The Willoughton Estate near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire has won a prestigious conservation prize for their efforts in preserving one of Britain's most iconic birds.
The Lincolnshire Grey Partridge Trophy is awarded to entrants to the spring Partridge Count Scheme (PCS) organised by leading wildlife research organisation, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). The award, now in its thirteenth year, is sponsored by Jas. Martin & Co.
Twenty-eight estates, farms and shoots throughout the county submitted PCS numbers to the GWCT this year, with Willoughton emerging as the clear winner. Grey partridge numbers have been falling in the UK for decades, but the innovative conservation methods developed by the GWCT have shown that this decline can be reversed.
Willoughton, which is owned by the Rowles Nicholson family and farmed by the Limestone Farming Company Ltd, is a superb example of how effective these methods have proved when put into practice and a deserving winner of the Trophy. While other farms have seen disappointing partridge numbers this year, Willoughton had the highest spring counts per square km of all the entrants, and has maintained a high population consistently over recent years.
The estate is keepered by Des Wykes who has worked for the Rowles Nicholson family for over fifty years. His sons Paul and Tim Wykes have both been previous winners of the Trophy, and he is now assisted by his grandson Tom. Working closely with the farm manager, Stuart Meeson, Willoughton boasts a mixture of conservation measures, stewardship scheme and sympathetic farming to ensure that the grey partridge will remain part of the British countryside for years to come, for the benefit of future generations.
Graham Rowles Nicholson said, “We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this prestigious trophy. The whole team here at Willoughton, including Stuart and the sprayer and tractor drivers, puts in a great deal of effort to ensure that our population of grey partridge has the best chance we can give them to thrive. The keeper and his whole family keep reminding us all how important it is!”
Dermot Spurrier, a partner at sponsors Jas. Martin & Co, added, “Des Wykes and his team have shown how skill and dedication can produce consistent results even in a difficult year.”
The winners were presented with the prestigious Trophy by Tessa Hood at the CLA stand at the Lincolnshire Show on Wednesday 22 June. The GWCT would like to thank Ben Underwood and the CLA for their help, and Jas Martin & Co. for their invaluable support for the Lincolnshire Grey Partridge Award.
The PCS has been running since 1933 and is open to all farmers and other land managers who are interested in helping conserve grey partridge on their land. However, even land where there are no partridges can be included. For more information or to join the scheme online, please visit www.gwct.org.uk/pcs.
Photocaption: Three generations of the Wykes family were presented with the 2016 Lincolnshire Grey Partridge award at the Lincolnshire Show (l to r): Tom Wykes, Des Wykes, Tim Wykes, Paul Wykes.
Notes to editors:
(1) 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: Holly Howe - Telephone: 01425 651000
(2) The Partridge Count Scheme. The GWCT is urging the country’s farmers, landowners, land managers, keepers, etc. to step up to the mark in order to conserve and restore the nation’s wild grey partridge by getting involved in its Partridge Count Scheme. The free and voluntary scheme has, since the autumn 1933, collected information on the spring abundance and breeding success of grey partridges from farms and shoots across the country.
As one of the most intensively researched bird species in the world, the GWCT knows, and has demonstrated numerous times, what needs to be done for grey partridge (and many other declining farmland birds) by productive farms or responsible gamebird shoots. Now these measures need to materialise across the wider countryside where greys were once numerous.
Long-term success needs passion, dedication and patience as it takes a time to get to where you want, but with all the right practices in place you can achieve it. Many reading this will remember having had greys on the land or still have a few around. For those involved the Partridge Count Scheme is a tool that helps untangle the multiple reason of why greys aren’t doing so well and provides site-specific guidance based on individual count results. The future of the grey partridge very much rests in the hands of those on the ground and the beneficial measures they implement.
For more information or to join the scheme online, please visit www.gwct.org.uk/pcs