The shooting community was surprised to learn that the League Against Cruel Sports has paid £160,000 for 48 acres of woodland in Somerset.

The League outbid a local shooting club at an auction in Taunton last week.

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance on Exmoor said: ?It seems a very strange purchase by the League Against Cruel Sports as the Devon and Somerset Staghounds do not hunt this wood, it does not hold deer and as far as we know, no-one else goes near Brockhole Woods.?

The woods are near the League?s existing and controversial ?deer sanctuary? at Baronsdown, which it set up after it started buying land on Exmoor in the 1960s.

The move appears contrary to the anti-shooting organisation?s recent announcement that it would be selling off land and property it had bought in the area to help to raise £1million to fight a repeal of the 2004 Hunting Act.

League chief executive, Douglas Batchelor, said: ?We announced we would be selling some land in Devon and Somerset to help to fund the campaign and the acquisition of Brockhole Woods is strategic. Our plan to sell land to finance our biggest campaign on hunting has been an enormous success. The purchase of this important woodland is a significant step forward in our wider plan to rationalise our land holdings.?

The existing shooting rights on Brockhole Woods run out at the end of February.

This has prompted speculation that the League plans to sell the land after that point but retain the shooting rights, effectively banning shooting on the land.

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