DOGS HAVE been banned from almost all the grouse moors in the North of England and Wales by Landowners, despite the fact that a right of open access came into force last Saturday.
More than 90 per cent of the 171 grouse moor owners in England and Wales are understood to have availed themselves of a clause in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 that enables them to ban dogs from their land for five years.
It is still possible to take dogs on footpaths, provided that they are on leads, but they will be banned from access land, even two feet off the footpath, where these restrictions are indicated on signs and on the Internet.
The upper North-West, North-East and Wales, as the areas are known, includes the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and Moors, and the Snowdonia national parks, and are the latest areas of mountain, moor, heath, down and common land where the right to roam comes into force by law.
Many landowners are annoyed that the public is being invited on to their land at the most economically important time for grouse moors, which depend on their "crop" of red grouse, and for ground-nesting birds such as golden plover, lapwing and curlew.
May and June are critical to the success of breeding grouse and research has shown that disturbance by dogs, even dogs on leads, can be fatal for the tiny offspring.
When the grouse eggs hatch, the baby grouse can be dispersed and die of hypothermia. The danger is greatest when they begin to fly at two weeks, before they learn a sense of direction and the discipline of formation flying.
Some landowners have chosen to close their land altogether to walkers as they are allowed to for 28 days a year - excluding bank holidays. Landowners who close their land now may apply for further closures later on this year when the shooting season begins.