On the 9th August 2015 from 12:00 until 16:00 we will hold a family friendly event called “Hands Off Our Harriers” in and around Abbeystead Village Hall to launch a new organisation called Rewild Bowland. We will have a treasure hunt, music, face-painting, stalls and banner making and hope as many people will join us as possible. The event will celebrate our local wildlife as well as highlighting the ongoing persecution of Hen Harriers and other wildlife in the Forest of Bowland and call for it to end. The prompting to organise this event has come from some sad recent events, but we also will start a hopeful and promising story of what Bowland could become in a rewilded future.
On the 6th May the RSPB reported that three male Hen Harriers had disappeared from active nests in the Forest of Bowland. In 2014 a total of three pairs of this most persecuted of birds bred in the whole of England. The year before there were none and the bird was declared on the brink of extinction in England. Last year two juveniles, Hope and Sky, named by local school children, also disappeared and their bodies were never recovered. The latest news is particularly devastating because it comes at the end of a four year RSPB project to promote the conservation of the bird also known as the skydancer, due to its unique springtime displays. This project had an unceasing focus on accommodating the interests of the grouse estates, as the video on the project’s website demonstrates. It is perfectly obvious to all concerned that three nesting pairs of Hen Harriers would have almost no discernible impact on the artificially maintained Grouse populations. By almost certainly being responsible for their disappearance, the message the estates are sending to the wider public is perfectly clear: we own the country not you; we decide what happens here not you. The time has come for us to demonstrate forcefully that we will no longer accept this state of affairs.
The war on wildlife being waged by these hunting estates doesn’t end with this one species of bird. East of the M6 crossing, badger specialists confirm that there isn’t a single known badger set in the whole of the Wyre valley, despite amble suitable habitat. I’ve never seen a fox here, but have seen the bodies of various mammal species, including stoats, weasels and badgers rotting in piles by the side of rows of snares. When the gamekeepers on the Duke of Westminster’s estate go ‘lamping’ at night, they illuminate and then shoot anything that moves from their vehicles. By their actions of unceasing persecution of this one treasured bird species they betray their determination to assert absolute control over the land and have thus brought into question their entire operation. It is only our acceptance that this unacceptable state of affairs is simply ‘the way the world is’ that makes it so. It won’t be quick or easy, but we can start to act to make it otherwise. Please join us.