Rant Inspired by The Compleat Trespasser by John Bainbridge

Ooh, I liked this book.


My intention was to review it today, but as I was writing the review it gradually turned into a polemic against grouse moors and the people who own them. So I’m going to run with that and write the review (properly) next week instead.

So, why is this about grouse moors? Well, in The Compleat Trespasser, grouse moors are one of the habitats John mentions in relation to trespassing.

There’s so much to detest about grouse moors.

Firstly, the fact that they tend to be very large areas of land owned by one rich person who wants to keep everyone else off that land; land that is, to use the hackneyed but nonetheless accurate phrase, the birthright of everyone in this country. Land that has, like much other land, been stolen from us originally by force and then passed around from one rich and powerful person to another. Land that, at one time, people would have depended upon for their livelihoods in a multitude of forms, whether it was growing food, gathering wood for shelter or for fire, fodder for their livestock, or somewhere to live.

Secondly, that same owner does everything in their power to destroy all wildlife other than the grouse they protect, so those grouse can then be killed either by their rich chums, or by others who can afford to pay for the pleasure of killing other creatures. Foxes, rats, rabbits, badgers, crows, hawks…the list is pretty well endless. Trapped, poisoned, shot…the result being a landscape as devoid of life as any desert. And I hate that arrogance that says ‘all these wild animals are my property.’

Thirdly, the drab uniformity of the landscape. Nothing but heather growing, and that burned in ten year cycles to maintain that barren uniformity. And this in turn contributes to accelerated run off and flooding in periods of heavy rainfall, affecting land lower down – often villages or small towns.

And, I daresay, the lack of cover makes it easier for the gamekeepers to watch for intruders.

But, at last opinions are beginning to slowly, but surely, turn against these dreadful habitats and their dreadful owners. I’m sure it will take a while yet, but I’m hopeful that in my lifetime we will see a ban on commercial grouse moors and the beginning of their re-wilding.

22 thoughts on “Rant Inspired by The Compleat Trespasser by John Bainbridge

  1. Bear

    I remember reading the Hansard transcript for the debate when the last petition for banning grouse shooting came up to the forcing of a Commons debate about it. It was a depressing lip-service mate-defending charade, attended by less than twenty MP’s. The tide against is possibly even higher now than it was then but I suspect it’ll need a whole lot less Eton boys and gentry wannabees playing at being toffs before we get anywhere with it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually have friends (not many, thankfully) who go shooting and then happily say, We had a great day! It was a massacre! Having shot hundreds of tame pheasant who were driven to fly overhead, having been bred for the purpose of being killed. It beggars belief. I have nothing against the guy who goes out to pot a hare for his dinner, but that…
    And the list goes on. What of people who think nothing of paying 100k to kill a lion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, Marina. As you say, it beggars belief. I can only conclude that the thought processes and feelings of some of these people are simply alien to my own. I have no point of contact with them.


  3. Wow Mick, that’s truly horrible. One thing to turn a large piece of land into a conservatorship. But then to hog it for oneself and destroy the ecosystem. Well the first is immoral and should be ameliorated, is it the latter illegal?

    Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s historical, going back hundreds of years. It’s the usual story of the powerful taking the land for themselves and effectively enslaving the poor. A history that’s been played out in the majority of countries over time.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. John Bainbridge

    Firstly, Mick, a big thank you for the mention and how much I agree with you. They are a blight on the land. We’ve all seen the horrors of birds of prey slaughtered under Lockdown, and probably lots more than reported. Worth seeking out The Long Affray by Harry Hopkins, his history of the poaching wars, which gives some graphic examples of how the ordinary folk were thrown off the land for the benefit of the few. And W H Hudson in A Shepherd’s Life gives some very good examples of the pheasant woodlands. It’s interesting to see how often antipathy to this situation has come up recently online. Cheers John B.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. A Shepherd’s Life is on my ‘to read’ list, although I’ve not come across The Long Affray.

      I think it’s certainly the environmental aspects of the situation which give the most cause for hope – grouse moors were singled out as contributing to some of the flooding this spring, for example, and the hows, whys and wherefores of re-wilding seem to have been discussed quite a lot over the last year or so.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Finger Lakes Forest, here in NY (roughly 16,000 acres of public land, owned by the federal gov’t), has been encouraging grouse with a different approach – – when the old pine plantations, planted in the 1930’s -’60’s, are harvested or thinned, the foresters let aspens spring up on some sections, instead of replanting with more valuable timber trees. Those areas are scruffy-looking, tangled, and fairly impenetrable for walkers, but very popular with the grouse. The birds do venture out into the more open woods and pastures, and hunting is allowed.
    A local mall developer did enclose 4,000 acres, twenty miles north of here, for a private “preserve” – conference center/hunting lodge, mostly for pheasants and deer, I think, and I was hoping the state would pick it up, when it went up for sale last year, but after the huge financial toll of the epidemic, $65 m. for a park is kind of unlikely. Unless you know a few benevolent billionaires?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m afraid not, Robert. And if I did I think I could find a use for their space cash over here.

      That sounds an entirely sensible approach, though. Effectively allowing the land to regenerate naturally. In the long run, it should also open up naturally for walkers – as the trees mature they will begin to shade out some of the undergrowth, and this in turn should allow larger browsing animals in. Theoretically, what you would end up with would be open forest / grassland with a diversity of wildlife and a good range of plants.

      Hopefully, that will be allowed to happen.


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