Crush cruelty coalition: Yesterday’s march in London

Yesterday was the 12th of August, also known as the ‘Glorious 12th’ or a catch becoming increasing used: the ‘Inglorious 12th’. The day refers to the beginning of the shooting season for red grouse when over the next few months areas of upland moorland will be used to practise the so called ‘sport’ of driven grouse shooting. The date is a symbol for how many grouse will be shot on the uplands over these next few months. For many, it also represents the ways in which the areas where the shooting will take place have been intensely managed to enable the season to be successful and the practise enjoyed by that very small minority. From the burning and draining of the moors to allow suitable conditions for the heather to grow, to the management of predatory species such as stoats, foxes and raptors. This is all in order for the red grouse to thrive so, ultimately, they can be killed for some fun, games and profit.

I was in London yesterday on a march named as ‘crush cruelty’. It was very similar to other marches that I’ve been on in London and in other parts of the UK. For example, those against the badger cull, the Hen Harrier Day events I’ve attended, anti-fox hunting demonstrations around the time of the election and so on. However, this one was slightly different. Instead of there being one quite specific reason for being out on the streets of London and outside Downing Street, this one was broader. At each of the events and marches I attend, there is normally a few of the same faces that I recognise. Of whom, seem to have their own specific focus on what they campaign for. But yesterday, there was a real contrast of those that I’ve met and seen at all kinds of previous events in one place. Whether these were individuals, those who work for charities or organisations, well known faces, and the list goes on. This was something extremely refreshing and excellent to see. At the end of the day, although we all have slightly different focuses or issues we put more time into, we all care, are passionate and deeply concerned about the future for wildlife here in the UK. And there will always be many more of us then any of those who practise the activities of harming or threatening it, whether that’s those who support cruelty to wildlife, the badger cull or those who still consider shooting and fox hunting as ‘traditional’ and acceptable.

It was an excellent day, the only glorious in the ‘glorious 12th’ yesterday was the sight of 1000’s making their way through the streets of London, having an impact as they did so. Since I first got involved with campaigning and attending marches and events, I always noticed the difference in those faces I recognised at the different events I went to. It made me think how great it would be if we all joined together in the form of a rally or worked together more in the form of a coalition as ultimately, we all want the same thing. To see the force of those fighting for this is frightening the hell out of those who are desperately gripping onto their practises and their slaughter of our natural treasures, which they believe is acceptable. In terms of politicians and those in power, they are already beginning to notice how what they say (and don’t say) about protecting our natural environment will put their jobs at risk. The Conservative Parties result at the last election is a clear example of this. Theresa May promised a free vote on the Hunting Act, and this went down very badly. Many believe that this promise damaged and helped to result in her outcome of not securing a Tory majority. Which isn’t surprising as it was revealed that fox hunting was one of the few policies in the Conservative manifesto that people could remember.

Unfortunately, most politicians are still pretty hopeless at bringing up such topics that relate to protecting the natural environment. On the other hand, it was great to see Natalie Bennett in full force and talking at yesterday’s rally in London. She is undoubtedly a superb spokeswomen for anything that concerns the issues that we were fighting against at yesterday’s march. She has given up a great deal of her time and effort, in fact, just last weekend she was up in Sheffield speaking at one of the Hen Harrier Day events. There were many similarly inspiring and incredibly hard working individuals speaking in London yesterday too. A real array of some of the finest conservationists and campaigners in the UK. Others included Mark Avery, Hugh Warwick, Dominic Dyer, Will Travers, Chris Packham along with individuals from the League Against Cruel Sports, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Hunt Investigation Team and so on. The day felt very special in terms of all those who had come together and the coalition of so many influential, inspiring and important individuals, charities and organisations.

There’s been a great deal going on in the last week on social media and in the run up to the Inglorious 12th. Some of this includes the Hen Harrier Day events last weekend, videos and podcasts released throughout the week, a monstrous thunderclap that went out yesterday morning, news on more positive work with Hen Harriers and the Ethical Consumer campaign asking companies to distance themselves from the practise of driven grouse shooting. Details and links about all of these are below. Along with this, as the next few weeks go on, I’m sure this will keep up and as we approach the start of the badger cull, which is due to begin over the next couple of weeks.

Details and photos from the Hen Harrier Day (HHD) events across the UK last weekend on Mark Avery’s blog –

A Youtube video from last weeks HHD at RSPB Arne.

Findlay Wilde’s blog about his tremendous thunderclap efforts and HHD –

Work by the Ethical Consumer and their campaign asking companies to distance themselves from the practice of driven grouse shooting in England –

Here are a few photos from the day.

