NORTH Yorkshire's rural communities are preparing for the start of the grouse shooting season under social distancing.

From Wednesday, shoots will be taking place on the county's moorlands, with up to 30 people attending each shoot.

Gamekeepers will wear visors and facemasks, beaters will operate socially distanced lines to set birds flying and food hygiene and other anti-coronavirus measures will be in place for shooters.

Gary Taylor, head keeper at the Swinton Estate near Masham which has been holding training sessions, said: “It’s vitally important for rural communities in some of our most remote areas that the economy opens up as quickly as it can but we can only do that successfully, if all the right safety measures are in place.

"It does feel a bit unreal but all businesses, whether they are in towns or the countryside, have had to adapt.

“We’re trying to make sure that everyone who comes to a shoot day whether they are working or a guest is well prepared and know the ropes.

"At our shoot days we will be explaining what we all have to do. If we can get going again safely, it can only be good for the local communities.”

One of those attending the training, game dealer, Nick Lister, of Ox Close Fine Foods, near Wetherby, said: “We supply game to local pubs and to restaurants all over the UK and abroad and the last four months have been a body blow for all kinds of rural businesses.

"However, we have got to look on the positive side and do what we can to get going again and make sure that food is provided safely to customers.

“The last few days have been a bit uncertain because of various reports of spikes in Covid-19 cases but as long as pubs and restaurants can stay open we have a chance to get going.”

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “People running all kinds of rural businesses are acutely aware of the need to strike the right balance between trying to re-invigorate the economy as well as keeping everyone safe.

“The moors are there to be enjoyed by everyone and it will be a great boost to local businesses if shooting can be resumed successfully and safely delivering fresh, healthy wild game meat to the table.”