RURAL communities and businesses are stepping up efforts to ensure safety measures are in place to enable the traditional shooting season to go ahead, starting with grouse today (Wednesday).

A widespread safety initiative has been launched so that shooting can resume safely and within government Covid-19 guidelines.

This include the use of personal protection equipment, implementation of social distancing measures, food hygiene guidance on shoot days and travel restrictions.

At Swinton Estate, near Ripon, training for the new arrangements is well under way with gamekeepers wearing visors and face masks and beaters practicing socially distanced lines.

Gary Taylor, the estate’s head keeper, said: “It’s vitally important for rural communities in some of our most remote areas that the economy opens up as quickly as it can but we can only do that successfully, if all the right safety measures are in place.

“It does feel a bit unreal but all businesses, whether they are in towns or the countryside, have had to adapt.

“We’re trying to make sure that everyone who comes to a shoot day, whether they are working or a guest, is well prepared and know the ropes.

“At our shoot days we will be explaining what we all have to do. If we can get going again safely, it can only be good for the local communities.”

Game dealer, Nick Lister, from Ox Close Fine Foods, near Wetherby, attended the Swinton training session.

He said: “We supply game to local pubs and to restaurants all over the UK and abroad and the last four months have been a body blow for all kinds of rural businesses.

“However, we have got to look on the positive side and do what we can to get going again and make sure that food is provided safely to customers.”

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “People running all kinds of rural businesses are acutely aware of the need to strike the right balance between trying to re-invigorate the economy as well as keeping everyone safe.

“The moors are there to be enjoyed by everyone and it will be a great boost to local businesses if shooting can be resumed successfully and safely delivering fresh, healthy wild game meat to the table.”