Forget yachts, try tweeds and guns

AMONG the UK’s high-earners, some race cars, others sail yachts and others engage in the age-old tradition of country sports. And with the grouse shooting season kicking off yesterday, keen field sportsmen might be tempted to invest in a shoot of their own.

Shooting estates don’t often come on the market and usually come with a principal house in the centre of the land. And because of their scarcity, they offer a good return to those who can afford them. An established shoot adds a premium to farmland.

Chesterton Humberts’ Andrew Pearce says that, year-to-date, such estates have risen in value by 6 per cent. In terms of valuation, he says: “The size of the shoot is not as important as the quality and diversity of habitat. Generally potential buyers are looking for 1,000 acres for lowland estates.”

In Scotland, estates are larger – 5,000-10,000 acres – and include grouse shoots and deerstalking, whereas south of the moorlands in England, the quarry is usually pheasant and partridge. Knight Frank’s Will Matthews says: “A lot of shoots have woods planted in strategic places. That is the difference between buying a shoot and just buying land.”

But owning a shooting estate is about more than making returns on an asset. Most shoots come with farmland, which requires management. And shoot maintenance demands time and money, from sowing cover crop (which provides feed and cover for birds) to constructing woodland cages to protect chicks before they can fly. To oversee these tasks, estate owners employ full-time gamekeepers.

Alongside this, according to the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, estate owners spend £250m a year on conservation, such as replanting hedgerows and managing pests. And the shooting industry is a major source of jobs and economic activity in rural Britain, accounting for £1.6bn of the UK economy.

Estates generate revenue by letting out days. Let shoots are priced per bird shot, usually at about £30-40 per bird (with a day usually involving at least 100 birds). So even if finding the millions to make an investment in an estate is a distant goal, it is still possible to enjoy shooting in the British countryside.

ILSINGTON ESTATE, DORSET
Price: £12m
This 2,368-acre estate dates back to the 12th century and was last sold in 1860. It includes 215 acres of partridge and pheasant woodland. Contact:?Chesterton Humberts on 01672 519111.

WEST LODGE, DORSET
Price: £12m
This Grade-I listed house dates back to 1753 and comes with 866 acres of rolling countryside, including a shoot, steep valleys and woodland. Contact: Knight Frank on 01935 812236

LOW NEWBIGGIN, YORKSHIRE
Price: Price on application
This private 53-acre in north Yorkshire has a house dating to 1750, fishing rights on the Yorkshire Esk and is close to many commercial shoots. Contact: Hamptons on 020 7758 8488

NOSELEY HALL, LEICESTERSHIRE
Price: £14m
This beautiful mansion comes with a Grade I listed chapel nestled in an estate of 1,264 acres, including an established pheasant shoot and duck pond. Contact: Knight Frank on 020 7629 8171