Being at yesterday’s march was a bit of a contrast from the scenes I’ve been used to over the past few weeks. From my remote few weeks on Fair Isle, the wilderness of the Yorkshire Dales and isolation of the Pennines and tranquillity on the east coast and at Spurn to the craziness and hustle and bustle of central London. I’m now looking forward to the next few days with the Field Studies Council at one of their education centres (Preston Montford) where I’ll be helping to run wildlife related workshops for young people.


North West Way: Another reflection

On the train back from Carlisle, I sat as I always do, by the window and enjoying the scenery. This time, after walking from south to north and now travelling back south, the view was of the places that I’d walked through over the past 12 days. One of the things that doing the walk taught me is that you can never properly experience, enjoy or understand an area by ‘passing through’ either by car or train but the only way to do so is by foot. Compared to the hours I’d spent walking through these areas, the train journey from Carlisle to Preston (where I started the walk) was just a brief summary of the places I’d walked.

Following on from my last blog post, on day nine I reached the highest point of the entire walk (and the highest point on the Pennine Way) Cross Fell. On this stretch, I started in Dufton on a very windy morning. Even before I reached the hills, the strong winds were almost blowing me over. Whilst doing the first climb, I was having to stop and stabilise myself every time the wind gusted. I’d never experienced such conditions before! Once on higher ground, the mist drew in but the wind calmed slightly. Through the bleak conditions, I could hear curlews calling and occasionally flying out and disappearing back into the mist. Along with the blurring silhouettes of other waders as they flew into the mist, it was incredibly eerie. I was also treated to seeing and hearing more golden plover.

Once over Cross Fell, it was all downhill to that nights’ accommodation. Part of this included walking over another grouse moor. One that was obviously more ‘managed’ then the ones I saw on the previous day. This was evident by the sheer number of grouse, traps set up and work being done on the moor. The next day I found an information board that stated the North Pennines to be ‘England’s last wilderness’. This quote infuriated me. If it really is one of England’s few remaining wild places, then why had I seen diggers on the uplands and vast areas that were completely bare? I was aware of this ‘type’ of management on the moors, and after seeing through the original beauty that I thought National Parks possessed, I realised that below the skin, these areas are plain. Those who visit National Parks for its beauty are being conned.

Realising and having to experience this, partly makes me feel quite depressed about the situation. However, the areas have a lot of potential for what they could provide. As I walked along, surrounded by almost emptiness at times, I imagined and questioned how these areas could look and what they could provide. Although I had seen some great birds and sights on the moors and uplands, in the future, this could be enhanced so much more.

During my last three days, I followed a disused railway as far as Greenhead then joined the Hadrian’s Wall Path to my final destination, Carlisle. Although I was partly pleased to get home and have a good night’s kip, I suddenly found myself disappointed that it was all over. At times, it was incredibly tough and I really had to push myself to continue and finish the walk, but this was all part of the experience and what made the whole thing so satisfying and enjoyable. I’m now really looking forward to my next adventure. Being outside for so long every day for 12 days after the stress of exams over the last few months was thrilling, and I still can’t believe all the different places I went to and spectacles of the British countryside that I experienced.

Then, of course, the swifts! On my Just Giving page I’m on my way to £3000. This is unbelievable. I started off thinking that it would be great to get £500, nevermind £3000! I’m going to keep pushing the page until the end of the week to hopefully reach that £3000 figure. On the walk, I also counted the number of swifts I saw: in total this was 176.

Here is the link to my Just Giving page –

A bit bleak on the top of Cross Fell…
Greg’s hut Traps set up on the grouse moor after Cross Fell View from Lambley viaduct over towards Haltwhistle Last full day of walking, following the Hadrain’s Wall Path.


I did it!

North West Way: Some thoughts so far

I was really keen to post regular blogs with updates about my walk along the way but, unfortunately, this obviously hasn’t happened. This has mainly been due to quite long days, so feeling too tired to begin writing, and wanting to explore the different places where I’ve been stopping each night. However, after yesterday’s early start, I found myself with some time to spare in the evening to write a blog. It’s been quite frustrated that I haven’t wrote a blog yet as I have so much to share and plenty of photos. 

The first two days of my walk were spent in Lancashire. Starting in Preston, I crossed the border into the Yorkshire Dales on day three and then spent the night in Malham. My first few days were very exciting and I was mainly powered on adrenaline. I was particularly excited to walk in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s an area I’ve been wanting to explore by foot for a long time.

Much of the time that I spent in Lancashire included following the River Ribble and walking over farmland. There was some great scenery as the Yorkshire Dales came into view, along with (in the opposite direction) Pendle Hill. I was also not too far from the Forest of Bowland. In fact, parts of the path I followed took me through the Trough of Bowland, although this was mainly farmland. I have quite a few birding highlights from these few days. Some include watching Spotted Flycatchers with young along the Ribble, a Little Owl acting as they do (with lots of character and quite amusing) and swifts leaving ripples in the Ribble as they swooped for a drink.

