*Update Dec 2022: The National Trust have indicated that the land at Park Hall will no longer be managed for shooting, stating that “the aims of the shoot tenant did not align with the National Trust’s ambitions of caring for the nature, beauty, and history of the Peak District”.
This is, finally, a huge opportunity for wildlife. We recognise the progress made here and thank all who have worked to highlight wildlife persecution on the estate: local residents, monitors, RSPB investigators and others who may wish to remain anonymous. The mounting evidence and sustained attention have surely created conditions in which the NT have simply had to do the right thing.
For many years, the National Trust have chosen to continue grouse shooting leases on vast tracts of their land across the Dark Peak Moors. This decision was taken despite campaigning by locals to see the moorland restored to a more healthy, sustainable and wilder state. The NT’s decision was also taken despite the common knowledge that driven grouse shooting is an industry underpinned by wildlife crime and cruelty.
The National Trust are no strangers to the reality of wildlife crime on their grouse shooting land. An armed man was filmed using a hen harrier decoy on a National Trust grouse moor in the Peak District in 2016. A dead Peregrine falcon was found on a National Trust grouse moor in the Peak District in 2020. And a Moscar gamekeeper admitted to the RSPCA using an unauthorised Larsen trap containing a hypothermic fox cub on National Trust land and an illegal badger trap on a badger sett near Stanage Edge in 2020. In the Park Hall area specifically, the RSPB report a shot short-eared owl and a shot buzzard in 2020 alone, followed by evidence of poison being placed in what appeared to be a badger sett on the Park Hall Estate moorland in early 2021.
In early 2022, the National Trust tried to maintain a more visible distance from the dirty work of grouse shooting. On the Park Hall estate near Little Hayfield in Derbyshire, the NT had neighbouring gamekeepers and farmers manage the moorland for them. Rather than host potentially awkward traps and snares on the NT’s own land, amenable neighbours encircled the private boundaries of the NT’s moorland with a network of lethal devices to stop any potentially predatory wildlife reaching the shooting territory.
When the NT say in their High Peak Vision that they, “Work with neighbours to realise a larger landscape scale project for benefit of wildlife and people… and ensure connectivity and habitat compatibility across boundaries” what this actually equated to was the systematic elimination of unwanted species across the NT/private land boundaries to sustain a population of mostly grouse – for shooting.
During early 2022, concerned locals noted snares set very close to an active badger sett on the boundary of the NT moorland. Badgers are a protected species and it is illegal to intentionally target them. Gamekeepers routinely get around this by using indiscriminate snares, which they claim to set for foxes, and then claim that badgers are unintended bycatch. Badgers may occasionally eat ground-nest eggs and therefore pose a potential, albeit minimal, risk to grouse shooting stocks. Badgers and ground-nesting birds have co-existed for centuries. It is only the harmful effects of human land management which have created any perceived tension between the sets of populations. And regardless, it remains illegal to intentionally snare badgers.
Despite this, snares have been a very convenient tool for gamekeepers: cheap and quick to set, minimal legislation, even less enforcement. So taking out foxes and badgers this way has been a staple of Peak District gamekeeping for many years. Even Mountain Hares are caught in snares – the iconic species of the Peak District but they rarely survive the wire nooses.
Through close monitoring, more locals were able to identify three snare sites around the Park Hall boundary: Oldpits Plantation at SK 04766 87685; Spray House Wood at SK 03771 89118 and the Intakes at SK 03731 89857. Two of these snare sites showed distinctive hallmarks of badger capture: deep circular digging around the snare anchor where a badger has frantically tried to escape. (You can see an example of this from elsewhere in the Peak District here).
The snare sites were baited with stink pits and stink bins: piles of rotting bodies left out to entice predators into the snare site, where they can be caught and shot. These were truly shocking scenes of death and decay in our national park. The stink pits contained foxes, mountain hares, ducks and pheasants. Monitors also found DOC traps baited with hacked up Mountain Hares. This is far from the “custodian of the countryside” image the gamekeepers like to portray – and far from the National Trust’s own pledge to create “The best possible conditions for sustainable populations of the full range of native wildlife“
One of the stink bins (at Spray Farm Wood, SK 03767 89105), was sited in saturated ground. Bits of pheasant carcass had floated into the water which ran off into the nearby stream. This contaminates the water supply is is hugely environmentally irresponsible.
Springtime is the peak persecution season for mammals on the grouse moors. Gamekeepers want to eliminate fertile, pregnant and lactating females so that new generations cannot survive. This is all undertaken to maximise the number of breeding grouse for the shooting season from August – December. Gamekeepers will claim they undertake predator control to protect vulnerable ground nesting birds such as curlew and lapwing. This is a smokescreen. If wader numbers were high enough, the shooting industry would happily shoot them too. Do not let them fool you. Moorland predator control is about grouse shooting profits. And that is why it is so intrinsically linked to wildlife crime and cruelty.
Badger persecution is outright illegal. Snares are often used illegally and against the code of practice (breaches on these sites included use of snares on badger runs and use of rusty snares). And snaring is outright cruel. Victims can be held for upto 24 hours in torturous pain and fear, before dying of their injuries, exposure or at the gamekeepers’ hands. Snares are indiscriminate so ALL animals are at risk – including pets. The National Trust should be VERY concerned about what happens on the boundary of their moorland. They should take immediate action to prevent wildlife crime and cruelty in their name.
Please please monitor National Trust shooting estates urgently. Although Park Hall is now apparently to be free from grouse shooting, the NT own vast swathes of land in the Peaks and beyond. It is imperative that wildlife crime and cruelty are documented, so that we can end these practices and hold powerful landowners to account. Our wild species and spaces deserve better. Please urge the National Trust to end their association with grouse shooting. Let them see the damage that is done in their name. Let them choose a wilder and more sustainable future for our uplands.
Contact the National Trust and the Peak District National Park to inform them of any future concerns on their estates in our national park:
• Snares set on active badger runs
• Snares set within meters of active badger latrines
• The use of stink bins and stink pits of rotting bodies
• Stink bins and bodies overflowing into water source
• The use of rusty snares
• The use of Mountain Hares as DOC trap bait
• The immediate threat to Mountain Hares due to snaring in their territory
• The use of any poisons