Royal Norfolk Show: Grey Partridge Award heads to Barton Bendish

Royal Norfolk Show 2016. Presentation of the Grey Partridge award to Davd Chandler (left) and Anthon

Royal Norfolk Show 2016. Presentation of the Grey Partridge award to Davd Chandler (left) and Anthony Blanchfield from Albanwise. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Wildlife managers at a west Norfolk estate have been rewarded for conservation efforts which have prompted a remarkable resurgence in grey partridge numbers.

Farming company Albanwise won this year's Grey Partridge Award, presented by law firm Mills & Reeve in recognition of the species management work across 1,800 hectares at Hill Farm in Barton Bendish.

Albanwise wildlife manager David Chandler, said there were 41 pairs of wild partridges on the estate when he arrived in 2009, even though there had been little game management previously. Within four years, 310 pairs had been counted.

'It just shows that it is a fantastic piece of ground where the grey partridge wants to be,' he said. 'It is a really natural place for them. We started keepering it and we were fortunate to have three really good springs. Within four years we counted 310 pairs, with no artificial fostering or rearing at all.

'From then on we started to change the farming practices, and we brought in environmental stewardship – we are throwing in everything we can to help them.'

Anthony Blanchfield, environment manager for Albanwise, said it was a 'great privilege' to win the trophy, and used his acceptance speech to draw attention to the importance of the annual grey partridge count run by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

He said: 'The grey partridge count is so important. It is such an iconic bird, and it is a barometer of the health of our countryside.

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'It sounds so innocuous doing a count, but it informs all our management decisions, and that information is imperative if we are going to have the right strategy.'

Dr Roger Draycott from the GWCT also attended the presentation. He said: 'Barton Bendish is a great example of grey partridge conservation – they have put in place everything which grey partridge need to flourish.

'The really important thing to consider is what these birds need all year round. It is about providing nesting cover in the spring, areas where the pairs can take their young chicks to in summer where they feel safe and there is plenty of food and shelter over the winter months by providing things like wild bird seed mixes and protection from predators. We need that approach to see a recovery in these birds.'

The trophy was presented at Mills & Reeve's breakfast event at the Royal Norfolk Show.