Nurturing the environment

A gamekeeper's role is important in the countryside. Photo credit:

A gamekeeper's role is important in the countryside. Photo credit: - Credit:

Nurturing the environment is central to a gamekeeper’s job. Here, Naomi Tolley looks at the vital support provided by the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust and the difference a Prince’s Countryside Fund grant made to one Somerset gamekeeper

They are known by some as the ‘unsung guardians of our countryside’.

From managing existing environments to preserving healthy habitats threatened by change, a gamekeeper’s job is deemed vital to both indigenous wildlife and rural ecosystems.

It can be tough work, for a low wage, with no set hours and long days spent outdoors in all weathers. But it is a gamekeeper’s dedication to his profession, and a love of rural Britain which draws him to the job.

In support of those working in gamekeeping, including stalkers and ghillies, The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust was established to help workers and their families in times of hardship, ill health and retirement, with a helpline service and small grants also being available for young people making gamekeeping their career.

It was awarded £15,000 over a three-year period by the Prince’s Countryside Fund in support of its work.

For Kieran Hale, 18, from Wiveliscombe, that PCF support and the presence of the trust meant a positive life-change. Thanks to the GWT he received a grant to attend specialist Wiltshire College Lackham Campus, something he would not have been able to afford to do otherwise.

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“I then applied for a work experience placement gamekeeping in New Zealand and I am now on a 12-month placement there,” he said, speaking from Hunterville where he is now living.

“The GWT has made a huge difference to my life,” says Kieran.

“Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to go to a college with specific resources, I wouldn’t have been awarded Gamekeeper of the Season 2012/13, or got a job on the other side of the world doing what I love,” he adds.

“I think the Prince’s Countryside Fund has been very important for both the GWT and me personally, because it has enabled the GWT to help young keepers like me not only fulfil their dreams, but also to help keepers of all ages in all aspects of life. For me personally, it has given me the confidence and a chance to get the experience needed for my future, which has and will help create future job opportunities for me,” says Kieran.

“I am so thankful to the GWT and the PCF for turning my life around.”

In rural areas, 13 per cent of 16 to 18-year olds are not in education or employment,

say the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust.

It’s an important figure for the Trust, as it estimates 60,000 new entrants are

needed in gamekeeping to keep the profession thriving.

So when £15,000 came in the form of a Prince’s Countryside Fund grant, to enable

the acquisition of two volunteers each six months and one paid person for one day a

week, it was seen as “an honour”.

Helen Benson, from the GWT, says: “The Prince’s Countryside Fund will enable us to achieve so much more which is desperately important when the retired are struggling making ends meet and health needs are more difficult in rural areas. The struggling rural economy means there are

more redundancies which leaves gamekeepers homeless as well as without a

job. We need to be there to help wherever we can, whether a voice on the end of a

phone, practical help with CVs and support to change career, grants and above all

being there for vulnerable and distressed people for as long as it takes,” adds Helen.