Red Grouse: Cairngorms

We had to get our ‘eye in’ before we could spot these beautiful birds. The most that you are likely to see is a head that appears briefly above the heather and then is gone. Unlike the pheasant, the Red Grouse is a truly wild bird. They can’t be farmed because they only eat the new tips of the heather plants and so far, fortunately, a human idiot has not come up with a more ‘economically viable’ solution to that.

Every year thousands of these beautiful birds are driven onto massed guns and shot by wealthy people with nothing more useful to do at the weekend. This wholesale, pointless, slaughter they call sport. I find it difficult to view blasting away with shotguns as the birds are made to fly over them as sport, as a re-inactment of the First World War perhaps, but not sport.


The argument goes that without the income generated by these shoots the heather moors would not survive and the grouse would diminish in numbers and men would loose their jobs, families would be made homeless and the lands cleared of people – hang on, were the lands not cleared of people so that the landowners could farm sheep and when the bottom fell out of that market, farm pheasant for shooting. The mass trespass onto Kinder Scout in 1932 was a reaction by ordinary people to the theft of common land.

In the 1930s even walking was a political issue. Rambling was an increasingly popular working-class activity, but much of the countryside was private land, energetically defended by landowners and their gamekeepers. In the Peak District, the growing numbers of walkers were forced to keep to a few specified paths; in frustration, in 1932 the British Workers’ Sports Federation (some of whose members were also members of the Communist party) organised a mass tresspass on the slopes of Kinder Scout. When five of them were imprisoned it kindled national outrage; a few weeks later 10,000 ramblers gathered for a support rally. That mass trespass eventually led to today’s “right to roam”.



Tricky birds to photograph but a hugely enjoyable experience crawling through heather on a sunny afternoon! 300mm lens at f2.8 with fingers crossed.


I was sad to see this little family go. I wish them well and hope they get to live a full life and not end up in the back of a Land Rover having paid the ultimate price just to make a bankers weekend perfect.


Author: Hares on the Hill

I am a designer and photographer. I live with my wife and our two dogs in the Welsh Marches, a land full of history, legends, mountains, rivers and dragon's breath; a place where animism thrives. To our north are the Cambrian Mountains, the Elenydd, a vast plateau so ancient that its mountains now have the appearance of steeply rounded moorland hills; to the east is England; to the south stand the Black Mountains and in the west the Brecon Beacons rise around the twin summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du, the highest mountain in West Wales.

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