Young Farmers profiles: Catherine Leach
As part of our regular series of profiles on the region's Young Farmers' Club (YFC) members, gamekeeper CATHERINE LEACH talks about managing one of north Norfolk's largest country estates.
I work on a large Norfolk estate as part of a team of six keepers, and I have my own beat that I am responsible for.
I head off outside at 5.30 in the morning to exercise my dogs, three English springer spaniels and a terrier, before starting work.
My mornings are spent mostly driving around in my all-terrain vehicle checking fox snares and tunnel traps for rabbits, rats and stoats. Tunnel traps are dug into hedges or built into log piles in the woods. The traps must always be checked every day to be compliant with the law.
We have tunnel traps and fox snares set at vital times of the year to legally control predators that have an impact on the wildlife and game on my beat. This, importantly, allows the wildlife and the wild stocks of game to flourish rather than releasing vast amounts of artificially-reared game.
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Afternoons are spent filling hoppers with wheat for pheasants and partridges. I spend the evenings out deer-stalking or training my spaniels for picking up during the shooting season. This week I have been repairing tunnel traps, feeding pheasants, dog training, deer stalking and was beating on a shoot day on a neighbouring estate.
I love my job because every day is different and my job changes throughout the year with the seasons. The first of February signals the end of the shooting season and I move on to keeping the deer numbers under control through February and March.
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From March into April, I increase predator control, as the wildlife and game birds begin to nest and lay eggs, therefore increasing the chances of successfully hatching their eggs in June, July and August.
During harvest we follow the combines, helping to keep the rabbit population under control. Our shooting season starts properly at the end of October when the wild birds are fully matured.
YFC is a great chance to take part in things I wouldn't otherwise do, especially sport, and it has allowed me to meet people outside of the estate.
North Elmham YFC meets at The Railway Tavern in North Elmham on Wednesday evenings. For more information, contact the county office on 01603 731307.
Name: Catherine Leach
Location: Holkham Estate
YFC Club: North Elmham
How long have you been a YFC member? North Elmham YFC for a year, and Berkshire YFC for 11 years