GLOOMY OUTLOOK: Rob Mitchell, chairman of Durham and Northumber-land branch of the National Gamekeepers Organisation
GLOOMY OUTLOOK: Rob Mitchell, chairman of Durham and Northumber-land branch of the National Gamekeepers Organisation

A LATE winter and a dry summer has decimated moorlands leaving a poor outlook for the grouse hunting season, gamekeepers have warned.

The worst hit moors may not have any shoots this year, while others may only have a handful because there are so few grouse.

Robert Mitchell, who is chairman for the Durham and Northumberland division of the National Gamekeepers Organisation, said the Teesdale economy is likely to take a knock because of the reduced number of shooting parties, with hotels, shops, pubs, bed and breakfasts, and even schoolchildren missing out on the extra cash.

He said: “The outlook in Teesdale is quite poor. The heather is not in good condition. The heather is brown, dry and brittle. One match on the moor would be catastrophic.”

He added that while some grouse chicks had been born late after the heavy snowfalls, they had not been able to develop because of the drought conditions.

Another problem he said was counting the grouse because they were hiding from the heat.

Blenkiron

The Newbiggin Estate gamekeeper said higher moors were more badly affected than the lower moors.

He added: “Most moors in Teesdale will have a go shooting.

Some have put their start days back and some of the lower moors in the dale are hoping for an average season, but the higher moors have not fared so well and may only have a few days.”

Mr Mitchell said farmers were suffering because of the dry conditions too.

He said: “They reckon hay and silage has gone through the roof price-wise.”