Shooting Times & Country|May 27, 2020
Many sporting folk dream about owning their own shoot. The idea can become a constant, niggling temptation and it is a recurring topic of discussion at shoot lunches. We all love to compare and contrast different shoots, and everybody has a favourite sporting scene in mind when we’re left nursing fond memories of high birds and happy days at the end of the season. Imagine if you had unlimited resources; how it would feel to own a Highland deer forest or a rich Devon valley where the pheasants come hard and high? Even the thought is enough to make you sigh wistfully and gaze into the middle distance.
Having visited dozens of grouse moors over the past decade for work and play, it’s perhaps inevitable that I should have played a similar game in my own quiet moments. Every grouse moor has something different to offer, so when a long car journey beckons or I lie awake in bed at night, it’s fun to rank them in order of personal preference. Sometimes I imagine how it would be to have a vast Highlands moor in the Angus Glens, but then I compare that with some smaller, classic spot in the North Pennines.
By sheer chance, my favourite piece of moorland came up for sale two years ago, and my imagination flared at the prospect of taking it on. Of course, it was never going to happen, but I allowed myself to enjoy a moment of sheer fantasy. My heart sang to imagine packs of my own grouse passing in a storm above the butts, turning like cinders down steep-sided glens where the burns rumble and summon salmon out of the Tweed. I thought that would suit me quite nicely, but then I happened to catch sight of the price tag and my dreaming came to an abrupt finish. My sporting paradise, tucked neatly away in the Scottish Borders, would set me back almost £2million, let alone the cost of maintaining the place and housing, employing and providing equipment for two gamekeepers to the tune of around £80,000 annually.
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May 27, 2020