Conservation at Work

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Who’s Who



Mark Cunliffe Lister, Earl of Swinton



Mark is a born and bred Yorkshireman and was elected Chair of the Moorland Association in April 2020 having been a member of the Board for 3 years.

Mark qualified with and MSc in Geophysics from Imperial College, London and worked in oil and mineral exploration on mainly overseas projects. In 2000 he and his wife Felicity returned to Swinton, near Ripon in North Yorkshire and bought back the family home, Swinton Park. This was then refurbished and opened as a hotel, which has since been expanded.

In 2006 Mark inherited the 20,000 acre Swinton Estate including 8000 acres of heather moorland, 2000 acres of woodland and majority of the farms are upland sheep farms.  Since then Mark and Felicity have worked towards creating a fully sustainable enterprise with Swinton Park at its centre. Other activities on offer include a clay pigeon ground, Fishing School and Birds of Prey Centre. The estate straddles Nidderdale AONB and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, acclaimed for its landscapes and wildlife and Swinton Estate is proud to play its part in their conservation and public awareness.

Mark takes a keen interest in both the local community and promoting the wider policy aspects of maintaining a sustainable land-based upland community. This includes setting up the Mashamshire Community Office, sitting on Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, he is President of Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and Chairman of CLA Forestry and Woodlands committee.

Andrew Gilruth

Andrew Gilruth

Chief Executive


Andrew’s commitment to moorland conservation and rural communities defines a lifelong dedication.

As the Chief Executive of the Moorland Association, he plays a pivotal role in shaping strategy, formulating policies, overseeing both external and internal communications, and serving as the authoritative voice for moorland managers in England.

Before assuming this leadership position, Andrew led the moorland groups in England, showcasing his expertise and passion for preserving these ecosystems. With over 14 years of service at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, he held the position of Director of Communications, Membership, and Marketing.

His extensive experience underscores his deep-rooted understanding of the intricate balance between environmental preservation, community well-being, and effective communication strategies in the realm of moorland conservation.

Tom Orde-Powlett, Lord Bolton



Tom Orde-Powlett is involved with all aspects of the management of his family’s Bolton Estate in Wensleydale, which includes tourism, farming, minerals, renewable energy, forestry, weddings, education, fishing and shooting.

He holds trustee/directorships of two other diverse rural estates in Yorkshire and Shropshire and also sits on The CLA’s Yorkshire Committee.

Tom has a passionate interest in maximising conservation gain through economically sustainable land use, conflict resolution and has a strong personal interest in the Eurasian curlew.

He was a founding director of The Ure Salmon Trust, former Trustee of The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and is an active member of The British Trust for Ornithology, The Countryside Alliance, GWCT, RSPB, NGO, BASC, International Wader Study Group and other conservation focussed organisations.


Matt Ridley



Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley is a British author and businessman, best known for his writings on science, the environment, and economics. He has advised the MA board since its formation in 2014 and was elected President of the Moorland Association in April 2020.

With BA and DPhil degrees in zoology from Oxford University, Matt Ridley worked as a journalist and editor for the Economist and has been a columnist for the Times, Telegraph and Wall Street Journal. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Matt has honorary doctorates from Newcastle University, Buckingham University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and University Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala, and is honorary president of the International Centre for Life in Newcastle.

A keen naturalist, he has published scientific papers on the ecology and behaviour of game birds. He lives in Northumberland and owns moorland in County Durham.

He was elected to the House of Lords in February 2013 and has served on the science and technology select committee.

Nick Downshire



Nick is Treasurer of the Moorland Association having previously served as its Chairman for three years and has sat on its board since its formation in 2014.

He holds a diploma in Advanced Farm Management from the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester and is a qualified chartered accountant with several non-executive roles ranging from businesses to acting as a trustee for various landed estates.

In addition, he runs an estate in Wensleydale which includes Jervaulx moor. He sits on the Board of the CLA as Chair of Audit and Risk; he is also a trustee of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, sitting on their finance committee and also chairs its Upland Research Steering Committee.


George Winn-Darley

North York Moors


A chartered surveyor and agricultural valuer, George inherited Spaunton Moor in 1986. He worked for a broad range of moor owners and sporting tenants while employed by Ingham & Yorke and Lowther Scott Harden – latterly Clark Scott Harden – and has had his own practice since 1997.

George has served on the MA committee since 1995 and has represented the association on North York Moors National Park Authority groups, including the Primary Land Users Group (PLUG), Fire Liaison Panel and Local Access Forum, which he chaired for six years.

Nationally, he has led MA’s bracken and wildfire interests through the Bracken Control Group and the England & Wales Wildfire Forum. He sat on Defra’s Best Practice Burning Group, attending numerous meetings since 2002. George is also on the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Upland Research Steering Committee and was MA’s vice chairman.