Evening, day two, following the Ribble.

The Yorkshire Dales in sight!

Once in the Dales, the landscape changed quite a bit. One of the first paths I followed was the Pennine Bridleway. This took me to Malham, where I stayed a night. My first impression of the Dales by foot was that although it was a lovely landscape, it was pretty bare. However, I enjoyed being accompanied by the typical wheatears, skylarks, meadow pipits and other upland species. 

Attermire Scar

I started day four by claiming Malham Cove and over Malham Tarn. It was an incredible area and I was further treated to views of one of the local peregrine falcons. I also began to spot wader species breeding in these upland areas. For example, snipe, curlew and lapwings. Climbing Pen-y-ghent on Friday was quite an experience too! As was my first ‘pint of tea’ at the Pen-y-ghent cafe.

Malham Cove

Looking over towards Pendle Hill

At the top of Pen-y-ghent

Now to get back down again!

Upto this point, the weather had been ‘OK’ but there was a period of foggy and wet weather on approaching Wensleydale. However, this only lasted a couple of hours as by the time I reached Wensleydale, the sun was shining through to the Dale below. Later onto day six, there was another change in landscape as I approached the Tan Hill Inn (one of my nights stay) as my surroundings turned from views of the Dales to more of moors. In fact, my first experience of the Pennines was slogging over a boggy moor (Bowes Moor), the morning after leaving the Tan Hill Inn. At this point, I was beginning to feel slightly rough as the blisters on my toes were growing and my shoulders became more uncomfortable due to the weight of my rucksack. Nevertheless, the occasional creeky door tones of golden plover kept me going as when I heard one call, I was suddenly alert and had forgotten all my sores! On this stretch, I saw a variety of waders along with red grouse. I’d never spent so much time on a grouse moor before, so the experience was interesting. I also reflected on the management of the area and how the grouse butts I walked past would be in working order in just a few weeks time.

On top of Great Shunner Fell


First experience of the Pennines, walking over a boggy moor.

So far, in my opinion, I haven’t enjoyed the Pennines as much as I enjoyed the Yorkshire Dales. However, after following the River Tees upto its source (dipper being the highlight) then over to High Cup Nick yesterday, I was left amazed by the sight of standing at the top of High Cup Nick. An incredible view!

Early morning, following the River Tees.

High Force Waterfall.

High Cup Nick, an amazing view!

Along my way, I’ve been doing as much birding as possible, but at times, this is difficult due to the weight of my rucksack and the rush to reach my accommodation for that night in time. However, I’ve had plenty of highlights so far, and I still have another four days to go. Although, reflecting back, it’s been a fantastic experience, through the day whilst out walking, it can become quite difficult. But I’m adamant to finish and so pleased with how well my fundraising for the BTO has gone. At the moment, I’m very close to £2000 so an extra push is needed! I’ve seen quite a few swifts along the way (counting as I’ve gone along) and they are such a delight to see!

If you haven’t already, you can donate by clicking here.

Signs I like (I know I’m going the right way).

Signs I don’t like so much…

North West Way: Here we go…

Later this morning, after catching the 7.35 train, I should arrive at Preston train station for 9.50, which is where I will start my 191 mile walk from Preston to Carlisle. The route I’ll be following (the North-West Way) will take me along parts of the Ribble Way, through the Forest of Bowland, via the Yorkshire Dales, along the Pennine Way, across the North Pennines, and following parts of Hadrians Wall before arriving in Carisle a week on Saturday. That’s if all goes well, which I’m hoping it will! I’m currently feeling very confident and quite excited about how the walk is going to go.

Over the next 11 days, I plan to write a blog every few days depending on my internet connection and what I have to share. At this point, I haven’t even started the walk but I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce the series of blogs that I’m planning to do and promote the cause that I’m raising money for one last time before I set off.

Along the way, I plan to have my binoculars strung around my neck most of the time and I will no doubt be treated to some superb scenery. I’ll also, hopefully, see some swifts which is what the money I raise from doing the walk will go towards. The BTO’s swift project includes tagging and studying swift movement to gain more of an understanding about them and to ensure that they can be preserved in the future following their 47% decline in recent years. By the time I return home, in almost two weeks’ time, it is likely that the birds I see daily will be getting ready, if not have already left, for their migration back to their autumn and winter grounds.

This BTO’s project really is incredible and very interesting. Previous tagging of swifts has already uncovered valuable information about their migration and foraging whilst breeding but more is needed to help work in halting their decline.

A link to my Just Giving page can be found here –