Purdey Awards 2008

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Natural England Press Release

Gold award for West Sussex Biodiversity project

3 December 2008

The joint winner of the 2008 Purdey Award, the West Sussex Biodiversity Project, is a well-justified recognition of the value of this partnership and the contribution it makes to improving the natural environment in this part of Sussex, says Natural England.

The judges in the Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation awarded Adrian Weller, Mark Elliott, Adrian Waller and Simon Edwards, the partners in the project, their Gold Award, a £4000 prize and a Jeroboam of Laurent Perrier Champagne, for their outstanding work on the jointly owned West Sussex Biodiversity Project. This project was set up to create and restore traditionally managed water meadows which are disappearing in the Arun Valley as land is left to its own devices.

Widney Swans May 2007

Wildfowling and fishing has long been a tradition in the area and benefits from such habitat conservation. Two separate blocks of Arun Valley water meadows have been saved, and this was achieved by creating innovative sluice systems and correctly managing water levels. The two sites are Amberley Wild Brooks near Amberley and Widney Brooks, at Greatham.

By restoring ideal wetland habitats, important and rare flora and fauna were given ideal conditions (including species such as the narrow leafed water dropwort, cut grass and the little ramshorn snail). These wetland conditions also encouraged breeding and overwintering waders and waterfowl on this nationally important wetland site.

The work by the project team included clearing ditches, installing sluices, adjusting water levels, strategically fencing off ditch margins to allow reedbed creation, and opening up other areas to cattle allowing them to poach the ground to create natural splashes, which in turn dramatically increased the numbers of waders and wildfowl on these sites. The partners have also used brush-sweep herbicides to specifically control soft rush, creating pasture of a type ideal for duck and areas where snipe will feed.

Alex Macdonald, land management adviser for Natural England, says: “The West Sussex Biodiversity project team have worked hard to build up wildfowl numbers by ensuring that natural habitats were restored. They have also helped local people learn about traditional water meadow management through meetings and open days. This scheme shows how good agri-environment measures can have much wider benefits.”

Widney Spring 2008 final

Other south east projects also achieved awards for their contribution to the natural environment. They included Peter Stratton, owner of Holybrook Island, Theale, Berkshire, who won a special award for his work on this site between the River Kennet and the main west country railway line which provides duck flighting, wild pheasant and trout and barbell fishing. Another special award went to Tim Sykes and Christoph Harwood, joint owners of Park Farm Shoot, Denmead, Hampshire for the amount of time and attention they spend teaching youngsters about shooting and conservation. And Roy Harris, part-time keeper for Cowden Farm’s 450 acres shoot, near Herstmonceux, East Sussex also won a special award for steadily improving the shoot with sound conservation measures, experimentation with game crops and new drives, and developing new ponds for duck flighting.

The Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation are now in their tenth year. They are held annually by London gunmakers James Purdey & Sons to encourage imaginative conservation projects which improve the habitats for game birds, and, in the process, benefit other species of flora and fauna, thus enhancing the biodiversity of shoots and of the countryside. The joint first prize also went to the Logie estate in Morayshire for the restoration of grouse to the Lochindorb moor.

ENDS

For further information please contact John Rennie from Natural England’s South East Advocacy and Partnerships team on 07500 990874 or by email at john.rennie@naturalengland.org.uk.

Notes to editors:

  1. Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. For further information about Natural England please visit:www.naturalengland.org.uk
  2. The West Sussex Biodiversity Project is an initiative set up to demonstrate that ordinary local people can manage land for nature conservation to a very high level, and in this respect it has been extraordinarily successful. Whilst much of this is down to the hard work of the partners, the support and advice from Natural England has been an integral part of this success.
  3. The Duke of Wellington first presented the Purdey Awards in 1999 when he was Chairman of the Awards judging panel. Since then, there have been different presenters including television chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, actor and playwright Julian Fellowes and former editor of the Daily Telegraph Sir Max Hastings.