RURAL communities have celebrated the start of the grouse shooting season – and are ready to rise to the challenges it will bring.

The North York Moors Moorland Organisation says prospects for this season are mixed, but towns and villages have highlighted how grouse shooting is a lifeline for them.

Lis Rickelton, manager of the Black Swan Hotel, Helmsley, said: “Helmsley and the surrounding community has been, for many years dependant on the downstream revenues generated by shooting during the season and we believe very strongly in supporting our local estates and businesses.

“We rely on shooting parties staying in our hotel to support our business in the off-peak holiday season. It also generates add on services which we can offer parties be it shoot dinners, ladies shooting lunches, spa days and even arranging tailored days out for partners and family members not shooting. Shooting is very much the backbone of our rural community.”

Robert Arrand, owner of The Rural Chauffeur business in Helmsley, said: “If there was no shooting it’s not only us who would struggle but a lot of businesses in the Helmsley area would find it hard to survive. We very much rely on the business generated during the season to see us through the rest of the year which is generally a lot quieter.”

Jeremy Shaw, owner of Carters Country Wear, Helmsley, said: “The business the local shooting industry brings in is absolutely massive to us. It creates so much local employment and everything in Helmsley is linked to it.

"People come from all over the world to shoot and enjoy the landscape and amazing views, providing a major source of income for local businesses. Without managed shooting we would not have the fantastic wildlife and vegetation in the surrounding moorland – they would be just lifeless overgrown bracken.

“The estates invest a huge amount in local infrastructure and the shooting days are vital for bringing the local community – both young and old - together.”

Seasonal grouse shooting worker John Dent added: “I am out each day driving during the grouse season and enjoy every minute of it and will continue as long as I can. The beaters range in age from young to old and you get to meet so many great people and hear all their stories, it keeps you young. Rosedale is home to me.

"I have lived in the same house for 75 years and enjoy the great community spirit as a result of grouse shooting. I had a go at beating when I was 11 years old and back then got paid ten shillings, it was such great fun and I am so lucky to still be a part of it.”

Butcher Richard Waind, of S Waind & Sons, near Helmsley, said: “We receive dressed grouse from local estates in North Yorkshire and have developed grouse sausages and burgers which have been a real hit with the public, along with whole grouse birds which have also sold well. Grouse is a low-fat healthy meat offering a rich flavour and it is fantastic that consumers are now eating far more consciously by choosing game produce in season. The additional demand for game meat during the Grouse season provides a welcome increase in sales to the business.”

Tina Brough, of the North York Moors Moorland Organisation (NYMMO), said: “Helmsley is a prime example of how grouse shooting provides a range of job opportunities in remote rural communities that would otherwise not exist.

“There are poor seasons and good seasons and you have to take them in your stride. The private investment by estate owners and sporting tenants in managing moors for red grouse continues year-round.”