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Extraordinary grey partridge revival brings conservation trophy to the Ditchingham Estate

PUBLISHED: 11:15 26 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:40 26 June 2019

Ditchingham Estate gamekeeper Nicholas Clitheroe (second right), alongside Lord and Lady Ferrers, is presented with the Grey Partridge Award by Justin Ripman from Mills and Reeve (far left) at the Royal Norfolk Show 2019. Picture: Chris Hill

Ditchingham Estate gamekeeper Nicholas Clitheroe (second right), alongside Lord and Lady Ferrers, is presented with the Grey Partridge Award by Justin Ripman from Mills and Reeve (far left) at the Royal Norfolk Show 2019. Picture: Chris Hill

Chris Hill

An enthusiastic conservation effort to revive a lost population of grey partridges has been honoured with the first trophy to be presented at the 2019 Royal Norfolk Show.

The Grey Partridge Award, which promotes the recovery of the species across the county, was presented to the Ditchingham Estate near Bungay by law firm Mills and Reeve.

Seven years ago the estate had none of the birds at all, but thanks to the commitment of gamekeeper Nicholas Clitheroe and landowners Lord and Lady Ferrers, there are now 58 breeding pairs.

And the work to create year-round habitats and food sources has also helped other wildlife, bringing the estate's recent songbird count to 76 different species, and boosting populations of yellowhammers, skylarks and barn owls which benefit from the margins created for grey partridge conservation.

Mr Clitheroe said he was "immensely proud" to take the trophy back to the estate where this once-prolific gamebird now thrives again.

"We are in Norfolk and everyone knows it is a stronghold of the grey partridge, but seven years ago we didn't have any," he said. "So we got some chicks and started from there.

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"We've created the right habitat, good legal predator control, and feeding for almost 12 months of the year - particular in the last year when we had all that snow, making sure the birds we did have could get at the feeders, and making sure they had year-round cover and winter shelter areas.

"People will think we are trying to get enough so we can shoot them, but that is not our goal. We just want to keep them.

"Once you get into them they get under your skin. They are so bonded as a pair, and the cock bird takes a huge undertaking in bringing the young up and defending them and looking after the nest and their mate. They are amazing parents."

Lady Ferrers praised the gamekeeper's dedication to the cause. " It is a passion," she said. "You couldn't do it otherwise. The dedication of this man is incredible."

After accepting the trophy, Lord Ferrers said: "I would encourage those people who think it is too difficult that it is worth it, but you need to have someone with the drive."

Justin Ripman, senior partner at Mills and Reeve said the award recognised the "obvious sense of enthusiasm and commitment" from Mr Clitheroe and the estate owners.

The other award finalists were White House Farm at Fring and the Stody estate at Melton Constable.

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