Family farm win trophy for their work in preserving one of Britain’s most iconic birds

Tom Wykes, Des Wykes, Tim Wykes, Paul Wykes
Tom Wykes, Des Wykes, Tim Wykes, Paul Wykes

The Willoughton Estate near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire has won a prestigious conservation prize for their efforts in preserving one of Britain’s most iconic birds.

The Lincolnshire Grey Partridge Trophy is awarded to entrants to the spring Partridge Count Scheme (PCS)organised by leading wildlife research organisation, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

The award, now in its 13th year, is sponsored by Jas. Martin and Co.

Twenty eight estates, farms and shoots throughout the county submitted PCS numbers to the GWCT this year, with Willoughton emerging as the clear winner.

Grey partridge numbers have been falling in the UK for decades, but the innovative conservation methods developed by the GWCT have shown that this decline can be reversed.

Willoughton, which is owned by the Rowles Nicholson family and farmed by the Limestone Farming Company Ltd, is a superb example of how effective these methods have proved when put into practice and a deserving winner of the trophy.

While other farms have seen disappointing partridge numbers this year, Willoughton had the highest spring counts per square km of all the entrants, and has maintained a high population consistently over recent years.

The estate is keepered by Des Wykes who has worked for the Rowles Nicholson family for more than 50 years.

His sons Paul and Tim Wykes have both been previous winners of the Trophy, and he is now assisted by his grandson Tom.

Working closely with the farm manager, Stuart Meeson, Willoughton boasts a mixture of conservation measures, stewardship scheme and sympathetic farming to ensure that the grey partridge will remain part of the British countryside for years to come, for the benefit of future generations.

Graham Rowles Nicholson said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this prestigious trophy.

“The whole team here at Willoughton, including Stuart and the sprayer and tractor drivers, puts in a great deal of effort to ensure that our population of grey partridge has the best chance we can give them to thrive.

“The keeper and his whole family keep reminding us all how important it is.”

Dermot Spurrier, a partner at sponsors Jas. Martin and Co, added: “Des Wykes and his team have shown how skill and dedication can produce consistent results even in a difficult year.”

The winners were presented with the prestigious Trophy by Tessa Hood at the Country Land and Business Associationstand at the Lincolnshire Show on Wednesday, June 22.

The GWCT would like to thank Ben Underwood and the CLA for their help, and Jas. Martin and Co for their invaluable support for the Lincolnshire Grey Partridge Award.

The PCS has been running since 1933 and is open to all farmers and other land managers who are interested in helping conserve grey partridge on their land.

However, even land where there are no partridges can be included.

For more information or to join the scheme online visit www.gwct.org.uk/pcs.