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Male Red Grouse

Male Red Grouse of the Peak District

A few weeks back I had a patrol out in the Dark Peak of the Peak District National Park that took me over from Pike Low, sitting just above the old Derwent village, and across the open moor to Cogmans Clough. It’s a nice walk and I had a purpose too. I wanted to find benchmarks from the surveys done between 1850 and 1890 by Ordnance Survey. I had found one on an old gatepost in Derwent village that morning on my way to Pike Low, so I had high expectation that the day would produce more.

I spent a good amount of time on Greystones Moss searching out rocks that might have the benchmarks but to no avail. The little arrow pointing to the nice level straight line above was not in evidence. Back to the research to try and pinpoint the areas.

Dropping down from Cogmans Clough along Abbey Brook I came across Jack, a male Red Grouse who patrols the track between Cogmans and the woodland at Abbey Tip. Today he was in one hell of a mood. He followed me, keeping to the right for easy take off down the valley, chuntering to me as we made our way down the track about some slight he had endured.

The track is his biggest source of angst. Before the track there was a nice path covered by a green sward of grass. It was a joy to walk down. You could imagine the monks making their way from the convent at Bradfield down to the Abbey Grange at the bottom of the Abbey Brook. You would sit and look around you. Ancestors of Jack would often be in evidence, courting couples, strutting teens, it was quite a promenade. Then one day some damn fool brought in a big yellow monster of a JCB and ripped the track apart. Now its just rubble and dirt. A scar on the landscape and for what asks Jack. So fat, bumbling men can drive up to the shooting butts and not get out of breath.

He cackles on, telling me about his mate Harry who went up to the butts to give them a piece of his mind for wrecking the countryside. Guns were blazing back then and Harry decided enough was enough. So off he went, last week. Jack hasn’t seen him since so he guessed Harry was lying low, probably with that young floosie from the Broomhead estate. Trouble is what she was.

We carry on walking like this down the track. Me listening and adding in the odd murmur of sympathy, Jack walking backwards and forwards giving me the full performance. When he gets really riled he struts forward, hackles showing, his head high and those red eye brows bobbing up and down. Words stream out of his beak too fast to discern, you just have to stand there and listen. Then he walks off back up the track a few feet and calms down.

As we approached the boundary wall of the wood Jack decides that he needs to be back up the track and takes his leave. Walking in that odd flat footed way back up to his sentry point to await the Land Rovers with their fat cargoes. He’ll give them something to think about next time he cackles and then starts calling for Harry, who still hasn’t come out of hiding.