24 November 1999
Set-aside pays for partridges

A FARMER made innovative use of set-aside subsidies to revive wild grey partridges on his farm and win £5000 for his conservation skills.

Edward Darling conducted an experiment in habitat improvement on his farm in Royston, Hertfordshire, with the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture.

He met his set-aside obligations with special 40m-wide, 250m-long seeded sanctuary strips in the centre of most fields — instead of taking whole fields out of production and spraying off the weeds as most arable farmers do.

Partridge numbers increased from eight pairs in 1995 to 23 pairs in 1998.

The winner of the £2500 second prize in the Purdey game and conservation award was Edward Baxter, who farms near Leven in Fife.

He created two miles to beetle-banks to split up his fields, planted five miles of new hedges and developed a variant of the Game Conservancys widely-used unsprayed conservation headland.