Wild red grouse shooting in England and Wales was worth over £67.7m in 2010 and is set to generate even more this year.
Figures released by the Moorland Association earlier this week, ahead of the start of the grouse shooting season today (12 August), show that grouse moor owners spend more than £52.5m a year on moorland management across some of Britain’s most important upland habitats.
Businesses associated with grouse shooting – game dealers, accommodation providers, equipment suppliers, hotels and transport operators – are reckoned to benefit from an additional £15.2m. There are 1,520 full-time jobs associated with grouse shooting across England and Wales.
Independent economic consultants PACEC, which conducted the research, says red grouse shooting is a premier sporting experience unique to Britain and is an international tourist activity.
“It brings participants and their expenditure into the country and contributes positively to the UK balance of trade in a way that shooting activities with a higher proportion of UK participants are less likely to do.”
But Edward Bromet, chairman of the Moorland Association, says that with little chance of generating a profit, grouse moor management is not a business that is encouraged by bank managers.
“However, the passion of moorland mangers for their sport and their desire to improve the landscape in their care means many people profit in other ways. Grouse moors are much less well known for their vital role in providing a range of free natural services such as clean water, flood protection, carbon storage, places for quiet recreation as well as producing wild red grouse, heather-fed lamb and heather honey.”
In a year when wild grouse have bred well, as they have this year, each moor will run an average of eight days shooting between 12 August and mid-October, although the official grouse season runs until 10 December.
But the Moorland Association says grouse moor owners who let some or all of their shooting days on a commercial basis only receive revenue to cover less than 40% of their annual costs and just a handful of moors break even.
The Moorland Association says its members have restored heather over 89 square miles of moor in the last year, equivalent to the size of Birmingham. Moorland owners have plugged 1,250 miles of drainage ditches to lock up carbon in the soil, sown heather seed over 26 square miles, built or improved 257 miles of dry stone walls and fencing (roughly the distance from London to Penzance) and planted more than 1.1 million native trees.