Peeblesshire gamekeeper wins national award

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Borders gamekeeper and chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), Alex Hogg, has been described as a rural hero by TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

The compliment was for his work in championing good countryside management.

The 56-year-old Peeblesshire keeper was presented with the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) Educational Trust’s Bellamy Award at the Game Fair in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.

Novelist Titchmarsh made the award himself from a piece of bog oak many thousands of years old, in his capacity as patron of the NGO.

The annual award goes to individuals who have excelled in promoting the role of the gamekeeper in sustainable countryside management.

The son of a shepherd, Mr Hogg started as a keeper in 1974 and also worked for The Forestry Commission in Scotland in his early life.

As SGA chairman, he has campaigned for years to promote the gamekeepers’ professional role.

But he says the industry is poorly understood, with 49 out of 50 people in the UK admitting to not having met a gamekeeper and gaining views on their work through the media.

He said: “We, at the SGA, respect everyone’s right to have an opinion on gamekeeping and shooting, but the reality is that, without boots on the ground managing predators and looking after things from mountain to sea, we would not have the rich flora and fauna we have in Scotland.

“I have been in this line of work for 40 years and the biggest satisfaction I get from the long hours in all weathers is seeing the many and varied species benefit from proper management.

“It’s a real honour to receive this award from the NGO and have it presented by Alan, although it should really be going to all the gamekeepers and their families who give so much to Scotland, from keeping rural communities prosperous to helping all the small unprotected species which are declining, worryingly, on land where there are no such guardians.”

He told The Southern last week: “It was a really nice day. Everyone at the NGO made me feel very welcome and I’ve since had so many messages from people, covering many different aspects of what we do, regarding the award. It’s really been quite humbling.

“Alan (Titchmarsh) is a really normal down-to-earth guy and it was great he was there to present it. I was mindful I had to get back home, though, as my pheasants were arriving around the same time. A gamekeeper’s work is never ever done.”

He argues the work gamekeepers do to enhance habitat and legally control predators such as crows and foxes – to ensure quarry for sport shooting – also benefits other species.

And he cites the latest PACEC (Public and Corporate Economic Consultants) statistics showing conservation work for shooting in Scotland representing the equivalent of 3,900 full-time conservation jobs.

Yorkshireman Titchmarsh said: “Alex Hogg is the real deal. He’s a genuine rural hero, a man who has selflessly and tirelessly championed the gamekeeper’s role in managing the Scottish countryside in a sustainable way, and through challenging times. So much so, I know he’s already a bit of ‘legend’ in keepering circles. He’s a very worthy winner.”