THE grouse shooting season proved a runaway success in the Nidderdale Moorland Group area with most estates enjoying a full shooting programme.

Grouse moor managers report more than 150 driven shoot days throughout the four month season with individual estates hosting an average of 15 days each.

They estimate the season resulted in almost 1,000 overnight stays in local hotels with the shoot days directly contributing more than £100,000 to local hotels, restaurants and pubs.

On average, each grouse moor employs around 35 people per shoot day with an estimated 5,000 workdays of additional employment provided for them, including beaters, flankers, loaders, pickers-up and caterers. This in turn injects £275,000 of income into rural communities.

Nidderdale – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – attracted international gun parties from Belgium, Holland, Spain, New Zealand and America during the season which ended on December 10.

Caroline and Malcolm Whitaker, owners of The Crown Hotel in Middlesmoor, said: "Each year from August onwards, we welcome many grouse shooting parties which accounts for a significant proportion of our annual revenue. Being a destination place we very much rely on sporting parties, for both grouse and pheasant.

"We are very fortunate to have such beautiful countryside on our doorstep and it is great to see so many people from home and abroad attracted to this part of the country. We get a lot of repeat business as a result of grouse and pheasant shooting with all visitors enjoying a warm welcome."

Roy Burrows from the Nidderdale Moorland Group, said: "Grouse shooting is a lifeline for many in our rural community offering employment opportunities and supporting many local businesses, with shooting-related tourism bolstering trade during the winter 'off-season'.

"This successful season is testament to the hard work and year-round dedication of our gamekeepers and grouse moor managers as well as the private investment by estate owners and sporting tenants across the region. The investment also supports vital conservation efforts."

Moorland owners and gamekeepers in the Group carry out conservation work on more than 40,000 acres of precious heather moorland across the area, much of which is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).