A Powys gamekeeper is leading calls for a greater respect for wildlife, following repeat offences of motocross riders tearing up protected estate land.
Aaron Brookshaw, the gamekeeper at Harpton Estate, says there is a ‘zero-tolerance’ attitude towards riding motorbikes over the moorland, which has plagued the estate in recent months.
Aaron, who has been the gamekeeper for around a year, is concerned about the impact that the activity is having on the wildlife, particularly the protected bird species which nest within the boundaries of the estate.
The 9,000-acre estate, which is privately owned by the Duff-Gordon family, is situated between Old Radnor and New Radnor. The Hill of Ireland moorland within the estate has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). An SSI is a protected areas of high ecological importance, which often contain key habitats or rare animal and plant species.
Aaron, who is a passionate conservationist, looks after the habitat with his team, Wayne and Dylan. Over recent months, motocross riders have been using the land for off-road motorbiking at the weekends, causing a real issue for the team and their ecological aims.
“The riders have been coming over on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays and are ruining the land for bird species - such as the curlew, lapwing, golden plover, and red grouse,” Aaron explained.
“Everyone needs to be more mindful of the impact this is having on already endangered species.
“We are conservationists and habitat management is a huge part of our job. We are trying to create a better habitat for nesting birds and all wildlife and this is being spoiled - it’s a rural crime.”
The curlew is a large wading bird which holds a cherished place in Welsh culture. Known for its haunting call, the bird is in worrying decline across the breeding population throughout much of the UK. The curlew is on the UK red list – meaning urgent action is needed – and the decline in Wales has been disturbingly rapid, with numbers down by more than 90 per cent in the last 20 years.
The heather and moorland on Hartpton Estate is vitally important to the curlew, among plenty of other wildlife, as it feeds them and provides them with a nesting habitat. The wetland provides the birds with nutrition.
On Sunday, PCSO Billy Dunne from Dyfed-Powys Police visited the estate and met with Aaron to hear about these concerns. The visit signals the beginning of greater police presence on the site, who are now aware of the problems faced by the team. The issues raised by Aaron and his team will being tackled collaboratively with local authorities.
Aaron and his team have a range of responsibilities when it comes to looking after the land on the estate. As part of habitat management, the team are keen on tree planting, rewetting and rewilding.
Rewetting is the act of restoring natural water flow and saturating peatland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow subsidence and reduce the risk of wildfire. Rewilding activities are conservation efforts aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and wilderness areas.
“This is privately-owned land but there are footpaths. We need to all stick to these footpaths, keeps dogs on leads and have respect for the environment,” said Aaron.
“We won’t tolerate this motocross riding anymore - it’s having a devastating impact on the wildlife and it needs to end now.”
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