Who caught the eye of the judges this year?

On Tuesday 4 February 2020 gamekeepers, landowners and members of the shooting community gathered at Apsley House in London to celebrate the winners of the 2019 Purdey Awards for Game & Conservation.

The awards recognise those involved in the world of shoot management and conservation, and who achieve outstanding results in improving game bird habitats and biodiversity.

In previous years entries have ranged from grouse moors restorations to grey partridge projects, from fenland wild pheasant shoots to wildfowling clubs, and a superbly restored one acre wild duck flighting pond.

The Duke of Wellington, Chairman of the Awards judging panel, announced the 2019 winners and the recipients were presented with their awards by Sir Nicholas Soames, former Conservative MP and Minister.

2019 Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation

The Gold Award was won by The Irish Grouse Conservation Trust, Glenwherry Hill, Co. Antrim

2019 Winners Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation

The Gold Award was won by The Irish Grouse Conservation Trust, Glenwherry Hill, Co. Antrim for their remarkable work in moorland recovery which allowed them to arrest and reverse the decline of the population of Irish grouse.

The Silver Award was given to the Roxburghe Estate, Kelso for their grey partridge restoration project which has witnessed a stunning growth in numbers of breeding pairs as well as notable increases in other species such as curlews and oystercatchers.

The Bronze Award was given to Fridlington Farm Shoot, Sutton on the Forest, North Yorkshire in recognition of their passionate conservation work and specifically their remarkable success in using historic marl pits to create a unique wild driven teal shoot.

2019 Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation

More on the winners

The Irish Grouse Conservation Trust, Co. Antrim – Gold Award

The judges, when choosing the Trust for the Gold Award sought to recognise and celebrate their innovative and hard work that has seen the flourishing of 1,000 acres of heather moorland host a successful reversal of fortunes of the population of Irish grouse (Lagopus, lagopus hibernicus).

The project which also comprises 6,000 acres of rough moorland, blanket bog and grazing, includes an impressive and equally significant array of stakeholders such as the RSPB, the GWCT, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Police Service of Northern Ireland – Wildlife Protection, The College of Agriculture and Queen’s University, Belfast. Such a collaboration has enabled the Trust to demonstrate the necessity and prudence of predation control and secure the support of conservation bodies in this control work.

The project employs the only grouse keeper in Ireland, Alex Rodgers. Alex has adopted a studious program of controlled burning that works in conjunction with the grazing of the moorland with traditional hill sheep and cattle. Alongside this, with guidance from Professor Jim McAdam (Head of Grassland and Plant Sciences at Queen’s University, Belfast) the Trust has removed 100 acres of forestry with further woodland earmarked for removal. The result of all this work has been an impressive 10% improvement in moorland condition in the last ten years.

The Trust was presented with The Purdey Awards Trophy, the Gold Award and a cheque for £5,000.

The Roxburghe Estate, Kelso –  Silver Award

The Silver Award and cheque for £3,000.00 was given to The Roxburghe Estate in recognition and celebration of the success of their grey partridge restoration project.

The project was conceived and initiated by the past Duke of Roxburghe who knew the estate had enjoyed historic success in holding significant numbers of grey partridge until the 1960s. In 2012, having identified that field sizes had changed very little since the 1960’s, an initial plan was drawn up which encompassed 3,400 acres of the estate. The Roxburghe Estate project enjoys the close collaboration and support of the tenant farmers who have joined environmental stewardship schemes to ensure the best creation and management of the field margins and hedgerows essential to this fragile species. Details such as the cutting of hedges to an A-shape to provide better cover alongside the ploughing in of green manure ensures a rich food source.

The result of this sustained work and effort has been a wonderful increase in partridge numbers and, crucially, other species such as skylark, meadow pipit, linnet, lapwing, curlew and oystercatcher.

Fridlington Farm Shoot, Sutton on the Forest, North Yorkshire – Bronze Award

Awarded bronze and a cheque for £2,000.00.   This North Yorkshire shoot was recognised for its passionate conservation work and specifically its remarkable wild driven teal shoot.

The 2,500 acre farm is a mixed farm which has previously won the prestigious Yorkshire GWCT Award for wild grey partridge in 2013. However, whilst noting the numerous strips of winter wild bird cover and acres of new plantations it was for their innovative and unique approach to over 60 marl pits that the judges sought to recognise this entry.

Following advice from BASC with whom it has worked, the shoot only drives a limited number of the ponds on any one day the ensuring the teal and other wildfowl have plenty of alternative ponds to shelter on.

This small private shoot represents the culmination of the hard work of all those involved.

Special commendation

A special commendation and a cheque for £1,000.00 has been given to Jamie Horner of The Iford Down Shoot, East Sussex. When visiting the Iford Down shoot the judges were universal and fulsome in their praise.

Since taking over the shoot in 2016 Jamie has worked passionately to create a habitat and environment that has recorded a staggering 80 different species. The commendation recognised Jamie not just for the remarkable work and success of Iford Down but equally for his work with the RSPB and in the community as a whole.

Who is on the judging panel?

The panel is chaired by the Duke of Wellington, whose residence is Apsley House. Other members of the judging panel are;

  • The Duchess of Devonshire
  • David Clark, former Head Keeper at The Sandringham Estate
  • William Garfit, author, artist, and former Laurent-Perrier Awards winner
  • Tim Furbank, specialist seedsman and adviser on cover crops
  • Jonathan Kennedy of CKD Kennedy Macpherson
  • Charles Nodder, PRO National Gamekeepers Organisation
  • Jonathan Young, Editor of The Field
  • Marcus Janssen, Director of Sales for Schöffel and former editor of Fieldsports Magazine
  • Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall, Landed Estates Partner at Withers
  • The Hon. Jonathan Irby, Managing Director of The Royal Berkshire Shooting School
  • Roddy Richmond-Watson, Managing Director of West London Shooting School
  • Claire Sadler, Lawyer and BASC Council member
  • Hamish Macdonald Lockhart