August 18th, 2009 admin

The Glorious Twelfth is usually used to refer to August 12, the start of the shooting season for Red Grouse and this time last year I was traipsing around the North Yorkshire Moors in the pouring rain photographing one such shoot (see my blog posts here and here).


Grouse Shoot, Hutton-le-Hole, August 18th 2008 © Simon Roberts

After several very poor seasons due to outbreaks of disease-carrying parasites and unsuitable weather, grouse moors are reporting a surge in bird numbers this season. Moor owners believe it may be the best for a decade. And according to a recent article in the FT, this expensive past time has got even more so. Shoot owners say prices for the most select grouse shooting in northern England and Scotland have risen to £160 a brace, or pair of birds, compared with £140 last year, so the typical party of nine shooters could face a bill as high as £64,000, before taxes, for a bumper day.

While I didn’t get much on my wet outing in Hutton-le-Hole it does bring to mind the work of photographer Tessa Bunney who produced an excellent series of images called ‘Moor and Dale’ which documented the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between 2001-3 in the North Yorkshire moorland.

Mapped out by three rivers and defined by grouse moorland, heather covered bog and dry heath, this is ‘a community in a state of unprecedented change’. As an outsider, Tessa Bunney was commissioned to investigate and record, with an impartial view and an eye for interpretation, the people and culture within six hundred and thirty three square kilometres of Nidderdale.

As Anne McNeill, Director of Impressions Gallery writes: “colour plays a large part in Bunney’s images. Cobalt blue skies with cumulus clouds; glimpses of vibrant red; hints of monochrome in the eggs of lapwings and mallards, all bring seemingly banal moments to our attention. By homing in on details – the macro close up of blue twine spilling from a Barbour jacket; a handful of heather seeds; a sprig of whisker like bog cotton, gently blowing in the wind, our eyes are being drawn to the unseen in such a way that makes us look again, that makes us look properly at a way of life that should not go unnoticed.”

Gamekeeper © Tessa Bunney, 2002

Red Grouse © Tessa Bunney, 2002

Flanker © Tessa Bunney, 2002

Birdman © Tessa Bunney, 2002

This work was exhibited at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate in 2004 and was part of the Hereford Photography Festival, 2004.

Writing about the photographs, Bunney says “Although the views in Nidderdale are spectacular, I enjoy photographing details which otherwise might remain unnoticed. The peat lines on the gamekeepers hands showing a lifetime of work on the moor, the different cloth caps of the farmer and his two sons concentrating on the job in hand and the way the grouse beater ties his flag to the stick as it has been done for generations are all things which interest me. In each photograph I have also tried to include an element of the landscape. This might be an expanse of open moorland or it could just be a glimpse of a drystone wall or barn in the background.”

You can see more of Bunney’s photographs from the series here.

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