Shoots were cancelled or risked treacherous conditions after heavy rain and flooding wreaked havoc on estates in the north

Shooting estates have faced dangerous conditions and outright cancellations this season, following sustained poor, wet weather and heavy flooding across the UK.

This latest period of bad weather in the north of England follows heavy rain during summer last year, which led to a lack of wild broods on some shoots.

Chris Wild, vice-chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), who is based in North Yorkshire, told Shooting Times: “A lot of shoots over the Christmas period had to cancel because of the flooding and high winds.

“You only have to listen to the news — there has been record rainfall and temperatures. The floods have put a dampener on what has been a very damp season anyway. I would imagine a lot of people will be happy to put this season behind them and start making preparations for next season.”

Too dangerous to send dogs across

The situation was a little better for Stuart Maughan, headkeeper on the Whitfield shoot on the border between Northumberland and Cumbria. He said he only to cancel one day — when the roads turned into rivers and became dangerous. He explained that the main issue was the extra work required to maintain the shoot’s access infrastructure.

“Footbridges over streams, fords — they all require constant attention,” he said. “That, and the fact that we cannot take vehicles across land where we normally do, makes everything so much more of an effort.”

Trevor Watson, who picks-up on several shoots in the foothills of the Cheviot Hills, said that many burns became too dangerous to send dogs across. “So you have to go round, and that takes time, and when you retrieve the birds, you might find yourself walking a long way carrying them, because you can’t drive anywhere close. But we carry on,” he said.

Alasdair Mitchell, BASC regional director for the north of England, who is also based in Northumberland, quipped: “I am thinking of farming water buffalo.” He added that: “People around here have adopted something like the Blitz spirit and are getting on with the job.

Wildfowling affected

Cumbria was one of the areas worst hit by flooding. Wildfowler Tom Sykes told us: “We have a couple of river drives and we haven’t been able to shoot those for most of the year.

“On the ducking front, there is so much water that you are wasting your time going out.”

Tom continued: “Nearly every shoot was cancelled around here, but one did shoot through; they did a few drives and then pulled out because it was just too wet and dangerous. There was also the worry of getting everybody home safely with all the roads under water.”

Tom said it had been “nearly impossible” to get to the pegs, with one stand “like a graveyard for trees that have washed down the river”.

Better news from Wales

There was better news from Denbighshire, where David Pooler, NGO regional chairman for north Wales, told us that getting to the pegs had been “a bit of a nightmare” due to the constant rain, but said: “It’s been bad, but it hasn’t been worse than most other years, to be honest.”

David explained: “Some of the roads are flooded, but we have it all the time and the network around here is used to the water.” He added that he hadn’t had to cancel any shooting and didn’t know of anyone who had.