Thursday, 25 June 2015

GWCT dates for your diary in July

July equals Game Fair time as attention turns to the Scottish Game Fair at the start of the month and the CLA Game Fair in Yorkshire at the end.

GWCT Scottish Game Fair

Taking place from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th July at Scone Palace, the GWCT Scottish Game Fair provides the perfect mix of traditional events, sporting competition and 'have a go' activities with great food and shopping stands.

Last year over 34,000 attended and with more than 300 exhibitors signing up for this year's show we're really looking forward to the weekend at Scone.

Read more and book your tickets >>

CLA Game Fair

The CLA Game Fair is taking place at Harewood House in Yorkshire this year from Friday 31st July to 2nd August and once again we'll have a major presence at the show.

Stationed by the main arena on stand A44, you can find out 5 reasons to visit our stand here.

If you are planning to come to the show don't forget you can get £2 off a full English breakfast at the GWCT stand - simply download your FREE voucher here.

Away from the big shows we have a range of events taking place throughout July.

Cambridgeshire Golf Day

On Wednesday 1st July the Bourn Golf Club in Cambridge will be playing host to our Cambridgeshire Golf Day. Open to teams of four, there will be prizes for the top three teams plus longest drive and closest to the pin. Find out more here.

Kent Game Bird Challenge & Auction

If clays are your thing then get along to Charing Chalk Pit in Kent on Friday 3rd July for our Game Bird Challenge Shoot and Sporting Auction. Featuring some of the highest clays you'll ever shoot there will also be a BBQ.

Buckinghamshire Ferret Racing

Perhaps the most exciting event taking place in July is the Buckinghamshire Ferret Racing evening on Friday 3rd at Church Farm, Aldbury. With live music, a BBQ and raffle (not to mention the cash bar) it should be an evening not to be missed!

The Comedy of Errors at Glemham Hall

If theatre's more your thing than ferret racing then get yourself along to Glemham Hall in Suffolk on Sunday 5th July for an outside production of Shakespeare's 'Comedy of Errors'. The garden will be open from 5.30 with the performance starting at 7.

Devon River Walk

Join us for an informative walk on the River Culm on Thursday 16th July where we'll be discussing management options for fur, feather and fin - especially the fin!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Help us breathe new life into our displays with your stuffed animals

by Austin Weldon, GWCT Advisory Team

Throughout the year the advisory and research teams attend lots of shows and events. Whilst it’s great having well-presented posters demonstrating our work for wildlife and game conservation, nothing really beats having good quality taxidermy as a talking point about the species in question.

Whilst looking in the store room recently it became very apparent that our existing collection of stuffed specimens are looking quite tired - and rightly so - they have educated and inspired many people over the years.

We would very much like to expand our collection of exhibits and replace the old ones, so if you have any thing you can spare which is relevant to our work with British game and wildlife we would gratefully give it a good home. We only ask that it is in good condition and that you don’t need it back in the future.

Please contact Lynda Ferguson on or 01425 651013 to let us know what you have on offer.

Guest blog by Tom Maplethorpe, Dale Drills

The new Eco T range
As a new GWTC trade partner, it is with great pleasure that I write the first Dale Drills blog.

When offered the opportunity to become involved with the trust we jumped at the chance.

Here at Dale Drills we share the same philosophy that good conservation goes hand in hand with economic land use, and it is, we feel, the responsibility of those land users to do all they can to preserve the land for future generations.

Edward Dale founded Dale Drills in 1999, when he produced the Zero Till seed drill. Although not necessarily a new concept to the UK, direct drilling is a technique of establishing combinable cereal crops in such a manner that no cultivation is required.

James Dale explains the features of the new
Eco T range at a Recent NFU event at Loddington
Following a period farming in Manitoba Canada, Edward quickly learnt that by changing his outlook and a few simple techniques, establishment costs on his own farm could be greatly reduced. For a number of years farmers on the plains of North America and Canada had been perfecting a method of farming that enabled seed to store contracting rates to be as low as £14 per acre.

Whilst some of what he learnt on the other side of the Atlantic may perhaps not have been  completely relevant in the UK, at the forefront of his ideas was the concept of direct drilling and how it could be developed for use on the family farm in North Lincolnshire.

So was born the John Dale Zero Till Drill. Always a keen engineer Edward designed and built his own machines utilising the Seedhawk tine assembly he had seen work so successfully overseas.

Fast forward 15 years, and here at Dale Drills we now produce our own low draught tine assemblies that are specifically suited to the heavier, stonier soils of the United Kingdom and machines with a minimum horsepower requirement as low as 20hp/m.

What are the other advantages of direct drilling?
9m Eco drill direct drilling winter wheat

Apart from the obvious savings in fuel costs related to “one pass” establishment, research by organisations like the GWCT has proven that low disturbance farming goes a long way to preserving the natural and healthy structure of our soils, by increasing the biomass content and reducing weather based erosion. Not disturbing the flora and fauna in the ground means the naturally occurring ‘glues’ that bind soil together retain nutrients and promote faster draining of surface water through worm holes and root systems.

