Winners of the 2016 Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation have been announced, with the Gold and Silver Award winners both going to exemplary and successful grey partridge restoration projects

The winners of the 2016 Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation have been announced. In a ceremony held in London gun and rifle maker James Purdey & Sons’ famous Long Room, it was announced that Portloughan Shoot in County Down had won the 2016 Purdey Gold Award.

For more on Purdey take a look around their factory, opened only last year. Read the Purdey factory in the 21st century.

THE 2016 PURDEY AWARDS

Held annually since 1999, the Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation seek to promote a wider appreciation of the game and habitat conservation carried out by shoots throughout the United Kingdom every year. The Awards give recognition to shoots completing outstanding work, and reward the best.

And that is exactly what was celebrated on Thursday evening. In a ceremony held in the gunmaker’s famous Long Room, the Duke of Wellington, Chairman of the Award’s judging panel, announced the 2016 winners with countryside broadcaster and TV personality Julia Bradbury presenting the awards.

This year, the Gold and Silver Award winners were presented to exemplary and successful grey partridge restoration projects, the Gold in Co Down and the Silver in Hampshire. The Bronze Award was won by a well-established pheasant and red-legged partridge shoot in Suffolk.

“They show what a well-run shoot can do to preserve and develop nature and wildlife,” said Richard Purdey. “They also display great leadership and demonstrate what the shooting and farming communities can achieve by working together”.

WINNER OF THE 2016 PURDEY GOLD AWARD

David Sandford, owner of the Portloughan Shoot in County Down, was presented with the 2016 Purdey Gold Award trophy and £5,000, in recognition of his fantastic work in successfully re-establishing a sustainable population of wild grey partridge on 2,000 acres of farmland in Co Down, where none had existed for decades.

2016 Purdey Awards

Portloughan Shoot in County Down, Northern Ireland took the 2016 Gold Award.

Mr Sandford persuaded 21 neighbouring farmers to join him under Northern Ireland’s Countryside Management Scheme and work together to reintroduce wild grey partridge. This allowed for a total area of 2000 acres. Formerly just grassland bordering Strangford Lough, it was adapted to provide the right habitat to support wild greys. Mr Sandford introduced the grey partridges by importing family units of indigenous Irish brood stock, having secured a cross border agreement from the Irish Grey Partridge Trust in Co Offaly in 2014. Four coveys were released in 2015 and again in 2016. The controlled breeding programme is designed to continue for another four years. None will be shot until an annual shoot-able surplus is regularly achieved.

The Purdey Awards judges were not only impressed by Mr Sandford’s shoot, but also his success in leading and coordinating such an ambitious project. Mr Sandford’s work is not only enabling the return of wild grey partridges, but his shoot’s conservation work is enriching Northern Ireland’s wildlife and natural biodiversity.

SILVER AND BRONZE AWARD WINNERS

Richard Wills, owner of the Portway Estate at Longparish, Hampshire won the 2016 Purdey Silver Award and £3,000. An ambitious wild grey partridge restoration project has been run for eight years alongside a well established and highly regarded wild pheasant and red-leg partridge shoot. Richard Wills’ aim is to achieve a sustainable, shoot-able surplus and with a spring count of 65 pairs of wild greys, from one pair in 2008, he may be on the cusp of his ambition.

2016 Purdey Awards

Netta Wills accepting the Silver Award on behalf of Richard Wills.

The Purdey judges were impressed by the excellent habitat creation in cooperation with a productive and well managed arable farm, sound predator control, wildlife and biodiversity benefits and biennial visits by up to 150 schoolchildren under the Countryside for Education charity.

In third place, winning the 2016 Bronze Award and £2,000, is Kelly Partidge Hicks, who has managed and developed an exemplary conservation driven commercial shoot with her husband Stephen since 1997.