SHOTS were fired, tweed was everywhere and the hounds graced the arenas; the biggest countryside field sports celebration in Britain, the CLA Game Fair, has opened for business in Yorkshire for the first time in over a decade.
Beneath the glorious stately home on the hill, tens of thousands of people milled around the extensive grounds of Harewood House near Leeds on opening day. Families travelled from all across the country to be there, with have-a-go sports taster sessions such as clay shooting and kayaking; displays and demonstrations of cooking, falconry, sheepdogs and farriery, and rows of hundreds of rural trade stalls all competing for their attention. All this and more continues tomorrow and Sunday.
With around 150,000 visitors expected over the three days it is the place to be for both leisure and business, with the throngs of visitors joined by politicians including UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Labour frontbencher and Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith and the Tories’ former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
A campaign calling for a ban on driven red grouse shooting hit the headlines in the run up to the Fair. Asked for his thoughts, Mr Farage told The Yorkshire Post: “There is always a debate about how these moors are managed, managing them properly is right, but be in no doubt... I think on balance it’s better to have people looking after this stuff and revenue coming in from shooting than not.”
Conservative MP for Penrith and The Border, Rory Stewart, spoke about becoming Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He assumed the role following the General Election, having previously served as a government diplomat in Iraq.
He said it was vital to foster better relationships between moorland owners and conservationists. Referring to the grouse shooting furore, he said: “We need to try and bring with us if we can the one million members of the RSPB but we also need to understand, grouse shooting is something which contributes a very significant amount to the rural economy.”
A new strategy aimed at landowners to create more resilient woodlands was announced. The measures, led by the forestry sector, include growing a greater diversity of tree species to protect against damaging pests and diseases.
The CLA gave Long Service Awards to three Yorkshire gamekeepers with 130 years’ experience between them. Howard Brittain, gamekeeper at Bramham Park, was the longest-serving recipient having been employed at the Leeds estate for 50 years.
Charlie Thomas, the Game Fair’s marketing manager, said: “It’s been a fantastic celebratory day. We’ve had people through the gates from country and urban areas, and professionals. We’re looking forward to the weekend and hoping for lots of 16s and under to come along for free.”