Already a satisfied customer of Dale Drills, Allerton Project farm manager Phil Jarvis shares our enthusiasm for direct drilling, stating that “whilst the advantages of reduced fuel costs, better soil health through improved structure and resilience are important, the key aim is to increase yields. Direct drilling does require more thought as a farmer and careful management is required to get it right. It may take some time get there but this system is a much more enjoyable method of farming”

For more information and to learn more about Dale Drills please visit

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Royston Grey Partridge Recovery Project revisited

With our Rotherfield Restoration Project blog now up and running it seems like an opportune moment to quickly revisit our Royston Grey Partridge Recovery Project which ran from 2002-10.

The project in Hertfordshire was designed to illustrate that restoring the grey partridge population in a modern farming environment was possible. The target spring population density we set ourselves was 18.6 pairs per 100ha whilst maintaining farm profitability.

We conducted intensive counts on two 1,000ha areas, one would be the reference site and the other the demonstration site.

How the demonstration site was managed

•    Partridge predators were controlled, including egg predators
•    Habitat was created or improved to provide nesting, rearing and winter cover
•    Supplementary feeding was provided in both summer and winter

The graph below shows how the two sites compared throughout the duration of the project:

Whilst we didn’t achieve the target density of 18.6 pairs per 100ha we were able to demonstrate that with the right management measures in place, a density of 15 pairs per 100ha can be achieved on a modern farm. Farmland biodiversity also improved with pheasant and red-legged partridge numbers increasing.

After the Royston Project ended in 2010 we launched the Rotherfield Game Restoration Project in Hampshire. Unlike Royston this project aims to illustrate the benefit of game management for the full range of game and other wildlife on the site and runs until 2017.

Please help support the Rotherfield Project

Monday, 15 June 2015

Guest blog by Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler

Many members of the GWCT will be active shooters and many will probably remember their first ever gun. I’m willing to bet that for a large proportion of us, that gun was an air rifle? I bet, like me, you had little access to advice from experienced air-gunners, particularly when it came to hunting or vermin control? Well, for your own children or folk new to the air rifle, that’s where I can help.

While the majority of shooting folk go on to bigger and more powerful guns (be that shotguns or small bore rifles) there are many of us who find modern air rifles perfectly adequate for small vermin control. I have been carrying out pest control and pot-hunting with air rifles since I was a lad…and that was half a century ago! I started writing about hunting and fieldcraft around ten years ago and have been lucky enough to have written for a number of periodicals over that time.

I currently write for Airgun Shooter and The Countryman’s Weekly, but have (in the past) also written for Shooting Times, Airgunner and other periodicals. ‘Wildscribbler’ is my medium for promoting my writing and photo-journalism on rural and country-sports issues. My books (I have now published six shooting related titles) are designed to educate and inform, written in an anecdotal style which takes the reader out into the countryside with me.

The modern pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle as fantastic tool for predator and nuisance control around the farm, in the wood and along the field margins. Silent, relatively cheap to own and maintain, deadly accurate in the right hands and also very safe. Locating and getting close to wild animals, for either shooting or photography, is a black art. My books are packed with hundreds of tips, tricks and hacks learnt across a lifetime of hunting. They include quarry identification, habits and habitat, shooting techniques, how to gain shooting permission, prey and predators. Three titles also contain tips on kitchen preparation and recipes for the pot-hunter, for I firmly believe that we owe it to a culled creature to recycle it, not waste it.

Hundreds of readers of The Airgun Hunter’s Year and Airgun Fieldcraft have said that while reading these books, they were itching to pick up a rifle and get out into the countryside. For there really is a useful part to play in the conservation of songbirds and the protection of crops. If any of my books encourage a single young or novice shooter and instil my own values on gun safety and respect for quarry, then they were worth the writing.

If you’re a parent, pick up a copy of one of these titles now and inspire another generation of shooting conservationists.

Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler

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Thursday, 11 June 2015

Who is feeding the rats! Our letter in The Telegraph

Dear Sir

There has been an uncontrolled growth of the rat population in this country, and knowing what pests are eating vital food provided for birds and finding a solution was an essential part of our new study (Pheasant shooting feeds a rise in rats, report 9th June).

Our previous research has shown that pheasant shooting can be a force for good in the countryside and providing over-winter supplementary food during the lean times of winter for gamebirds is very beneficial for a whole suite of other farmland birds including declining species such as yellowhammer and corn bunting.

However, we need to investigate why the rat population is exploding in this country and treat the cause. Inadequate pest control to keep their presence at low levels all year round especially around farm buildings is not helping to control their growth, while increasing maize production could also be contributing to their rise.

Our study on hopper feeding wanted to investigate what pests are stealing food and to explore ways that will make this life-saving activity more effective. Now we have identified the level of the problem, particularly where pests are not being controlled, we are looking at ways to mitigate how we can overcome this dilemma, such as improving hopper design. 

