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We run a wild bird shoot on our farm, so we don’t release any birds. The bags tend to be small and reflect how the pheasants and partridges have bred during the spring and early summer. Nearly every field on the farm offers habitat which is specially designed to help the wild birds thrive. These areas either provide them with food and cover during the winter or insects for the chicks when they hatch in the spring. Rats, crows and foxes are controlled from March until July when all ground nesting birds are at their most vulnerable - a fox offers very little threat to a wild bird after the middle of July.


We plan to hold four or five shoots during the season but keep a keen eye on not over shooting to leave enough stock for breeding. The wild English partridges are thriving here as reflected in our 2023 spring pair count of 109. Our autumn count was 595 and we have rather more than 400 wild French partridges too. The wet summer of 2023 was not conducive to a thriving grey partridge population and numbers were down a little bit on the previous year; nevertheless we were able to have one fine day of sport in late September and shot 70 brace of wild partridge. Our fingers are now firmly crossed that the spring and summer of this year is more to the liking of our wild English partridges.


This graph shows the number of pairs seen each spring per km2 over the last seven years - it has increased steadily, up until this year. 



We have now put in 12 beetle banks across our farm in the larger fields, comprising of a strip of grass (ideal nesting cover) and wild flowers or kale on both sides, providing essential over-wintering habitat for many welcome insects and spiders. These move into the crop in the spring and feed on crop pests. Beetle banks also provide habitat for species which prefer to nest in open farmland away from field boundaries, such as corn buntings, reed buntings, skylarks and mammals like harvest mice. Grey partridges sometimes choose them in preference to hedge banks to avoid predators.

                    'The Bank' being created for nesting cover                                      After 12 months a 'mature bank' providing plenty of habitat


Our pheasants and partridges are now taken to the Swan at Swinbrook, where they are cooked to perfection and are exceptionally delicious. They and their customers really like the fact that all our birds are wild.


We have a policy of encouraging young people to come beating and shooting here, as well as hosting nature walks for local people, explaining to them why we only cut our hedges one year in four for example and show them how the wild birds and hares are doing so well.

In February of last year we won the Purdey Gold Award for game and conservation. It was wonderful for our wild English partridge work to be recognised. We were up against seven other farms and estates on the short list and rather amazingly, the judges chose us which was a triumph.


Niall Wright joined us in March 2023 as our gamekeeper and comes with all the skills that a wild partridge keeper needs - he has certainly hit the ground running at the busiest time of year. Two of our farms are now in a new five year Countryside Stewardship agreement and we are changing some of the habitat by putting in another 6 hectares of wild flowers, in 6 metre strips around the outside of most fields. Quite a lot of thought goes in to choosing which flowers are best for providing insects and Niall’s extensive knowledge and experience of the business of habitat is particularly useful.

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