27 June 2002

HOWTOPKEEPER

REVIVEDSHOOT

THE winner of the farmers weekly/CLA Game

Fair Gamekeeper of the Year Award is

Gary Salmon, a keeper whose efforts have

brought a new diversity of wildlife to a

Warwickshire agricultural estate

GAMEKEEPERS today often have a broader role to fill than those in the past. While producing sporting game is still the major priority they often have to manage budgets and plan development and conservation strategies on top of the many jobs that are essential to a well run shoot. At a time when all country sports are under scrutiny, it is essential that best practice is observed on all counts and the Gamekeeper of the Year award seeks to highlight this.

All three finalists (detailed in last weeks Farmlife) found favour with the judges for the commitment, knowledge, skill and enthusiasm they put into running the shoots for which they are responsible. All have improved wildlife habitat and shown a well-run shoot brings benefits on many levels. But Gary Salmon, headkeeper at Ashby St Ledgers, near Rugby, Warks, was unanimously chosen as the winner.

&#42 Judges impressed

Gary, (41), has worked at Ashby St Ledgers since 1998. He impressed the judges with his quiet professionalism, his forward thinking and the success with which he has revived a shoot (it had been unkeepered for several years) on this 1200ha (2965-acre) arable, dairy and beef farm. His keepering and the planting and management of game crops, additional hedgerows and woodland and the creation of three extra ponds and wetland scrapes on the shoot have resulted in improved habitat for wildlife of all types.

"Garys contribution to these improvements has been significant," says Ashby St Ledgers Farms director Mr Ken Barfoot, "and we see much more diversity of wildlife than we have for 10 years."

The shoot, which now runs at a profit, has created an extra job – that of underkeeper – and for the past two seasons Gary has helped students gain work experience on the estate. A well-stocked lake now provides sport for fishermen and breeding opportunities for a host of waterfowl. Plans for working dog trials are in hand on the estate and a marketing initiative to make the most of shot game is under way

An application has been made to the Rural Enterprise Scheme for some support funding for a game processing plant. Here game will be hung, plucked and dressed then sold under the estates own brand. Gary has already negotiated a market for the game with exclusive farm shop outlets. Future developments included smoking duck and pheasants. Using the end product is integral to the whole concept of a sporting shoot and the judges were delighted that this had really been thought through on this estate.

&#42 Harmonious

The reintroduction of the shoot and Garys hard work have resulted in a harmonious balance between farming, conservation, environmental management and country sports at Ashby St Ledgers and the judges are pleased to make Gary the farmers weekly/CLA Game Fair Gamekeeper of the Year 2002.

Joint runners-up for the award were Graham Binns, Grimwith Moor Estate, Pately Bridge, N Yorks and Peter Walters, Fishleigh Estate, Hatherleigh. Devon.

All will be presented with their awards at the CLA Game Fair, Broadlands, Romsey, Hants, tomorrow – Sat, July 27, at 12.15 after the seminar Shooting Sports and Countryside Stewardship – A Win, Win Scenario (starts 11.30am) chaired by FW Editor, Stephen Howe.