ILKLEY Moor's head gamekeeper has led ramblers on a walk to show how grouse shooting helps conservation.

Simon Nelson took 16 visitors onto the moor in an event organised by the Countryside Alliance, as part of a programme of walks to encourage communication between people working on shooting estates and those living nearby.

Members of the Bradford CHA Rambling and Social Club area got a behind-the-scenes look at the workings and wildlife of the moor. They saw a red kite, endangered curlew, skylarks and grouse as they walked across the 1,000-acre moor, which is leased from Bradford City Council by the Bingley Moor Partnership.

Mr Nelson told the group the shoot conserves the land it leases from the council by removing invasive plants, like molinia grasses and bracken, to allow the native cotton grasses and heathers to thrive and produce habitat for the grouse and other ground-nesting birds, like wheatear, golden plover and merlin.

Terry Brown, from Bradford, said: "I've walked across this moor many times, but didn't know much about what goes on here.

"I don't oppose grouse shooting but don't think I would be in support of them using the moor if they didn't do the conservation stuff."

Connie Jackson, from Liversedge, said she had heard local opposition to the Bingley Moor Partnership's lease of Ilkley Moor being renewed when it ends in 2018, and wanted to see the issue for herself.

She added: "The grouse would not be here on the moor if it were not for the shoot, and I think it's better for them to have a good, if short, life here on the moor, rather than none at all."

The partnership pays the council £12,000 a year to use the moor for eight days' shooting.

Ray Wilkes, from Haworth, said: "I don't shoot but I've written to the council saying the lease should be renewed.

"The council doesn't have the money to manage the moor, so why not let the shoot do it? The council also needs the money."

Simon Nelson said he was delighted to have been able to show the walkers his workplace.

He added: "They asked me some interesting questions about heather burning and predator control, but I think they understand how important it is to do this and other work if we want our moorlands to thrive."

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