It is a highlight of the countryside calendar, but it was a less Glorious 12th start yesterday after many shoots were affected by a shortage of grouse.

The population has been badly affected because of the dry spell in April and May, when no rain left chicks with very little to feed on.

August 12 marked the start of the grouse shooting season, but Robert Benson, chairman of the Moorland Association, said shoots in Cumbria would not be going out until September.

“One or two might start later this week in the north of England, but many have delayed. It is not a great season and not because of Covid-19 - nature, I’m afraid is to blame this year,” said Mr Benson.

“A very dry spell in the spring saw no rain and therefore no moisture for insect life to thrive, and this led to some chicks sadly not making it."n.

The grouse season, which runs for 16 weeks from August 12 to December 10, is estimated to be worth about £32m a year – part of the £350m overall value of game and country sports to the nation. Sporting shooting supports 11,000 full time jobs north of the border, of which 2,640 are in the grouse sector.

“A poor grouse season does affect the local economy, and this year there will be a knock-on effect," said Mr Benson. "Normally it would be an opportunity for lots of people to get out into the countryside.

"There are jobs for beaters and flankers and they will have money in their pockets to spend in local pubs and B&B’s.

"The knock-on effect will be enormous for owners too, as they have to pay staff for what will be a very short season."

A widespread safety initiative, including the use of personal protection equipment, social distancing measures and food hygiene measures, has been implemented to ensure adherence to Covid-19 guidelines.

Moorland Association members care for 860,000 acres of heather moorland in England and Wales for wild red grouse.