He has also been chairman and vice chairman of CLA’s Yorkshire branch and was elected to the London Policy Committee for five years. George is currently trustee/director of Yorkshire Esk Rivers Trust and Ryedale Folk Museum and a council member of the North York Moors Association.

He says: “I passionately believe that the proper implementation of integrated moorland management is the most successful conservation project in the world and I am dedicated to helping MA get that widely understood and accepted, while continuing to work to resolve ongoing challenges.”


Simon Gurney

Peak District


A self-employed land agent, practising largely in the Peak District, Simon’s work is dominated by moorland management and environmental schemes.

Born on a remote hill farm above Grassington in 1960, he is a dedicated supporter of hills, moors and the beneficial impact of good moorland management.

Following formal education at Cirencester, he spent four years in Wales, gaining RICS and agricultural valuers’ qualifications before returning to Yorkshire in 1988.

He attended his first MA meeting at Bolton Abbey in 1989 and has been to practically every one since. Simon is a life member of the Heather Trust and subscribes to the CLA and GWCT.

A past Secretary of State appointed member of the Peak District National Park, Simon held office on the former Peak Park Moorland Owners and Tenants Association.

He has widespread practical experience of the many moorland issues, including moorland tracks, burning, bracken control, public access, restoration, water quality and predator control.

Adrian Thornton-Berry

Yorkshire Dales


Adrian is based in Wensleydale, on a family estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. He also leases a small moor. As a chartered surveyor, he has worked on predominately upland estates since 1988. Farmoor Services, where Adrian is a partner, is responsible for a number of grouse moors.

His extensive experience includes Moorland Stewardship Agreements, heather seeding, restoration and reclamation from forestry, sustainable tracks, hen harrier licensing and feeding, black grouse regeneration including woodland work, louping ill and tick management. He has had effective dealings with Natural England, English Nature and Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Adrian represents MA on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Management Plan Group, Yorkshire Peat Partnership, North Yorkshire Wildfire Group, which he chairs, and Defra Blanket Bog Project Steering Committee.

He also helps with a sporting agency based in North Yorkshire, specialising in grouse shooting throughout Yorkshire and immediate areas.

He says: “I would like to ensure economically sustainable driven grouse shooting thrives for next 25 years.”

Robert Benson

Regional Officer -North Pennines and Cumbria


Robert was a founder committee member of the MA in 1986 , continuing as a Board member until 2012 when he took over as Chairman. He resigned in 2017 due to ill health. With over 40 years experience of moorland management, he has now taken on the role of MA Regional Officer with responsibility for the N Pennines and Cumbria in particular. He is also on the Board of the Heather Trust, Chairs the North Lakes Red Deer Group and Penrith & District Red Squirrel Group all of which mean close work with Defra, FC, NE, United Utilities and the National Trust.

Robert A H Sword FRICS FAAV

Regional Officer- North York Moors


Robert Sword has spent the majority of his career (38 years) in North Yorkshire, having qualified in Rural Estate Management at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, his father having dragged him away from a ‘career’ in Art and Design. It was a wise move!

Robert joined Humberts in 1975 at the Badminton Estate, followed by Hatfield Park and four years in London. In 1983 he moved to establish an office in York for Humberts, managing a variety of Estates. It was at this time he discovered grouse moors, managing Arkengarthdale West, and on leaving Humberts and becoming the Estates Director to the 21,000 acres Dawnay Estates, he had the responsibility for managing Danby Moor in the North York Moors. After 27 years he retired in June 2020, since when Robert set up a consultancy specialising in Business and Estate Management.

Robert is a Director of Raincliffe Woods Community Enterprise, a community leased woodland which is an important landscape feature (Forge Valley and Raincliffe Woods) on the outskirts of Scarborough, and is also chair of the Trustees of the Burton Constable Foundation, owner of an Elizabethan Mansion near Beverley.

Robert has a love for the countryside and the people who live and work in it. Danby Moors is particularly special to him as he spent 27 years restoring the moor for grouse and also the habitat for ground nesting birds, restoration of peat and the vegetation of the moorland landscape.



Jonathan Baltesz


Jonathan studied agriculture and business management at the Royal Agricultural College and had a career starting in food retailing and food manufacture before moving into other sectors including Healthcare and Telecomms.

Jonathan lives on the edge of a moor in Swaledale and is currently involved in a number of agricultural and environmental projects.

A committed country man who is passionate to preserve our unique moorland habitat and dales heritage.


Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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WORLD CURLEW DAY CELEBRATIONS ON NORTH YORK MOORS The Moorland Association supported celebrations to mark World Curlew Day this weekend in the North York Moors, with internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter David Gray performing at a special event in aid of curlew conservation. A curlew discovery walk for members of the public took place on Saturday, organised by the charity Curlew Action in partnership with […]

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