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Ramblers on target for shooting butt in the Yorkshire Dales

PIC: Tony Johnson
PIC: Tony Johnson
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Grouse shooting has been an important – if far from universally popular – part of Yorkshire life for generations, but this shooting butt located in the middle of Widdale Little Tarn may perhaps be the most unusual example of its interaction with the local landscape.

Reported to have been built by a local gamekeeper, the butt, which can be reached by walking along a small stone causeway path, sits on Great Knoutberry Hill at the head of Dentdale. The border between Yorkshire and Cumbria is marked through the tarn, with Yorkshire on the left of the small causeway path.

While the likes of Springwatch presenter Chris Packham oppose grouse shooting as “moorland vandalism”, its proponents point to both its beneficial economic impact for large estates, as well as the way in which management of the moors for grouse produces broad stretches of heather in the Dales. This is because grouse are dependent on short, young heather plants for food while old, bushy heather provides shelter and nest cover.

This remote spot in a beautiful location is not just attractive to those involved in shooting, however. Many ramblers have visited the shooting butt and commented on the solitude and attractiveness of the location.

The My Yorkshire Dales blog, written by Matt O’Brien, summed up the experience of “walking out on the little stone causeway and standing in the grouse butt surrounded on all sides by the tarn” as “a fairly unique experience”.

He said that in June 2004, prior to the building of the shooting butt, he had visited both the Little Tarn and the neighbouring Great Tarn. “I visited both Widdale tarns on a beautiful summer’s day on one of my earliest walks in the Dales,” he said. “It was the first time I’d encountered an upland tarn in nice weather and my love of tarns can be traced back to that day. For that reason both Widdale Tarns will always hold a special place in my heart.”

There will undoubtedly be many other nature lovers who have exactly the same feelings towards this unique location.

Technical details: Fuji X-Pro1 camera, 18-55mm lens, exposure of 1/60th second @f20, ISO 400.