National Trust stops shooting.
The sudden termination of shooting leases on a National Trust (NT) estate in Northumberland has led syndicate members to voice concerns that the organisation has an “alarming” ignorance regarding shooting.

In December, an NT official told members of the Delf Burn shoot, on the Wallington estate, that this season would be its last because of plans “to open up the estate and create visitor ‘hubs’ away from the hall.”

However, members of the shoot, which has been running continuously for 16 years, have questioned the reasoning behind the decision, believing it may be part of a wider, anti-shooting agenda.

One member also commented that he feared more land could be lost to shooting if the NT acquires the Forestry Commission’s (FC) 620,000-acre estate as part of the Government’s proposed sell-off of publicly owned land.

Syndicate member John Evans said that though the shoot had had a good relationship with the estate itself, he had been disappointed by the lack of knowledge and understanding of some NT officials on a national level.

“Apparently, they will not permit the release of grey partridges, because ‘the survival rate is low’,” he said.

“But we know from research that you can produce viable results. Suppose you release 100 birds, the NT will say the survival rate is only 10%, but that is 10 more birds than you had before.”

“There are lots of examples. The last time we renewed the lease, the quarry list said that we were not allowed to shoot carrion crows. I took this up with the NT and it said that the birds were quite rare. The people who are laying down these rules appear to have no knowledge of the practical effects. It is not only disappointing, it is alarming.”

Phil Proctor, another member of the syndicate, described the situation as “disappointing”.

He said: “The estate said it wanted to attract more visitors into the area and that shooting wouldn’t be compatible with that aim. That seems to be the policy of the NT across the board. There was a shoot fairly close by, at Gibside, and it stopped the shooting there, as well. I do not think it is particularly pro-fieldsports.”

The Government’s proposed disposal of FC land could mean more shooting land comes under the control of the NT in the future.

Last week, at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron suggested that organisations such as the NT and the Woodland Trust could do a better job at managing land than the FC.

An NT spokesperson said: “From 1 February 2011, the trust has taken the decision not to renew two of the three shooting leases on the Wallington estate. This decision has been taken because the trust is going to be investing in projects over the area the shoot currently covers in the next few years, with the aim of increasing visitor access and enjoyment.”

“The types of projects the trust is anticipating are deemed to be incompatible with shooting activities because of the health and safety risks. We will be keeping the policy on shooting and pest control under review and monitoring the impacts of a reduction in formal shooting activities.”