Gamekeeper of the Month – July

Raymond Holt

Gamekeeper, Emblehope and Burngrange Estate

Raymond is the first gamekeeper to be employed by The Kennel Club. He is responsible for turning Emblehope and Burngrange Estate into a “training centre of excellence for working dogs”.

Q: Why did you become a gamekeeper?

A: Because I love the countryside and wildlife.

Q: Who inspired you to become a gamekeeper?

 

A: A retired gamekeeper called Ramsay Hunter. When I was younger, I would stay most weekends at my grandparents in Lunan Bay near Montrose. We would visit him and loved listening to his many stories.

Q: What do you love the most about your job?

A: There is so much to love!

I could say the normal answer of working outdoors, but for me it is the variety of work I carry out. “Variety is the spice of life,” as they say.

No one day is the same, especially in my current job. I am working in some of the most remote bits of countryside in Northumberland, so you must be very capable of turning your hand to many tasks not just pure gamekeeping.

Gamekeepers are a “jack of all trades” and master of many.

Q: What does the job involve that people might not know about at all?

A: Just now its spring/summer so it’s predator control, building bridges, laying new tracks, road repair, fencing, cutting self-seeding trees on the hill ground, building a new shed for the generator, and building new sections for partridge pens.

In a few weeks it all changes to building pens and preparing for the arrival of the pheasants and partridges. At the same time, I’ll be accommodating clients as they put their dogs through some pre-season training days. 

September onwards we open the doors and welcome everyone to a busy new season of trials and training days for visiting clients and gundog clubs. We welcome Labradors, spaniels and HPR’s from all over the UK and abroad.

Q: Do you have any redlisted or unusual wildlife on your shoot?

A: Emblehope has an interesting mix of moorland birds i.e. hen harrier, merlin, skylark, lapwing, golden plover and barn owls.

Q: What’s your most memorable moment as a gamekeeper?

A: One of the most recent moments would be when we held our first event here at Emblehope on 2 September 2017. We moved into the house in the first week in June and 12 weeks later we were hosting a mock trial for the Scottish Field Trials Association and The Kennel Club declared the estate open for business on the same day.

Q: What’s your greatest achievement? What are you proud of the most?

A: I’m most proud of the job I’m doing now. As the first gamekeeper to be employed by The Kennel Club, I’m successfully turning their recently acquired Emblehope and Burngrange Estate into a “training centre of excellence for working dogs”.

I’m also proud to be a Trustee of The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust and of my achievements when I was on the SGA committee.

Q: How much involvement have you had with the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust and how have they helped you?

A: I’ve been a trustee of the GWT for over 10 years now and it’s been such a privilege to be involved with such an important charity.

When I first started in gamekeeping there was virtually no one you could turn to for advice or support on employment matters or any other problems. The GWT has developed into a charity that can support and advise keepers and their dependents on many levels.

Q: Do you think there is a future for gamekeepers and shooting?

A: Yes, if we can communicate more effectively with the public, media and politicians and they are willing to listen.

When I first started as a gamekeeper, I never envisaged how we would have to adapt and change with the times. Keepers were generally very private and discreet, but we now have to be out there defending our way of life and the wildlife that depends on us for survival.

Q: What would you say to encourage the next generation to think about gamekeeping as a career?

A: I would encourage the next generation to think about gamekeeping as a career. But, I would advise them to not come into the profession wearing rose tinted spectacles – it’s not just a job but a way of life.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: There is nothing better than getting the dogs out with my wife – and for a bit of dog training in beautiful surroundings.

Q: And finally, is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Yes, I would like to acknowledge my wife Anne.

Gamekeeping is very much a team effort and as the saying goes – behind every good man there is a good woman. I think the wives and partners need to be equally recognised.

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