The perfect ingredient: Bingley Moor red grouse

James Wellock travels to West Yorkshire for the first day of the shooting season, the Glorious 12th, in search of the perfect grouse.

Bingley Moor in West Yorkshire is home to the red grouse – a game bird that’s exclusive to the moorlands of the north of England and Scotland. Bingley Moor is looked after by a number of gamekeepers who ensure the safety and welfare of the grouse.

Every year on August 12 – famously known as the Glorious 12th – licensed groups of shooters and beaters make their way to the moors early in the morning for the first shoot of the game season. Chris Emmot, from Pinnacle Game, who attends the shoot each year says: “It’s a very exciting day, one of the most prestigious shooting days on the shooting calendar. There’s always a lot of excited people.”

The high quality of Bingley Moor red grouse is down to the gamekeepers, Chris explains. “The moors are well maintained by gamekeepers so that the birds are in pristine condition. The gamekeepers control vermin and foxes and burn the heather for two or three months to increase bird yield.”

By caring for the land, the gamekeepers make sure that the heather, berries and insects eaten by the grouse are of a high standard, ensuring the grouse have a healthy and nutritious diet. This adds to the quality of the meat and gives them their unique flavour.

Red grouse are not bred for shooting, they are wild birds and roam between Bingley and Ilkley Moor, around 4,500 acres of heather moorland. Chris says, “You can tell the health of the bird by the beak – if the beak breaks cleanly then it’s a nice young, fit bird. The quality of these birds is very fine.”

After a shoot and once all the red grouse have been collected, Pinnacle Game dresses and plucks them. The grouse are individually wrapped in greaseproof paper and boxed ready for delivery.

For head chef Michael Wignall at The Latymer restaurant, it’s the freshness and naturalness that make the red grouse the perfect ingredient, and getting the first birds of the season is a huge bonus.

For this season’s grouse, he’s created a new dish using heather and other ingredients that the birds would have foraged in the wild to keep the bird tasting as natural as possible.

Red grouse has a rich, deep colour and flavour, says Michael. “I want to keep the grouse as natural as possible and keep it quite simple so all the flavours sing for themselves. It’s all about the perfect ingredient.”

Did you know?

  • Red grouse are only found in the north of England and Scotland.
  • The Latin name for grouse is lagopus lagopus
  • Grouse are known for a low whirring flight punctuated with glides
  • During flight, red grouse can reach up to 100mph
  • Also known as willow grouse or willow ptarmigan
  • A grouse’s eggs hatch about three weeks after laying
  • Grouse can fly 13 days after hatching
  • A female lays around seven to nine eggs in a clutch
  • Grouse shooting as we know it today has been practised since 1853
  • It’s illegal to shoot grouse in Wales, England and Northern Ireland on a Sunday. This is why in 2012, the glorious 12th was held on Monday 13th August