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Nature of Farming Awards

Rural Matters

Article written by 27 September 2012

Nature of Farming Awards – GWCT members score a hat trick for conservation

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), a leading game and wildlife research charity, is delighted that Henry Edmunds from the 1,000 ha mixed organic Cholderton Estate in Wiltshire has won the prestigious RSPB/Telegraph Nature of Farming Award.

Henry Edmunds has been a member of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust for most of his adult life and so too was his father before. Mr Edmunds has frequently been involved in wildlife research projects undertaken by the Trust over many years such as a recent study on the use of sanfoin, which proved to be one of the best crops to grow to encourage pollinating insects. He is therefore a keen advocate of the Trust’s science based advice, which he has actively implemented on his wonderful wildlife friendly farm for the huge benefit of habitats, game and other wildlife.

Professor Nick Sotherton, director of research with the GWCT said, “We are absolutely delighted that Henry Edmunds has won this award. It is very well deserved. When I visited Henry’s organic farm I was very taken by the productive grass leys and careful choice of plants including the use of legumes for their considerable wildlife benefits. His habitat management for farmland birds is inspirational and he combines this with the rigorous legal predator which undoubtedly contributes to his remarkable success with vulnerable lapwings and other ground nesting birds such as grey partridges.”

The GWCT is also delighted that two of the other leading contenders for this celebrated farming award are long-term GWCT members and advocates of the Trust’s advice and research including Peter Knight from the Norfolk Estate in West Sussex and Rob Allan from Oxfordshire – making it a veritable hat trick of success for GWCT research and advice.

The Norfolk Estate is an exemplary example of practical conservation working hand in hand with modern farming and shows how, with the right incentive, an extremely rare and threatened bird can be restored to its former glory. In 2003 the estate’s wild grey partridge population was declared virtually extinct but in just six years by combining first class habitat management, with effective gamekeeping, the partridge population increased from just three breeding pairs to 262 pairs and last September counts listed 1,217 birds on an area of 2,640 acres. This achievement is all the more extraordinary in the context of the UK’s grey partridge population, which has declined by 86 per cent in the past 60 years and makes this project a worthy finalist in this award.

Professor Sotherton from the GWCT said, “This is a shining example of how shooting and conservation go hand in hand. It will doubtless surprise many people that it is not just grey partridge which have benefited from this conservation work, but many other songbirds, rare arable plants and wildlife species as well, all contributing to a major improvement in the overall biodiversity of this area in the Sussex Downs. This is a huge credit to Peter Knight, the Duke and his enthusiastic gamekeepers.”

Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is the leading UK charity conducting scientific research to enhance the British countryside for public benefit. Read more.

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