Charles PhillipsWhen Barrington Park Estate made a conscious decision to help the grey partridge population, estate manager, Charles Phillips turned to Kings western technical advisor, Neil Harris for stewardship guidance.

Farming beef, sheep and around 5000 acres of arable crops along with a private shoot, Barrington Park Estate is a large organic enterprise near Burford, Oxfordshire in the Cotswolds. Mr Phillips describes the business as “heavily into HLS (Higher Level Stewardship) and keen to contribute to the return of the English partridge.”

“There used to be an abundance of partridge in this area,” he explains. “The estate has put a lot of resources into increasing grey partridge numbers, but the area of weakness appeared to be the lack of late winter cover. It’s hoped that the introduction of the strips of pollen and nectar and wild bird seed mixes will address this problem.”

Having worked with Kings for over a decade, Mr Phillips invited Neil to visit to discuss how the estate could do more for the environment with a particular focus on grey partridge. The two set up a meeting along with the owner and local Natural England advisor to consider how the existing Higher Level Stewardship agreement could be adapted to support these goals.

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Expert advice from Neil and buy in from all those involved enabled the addition of an impressive scale of stewardship measures, with around 70 hectares of arable options which have since transformed the estate. These options include organic pollen and nectar mixtures, flower rich margins and bespoke wild bird seed mixtures as well as practising supplementary feeding during winter. Kings has provided ongoing input regarding mixtures, locations and management of the various strips and plots.

“We chose these crops as we really wanted something to cover the hungry gap, the January to March period when there’s not so much natural resource of seed and insect life about,” Mr Phillips continues. “We want to know that we’re holding the wildlife in these plots and providing the food, shelter and safety they need to flourish.”

Neil has been impressed by the estate’s enthusiasm for the project and especially for grey partridge.

Good management, attention to detail and passion for the environment has produced great crops in the first year and Mr Phillips is keen to continue developing the environmental work and establishment of HLS eligible crops at Barrington. While it’s too early to tell the impact on the partridge population just yet, progress is promising and the team is confident of seeing more birds around the estate in the coming years.

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