1,000 shoots

Brian Hayes, NGO Educational Trust; Barry Atkinson with Spider 2; and Birch Grove Estate headkeeper

Brian Hayes, NGO Educational Trust; Barry Atkinson with Spider 2; and Birch Grove Estate headkeeper John Lewis - Credit: brian hayes

Barry and Spider achieve their millennium milestone

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation Educational Trust has dubbed Barry Atkinson of Spider’s Appeal “a rural hero” on reaching the landmark of 1,000 days’ beating on different driven shoots across the UK since 1 September 2003. The Spider’s Appeal ‘millennium’ milestone was reached at Birch Grove Estate, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex. Spider’s Appeal has so far raised almost £400,000 for charity.

The donations have been divided equally between Cancer Research UK and the NGO’s Educational Trust. Spider’s Appeal takes its name from a much-loved rescue dog – a liver-and-white English springer spaniel – that accompanied Barry Atkinson on his first fund-raising Spider’s Appeal beating day at Rothwell, Lincolnshire, nearly ten years ago.

Spider’s Appeal, a physically punishing and logistically challenging adventure, is a celebration of dogs like Spider, who enrich our lives and inspire mankind to appreciate two of our most valuable assets: the countryside and good health.

Brian Hayes of the NGO’s Educational Trust said: “Barry is without doubt a rural hero in my book. I thank him and his dogs from the bottom of my heart for their immense, selfless efforts over nearly a decade. The funds he has raised have played a huge part in allowing us to take the message to schools and the public at large that gamekeepers are in the vanguard delivering effective sustainable wildlife and habitat conservation in today’s countryside. He is truly a champion of conservation, backed-up by the generosity of the sporting community.”

Mr Hayes added: “The bulk of the beating days were of course carried out in the short, dark, cold days of winter. Barry has driven tens of thousands of miles, in bad conditions, slept in his van and turned up in the right place at the crack of dawn, often on the other side of the country, bang on time. His passion and resilience – showing true grit as befits a proud Yorkshireman – in supporting the countryside and Cancer Research have been an inspiration to me and indeed to all who’ve met him along the way.”

Barry said: “I’ve worn out more pairs of boots than I care to remember. The total cost in time, effort and resources has been immense, but it is crucial that the population of the UK understands how the countryside works because it is a special, yet fragile place. The rural acres sustain us and we must work to sustain them. Too many folk have lost touch with the reality of rural life and the traditional conservation that keeps Britain’s landscape healthy. I just hope over the years my dogs and I have helped in some small way to open a few eyes and convey this important message. The biggest thanks, too, for all those who’ve helped us along the way and to those shoots and individuals that have donated to Spider’s Appeal. Thank you.”

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John Lewis, headkeeper at Birch Grove Estate, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex, where the magical 1,000th beating day was notched-up, said: “It’s a privilege to host Barry on what is an historic sporting day. It is a magnificent achievement that will almost certainly never be repeated.”

For more information on Spider’s Appeal visit www.spidersappeal.co.uk