Gamekeeper of the Month – March

Richard Bailey

Crag Estate Senior Beatkeeper

Richard is the senior beatkeeper at Crag Estate and coordinator of the Peak District Moorland Group. He has grown up in fieldsports and has a passion for the countryside.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into gamekeeping?

A: My family is involved with fieldsports so from an early age it was natural for my hobby to turn into my profession.

None of my family were gamekeepers but I’ve been lucky to have had practically-minded role models from the foxhunting and gamekeeping profession in my upbringing. These inspired me to persevere with my passion of working in wildlife management. 

I have also been very lucky to work on some famous estates with fantastic gamekeepers and deer stalkers.

Q: What is your most memorable moment as a gamekeeper?

A: There are so many! From the great people I have both worked with and met, to the amazing places I have worked and the incredible wildlife scenes I have observed first-hand. And not forgetting the dire weather conditions I have endured at times. To pick a single moment would be impossible!

I can think back to many memorable shoot days and sincere words of gratitude from some top sportsmen and women that make me proud. I still get a huge sense of achievement and pride in the knowledge of a job well done.

In connection with my role as coordinator of the Peak District Moorland Group, I have had numerous conversations with individuals explaining all of the conservation work that shooting estates carry out under the umbrella and funding that grouse shooting provides. It fills me with pride that they have gone away with a new understanding of the overwhelming benefits that positive moorland management plays in the areas we work.

Q:  What’s the best thing about being a gamekeeper?

A: Firstly, like many other land-based occupations, it cannot be seen as just a job. It is more a way of life.

There is a huge array of aspects to my job that I truly love. Seeing the benefits, the multitude of moorland species and having a positive interaction with the public when I am out on the moors is great. It is awe-inspiring to see the joy and camaraderie from an enjoyable shoot day (whatever the bag size) for everyone involved and being part of a rural community that has a desire to improve the enjoyment for all that visit, makes it so worthwhile.

We have many red-listed species in “my” office but I am particularly fanatical about waders, especially the curlew. They are such iconic springtime nesters on our moors and to know that this is through the predator control and hands-on habitat management by shooting estates is remarkable. They have turned around the fortunes of these birds, with the recent Peak District Breeding Bird Survey showing a 250 per cent increase in curlew since 1990.

Q: Do you think there is a future for gamekeepers and what advice would you give to someone thinking of a career?

A: I really do hope so, there are too many benefits not to be. We need to change the way gamekeeping is perceived and documented in our ever-evolving world. It really is up to everyone involved to speak up about all the huge benefits and not leave it to the organisations, groups and a few individuals to do the leg-work.

To someone considering a career in gamekeeping, I would say look at the wider picture of the benefits they can bring for the continuation of shooting and countryside management. I am in no doubt that changes will occur, as they have always done, and we all need to be on the front-foot for these changes and be prepared to adapt.

Q: Have you had any involvement in the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust (GWT)?

A: My wife ran the Great North Run, along with two others. They did it to raise money for the GWT after my daughter was given a trike to improve her core mobility when she was small.

She has now progressed to be a very competent horse rider and we are hugely grateful for all that the GWT did for her. My hope is that she goes onto greater success in the equine world.

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