The Shoot at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

Moody skies over the autumnal ruin of Fountains Abbey

Studley Royal Shoot owns the freehold shooting rights at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. Their arrangement to shoot on the estate is entirely separate to the National Trust.

When does shooting take place at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal?

Shooting takes place at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal within the water garden and abbey grounds on Fridays in November, December and January every year (except the Friday between Christmas and New Year’s Day.) The National Trust closes the abbey and water garden on these days, but all other areas (including deer park and valley of the seven bridges) remain open as usual.

The shoot can, and does, shoot outside the water garden and abbey areas (predominantly Seven Bridges Valley, Studley Lake and Mackershaw deer park) in autumn and winter as is their right to do so.

Why does the Shoot take place at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal?

The current situation is one the National Trust inherited following its purchase of the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal estate from North Yorkshire County Council in 1983.

In 1966, Henry Vyner, the last private owner of what was the 18,000 acre Studley Royal Estate, placed the contents, rights, chattels and land on the open market. A part of the sales included the freehold shooting rights. These rights were purchased by a private individual who sold them on to the current owner in 1971.

What do the shooting rights mean?

Like all freeholders they have a right, in law, to shoot at any time within the respective shooting periods. The freeholder has the right to shoot anywhere on the estate including the abbey and water gardens.

This is not a unique situation and many landowners within the UK find themselves having to operate like this, including those landowners who now manage land that was part of the old Studley Royal Estate.

Why has the National Trust not bought the shooting rights?

Unlike local or county councils, as a private charity, the National Trust has no power to compulsory purchase or place any legal claim to a right previously sold. 

What has Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal agreed with the Shoot?

After legal negotiations some years ago, the National Trust reached an agreement with the Shoot to close the estate on Fridays in November, December and January. This was done to try to minimise the disruption to our visitors on other days and to allow the shoot to have exclusive access on that day only. Like all landowners we continue to manage the situation to the best of our ability. The closure dates are always printed in the members’ handbook and available on our website.

Whilst we have been able to negotiate a specific day for closure in the abbey and water garden area, the Shoot can and does, shoot anywhere on any day within the confines of their shooting rights. Shooting can take place on any parcel of land within their portfolio without our prior knowledge and we have no bearing or influence on the Shoot’s activity.

We are given limited notice of these ‘extra’ days. We give notice to visitors on the Fountains Abbey homepage and onsite that the Shoot will be taking place.

What are the Shoot’s responsibilities when at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal?

In the past we have asked the Shoot to manage all aspects of their operations including ‘the drive’ i.e. staffing with respect to walkers using the public footpaths outside the paying area but still within our landownership.

As an independent company with freehold rights the Shoot is clearly responsible for all aspects of their work including the management of others who use the countryside. All shoots in the U.K. should adhere to the Code of Good Shooting Practice.

Does the National Trust make any financial gain from the Shoot?

The National Trust takes no part in any aspect of the shoot and there is no financial gain or otherwise to the Trust.

The ‘Studley Royal Shoot’ continues to operate as an independent company and totally separate from any National Trust business or affairs. We understand that the freeholder rears both wild and open penned birds on their own land.