05 June 2015

Seventeen per cent of Cotswold farm devoted to wildlife

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Cotswold Partridge Group aims to help boost numbers of this declining bird across the region. Photocredit: Peter Thompson, GWCTAn organic farmer in the Cotswolds is leading the charge in helping two extremely rare birds by devoting an impressive 17 per cent of his fields to wildlife.

Winning the prestigious Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s grey partridge trophy last year, John Phillips, from Far Hill Farm, Fairford in Gloucestershire, will be throwing open his farm gates on the 23rd June to show fellow farmers in the Cotswold region how he is providing the crucial conservation measures needed by rare birds such as wild grey partridge and corn bunting.

The event forms part of a major campaign being run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), which aims to restore grey partridges to the British countryside.

Peter Thompson, Farmland Biodiversity Advisor with the GWCT, a leading research charity, explains, “Our Cotswold Partridge Group is the largest in the country and covers an area of more than 1.5million ha. We estimate that if more partridge-friendly habitats are created within the region, the area could support at least 15,000 – 20,000 partridges. Within the group, we are currently monitoring about 300 pairs of partridges and so we need more people involved in counting and creating wildlife habitats to help the recovery of this bird. We hope that by attending the event at Fairford, more people will be inspired to replicate some of the wonderful conservation achievements of John Phillips.”

This once familiar bird species, which flourished on farmland across the country, has declined by about 86 per cent over the past 40 years because of a loss of suitable year round habitats such as nesting, insect rich brood rearing areas (which provides vital insect food for young chicks to eat when they first hatch), as well as an increase in nest predators.

Peter Thompson says, “The Cotswolds is a really large area and offers fantastic potential for wild grey partridges and we are keen to demonstrate how farmers and gamekeepers can play their part in helping to restore this once common bird. We believe that if people could encourage just a few more birds onto their on their land, we could see a really positive upturn in numbers.”

Through its national Partridge Count Scheme (PCS), which has monitored the rise and fall of partridge numbers since 1933, the GWCT is currently receiving twice-yearly counts from the many farms that are already doing a huge amount for grey partridges in the Cotswolds. Peter Thompson says, “It is a huge region and although we are now receiving information from more than 60 farmers and gamekeepers we would like to double the number of people returning their spring and autumn count details. This information helps us to assess the population more accurately, and it also helps us to build a national picture of how the bird is faring across the country.”

As an incentive to encourage more people to get involved in partridge conservation, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust awards an annual Grey Partridge Trophy, which is sponsored by Calmsden Ltd. This silver partridge trophy is presented each year to the farm or estate that has contributed most to the conservation of grey partridges within the region. Previous illustrious winners of the trophy include former environment minister Richard Benyon MP, who has created miles and miles of wildlife friendly habitats for grey partridges and other species on his family owned estate in Berkshire.

The grey partridge group meeting, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust on Tuesday 23rd June will start at 6.00 pm with a fascinating farm walk which will highlight all the conservation measures and habitats that have been created for wild grey partridge. Many of these are well-established Stewardship options.

The event led by Peter Thompson and John Phillips will discuss how it is possible to integrate the running of successful farming enterprise with year-round conservation measures targeted at grey partridge recovery. “Significantly, conservation projects for wild grey partridges have huge knock-on benefits for other struggling farmland birds too,” explains Peter Thompson.

The Cotswold Grey Partridge Group region covers the counties of Gloucestershire, North Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. For those unable to attend but would like more information on grey partridge conservation, please visit the GWCT’s website: www.gwct.org.uk/pcsdownloads

To attend the meeting it is essential to book a place, please contact Lynda Ferguson at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Telephone 01425 651013 or email: lferguson@gct.org.uk. Alternatively the Trust has an online booking facility at www.gwct.org.uk/greypartridgemeetings. The Cotswold Grey Partridge Group Meeting at Far Hill Farm, Fairford starts at 6.00pm and costs £10 to include a BBQ supper and drinks and will include the presentation of the 2015 Cotswold Grey Partridge Trophy to this year’s winner.

The Grey Partridge Group is supported by the Chadacre Trust and Felix Cobbold Trust

END

Photocaption: The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Cotswold Partridge Group aims to help boost numbers of this declining bird across the region. Photocredit: Peter Thompson, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. 


Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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