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Farmer’s ‘labour of love’ wins Grey Partridge Award at Royal Norfolk Show

First day at the Royal Norfolk Show. Grey Partridge award winner Tid Morton and son in law Nick Walton and Justin Ripman of Mills and Reeve, left. Photo: Steve Adams

First day at the Royal Norfolk Show. Grey Partridge award winner Tid Morton and son in law Nick Walton and Justin Ripman of Mills and Reeve, left. Photo: Steve Adams

A west Norfolk farm has been rewarded for its “labour of love” to boost grey partridge numbers.

This is the tenth year in which law firm Mills & Reeve has awarded its Grey Partridge Award, to promote the recovery of the species in Norfolk through habitat management and predator control.

The 2015 winner is Bagthorpe Farm in Bagthorpe, where Tid Morton and his son-in-law Nick Walton were described as a “formidable pair”.

Mr Morton said 60pc of the farm was in organic production, which has enabled a diversification of habitats, food sources and game cover which has been rewarded by an increase in grey partridge numbers.

“It is very exciting,” he said. “What is quite important about this is that in terms of straight finances, looking after the English partridge is not necessarily very sensible.

“In financial terms, you can put a whole lot of French partridges in and get a better return.

“But the English partridge is under threat, and it is a wonderful sporting bird, so we need to hang on to them. It does require a lot of effort – it was a labour of love.”

We have got 35 pairs in the area we counted, but there are other species that benefit from the measures that we use, including lapwings, oystercatchers, shelduck and, to a certain extent, curlews.

The judging took place at the three short-listed farms in early June, following the analysis of the statistics from The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s autumn and spring counts.

Justin Ripman, senior partner at Mills & Reeve, said 2014 appears to have marked the beginning of a recovery for grey partridges, following disastrous years in 2012 and 2013, the former having been the worst year for wild game birds since 1933.

“In Norfolk the numbers of pairs were up 8pc on last year and densities are up 10pc. Hopefully the current weather will further improve the chances for young broods this year.

“We are still only counting over about 40,000 ha of farmed land in Norfolk which is 10pc of the county’s 400,000ha of farmed land. We still need to do better.”

The trophy was presented at Mills & Reeve’s breakfast event at the Royal Norfolk Show. The other finalists were Holme Hale Hall and Warren Farm in Ingoldisthorpe.

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