Bransdale Church

It was pretty dreich this morning as we  crested Shaw Ridge and dropped into Bransdale. I can not remember the last time the church at the head of the dale could not be seen.

It’s a lovely little church, which Pevsner says “must be c. 1800” yet according to the parish website it was built in 1886 by the Earl of Feversham1Pevsner, Nikolaus. “The Buildings of England – Yorkshire – The North Riding”. Penguin Books. Reprinted 1985. ISBN 0 14 071009 92All Saints Church Kirkbymoorside | powered by Church Edit. “All Saints Church Kirkbymoorside | St Nicholas’, Bransdale.” Kirkbymoorsideparish.org.uk, 2021, www.kirkbymoorsideparish.org.uk/st-nicholas-bransdale/. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.. Historic England agrees with Pevsner and records the barrel-vaulted roof to the later date3“CHURCH of ST NICHOLAS, Bransdale – 1172749 | Historic England.” Historicengland.org.uk, 2012, historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1172749. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.. The parish website also says that “records show a church on the existing site since 1282, probably connected with The Priory of Keldholme.”


Pheasant on her nest
Hen pheasant on her nest.

After lunch the skies began to clear and the sun came out.

Whilst tidying up the garden of a cottage near the church, someone spotted this hen pheasant sitting on her nest in a patch of nettles.

She was just a couple of metres from all the comings and goings and for five hours never made a move. Superbly camouflaged, I could easily have trod on her.

Pheasants are not a native species to the UK. They were introduced for shooting and about 35 million of them are bred in captivity and released every year4“The English Shooting Estates That Rear 20 Million Pheasants a Year.” Who Owns England?, Who owns England?, 2 Apr. 2019, whoownsengland.org/2019/04/02/the-english-shooting-estates-that-rear-20-million-pheasants-a-year/. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.. That’s an awful lot of birds. It looks like our pheasant is one that has gone feral.

To me, 35 million is an unimaginable number of birds and one can not help but wonder what the ecological impact is. It stands to reason their food source, invertebrates etc., will not be available for our native birds, contributing to their decline. There is concern that the adder, our only venomous snake, is facing extinction across some parts of Britain because of this release of millions of game birds5Milton, Nicholas. “Game Birds ‘Could Wipe out Adders in Most of Britain within 12 Years.’” The Guardian, The Guardian, Oct. 2020, www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/01/adder-extinct-across-britain-snake-threat-game-birds-release. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021.. This is because pheasants naturally kill snakes on sight, pecking at adults and swallowing young snakes whole. The adders venomous bite can not penetrate the birds’ feathers.

The 35 million pheasant chicks, prior to being released, are classed as livestock, which means they are exempt from VAT, on the grounds that they are producing food. But, in order to be allowed to shoot them, as soon as they’re released they are re-classed as wild birds. At the end of the season, any birds that have survived are recaptured to use for breeding, but because it is illegal to catch wild birds with nets, they miraculously become livestock again6“The Shooting Party.” George Monbiot, 28 Apr. 2014, www.monbiot.com/2014/04/28/the-shooting-party/. Accessed 29 Apr. 2021..

So, just to be clear, if a pheasant flies into your car when driving and damages it, it is more than likely to be a wild bird even if it in the process of being recaptured. So you have no comeback.

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