling strangely compelled to go and explore it, I parked in a layby and went through a gate with an access poster warning dogs to stay on their leads. A bit of yomping up a path led me a natural hollow which had been recently cut in on one side to provide a distinct ledge. A short distance away the moor peaked in a ridge. I could imagine the grouse being put to flight by beaters walking up the slope towards the ridge. I could sense the exhilaration as the birds shot into view at up to 60mph. I could only guess at the noise of all the guns going off in a mad hurry. I could almost hear the lifeless thud of dead grouse tumbling to the ground. What a stupid, useless, pathetic activity. It is a source of constant embarrassment that this is what passes for a social life among the well-heeled and well connected. Happily, I was sufficiently invigorated by everything I’d heard and everybody I’d met throughout the day to feel too down. The clock is ticking for outdated, absurd, ecologically suicidal so-called “country pursuits”. They may be rich and powerful but we have science, we have common sense, we have decency, we have a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world. We have souls. If the shooters and their lackeys have any of those things, they’re keeping them well hidden.