Although our study did not address habitat loss such as hedges, it is misleading to say that farmers are ripping them out as the Hedgerow Regulation Act now provides legal protection of this important wildlife habitat.

Dr Carlos Sanchez-Garcia
Research Ecologist
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

CLA Game Fair Update

With the Game Fair at Harewood House in Yorkshire only a few weeks away (31st July - 2nd Aug) we thought we'd provide a quick update on the latest GWCT news for the show.

Our stand number has been confirmed as A44 and we'll be stationed by the main arena. As in the last two years we'd like to offer you £2 off a full English breakfast at our stand - simply download this voucher and bring it with you.

Perdix Wildlife Supplies on display

We're delighted that Perdix Wildlife Supplies will be on our stand's Advisory area, demonstrating the latest trapping and wildlife monitoring techniques and hardware.

Science in action

Demonstrating how research is getting to grips with the terrible parasite Gape Worm is sure to prove a fascinating but gruesome draw! Researchers Dr Rufus Sage and Owen Gethings will be graphically demonstrating how the parasite successfully survives in the soil and discussing how to reduce the intensity of this infection around feeding areas.

New GWCT microsite for Game Fair

We've launched a new microsite dedicated to our stand at the Game Fair so you can easily find all the important information about the what's on right here.

Volunteers get in FREE!

We're looking for a team to help us on our stand so if you can spare the time, please click here to find out more. Don't forget - volunteers get in to the show FREE!

Monday, 8 June 2015

How to create the ultimate Beetle Bank

Predatory insects and spiders can play an important role in reducing the number of damaging crop pests. With a little help, farmers can boost their numbers, reducing the need to use pesticides in the countryside.

We know that over-wintering habitat is often lacking in the modern agricultural landscape, especially in the middle of large fields.

Understandably, it’s a long way to travel when you have short legs, so we can create refuges for them in the form of beetle banks.

These are long, thin strips of perennial grasses which fit in well with agricultural management and really take very little maintenance. Once the spring warmth arrives, predatory insects will be well positioned to travel out into the crop, doing us a big favour as they go about their daily business predating species such as aphids.

1. During normal autumn cultivation activities, create a ridge or earth bank approximately 0.4 metres high and 1.5–2 metres wide by two-directional ploughing. The beetle bank will run to within a sprayer’s width of the field’s boundary hedge. Leaving this gap helps to reduce interrupting agricultural work and also reduces access to the bank by ground predators which may predate ground-nesting birds and small mammals such as harvest mice.

2. Once the ground has been prepared, the ridge should be sown with a mixture of perennial tussock and matt-forming grasses such as cock’s foot, timothy and red fescue at a rate of 30kg/ha. These should be planted either when the ridges are formed or the following spring, which avoids a harsh winter affecting germination.

3. Opportunistic weeds can be dealt with using a broad spectrum herbicide. Once the grasses have been established, they will do a great job of out-competing other weeds.

4. Beetle banks can also be floristically enhanced with flowers, which not only creates a nice nectar source but will also encourage other predatory species such as hover flies and parasitic wasps.

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Understanding a prickly subject - hedgehog research in the countryside

The hedgehog is one of those animals that seems to belong in the British countryside by ancient right. They are embedded symbolically and sentimentally in our culture, and it is easy to see why they remain popular.

In evolutionary terms, the world’s spiny hedgehogs have changed little in the last 15 million years. If you think of that as a day, modern man appeared about 10 minutes ago, agriculture less than a minute ago, and the last 100 years occupied the last half-second. Given that the hedgehog ‘formula’ developed in a world radically different from that of today, it is astonishing that they persist at all.

Nevertheless, within living memory hedgehogs have been – and in some parts of Britain remain – a very successful species. For instance, a study in north Norfolk in 2008 found a density there of more than 40 per 100 hectares.

Hedgehogs are a component of the farmed landscape that the GWCT has scarcely considered before, but ecologically they are at the heart of ‘hot’ countryside issues. The invertebrate creatures that form the bulk of their diet are affected by the intensity of modern agriculture, making an obvious parallel with farmland birds.

Agri-environment schemes to mitigate this impact potentially benefit hedgehogs just as they do farmland birds; and indeed hedgehogs have been shown to favour grassy field margins in an otherwise intensive arable landscape. But dead hedgehogs cannot benefit, and there is known to be a strong negative relationship between badger density and hedgehog density; foxes, too, can learn to kill hedgehogs.

Then again, hedgehogs are predators themselves. Predation by hedgehogs on the eggs of ground-nesting wading birds is the reason they are being removed systematically from the Outer Hebrides (where they are not native) and transferred to the mainland.

When hedgehogs were more common on the mainland, they were killed on shooting estates as predators of wild gamebird eggs, and thus were routinely recorded in National Gamebag Census data.

Both the number of estates recording hedgehog catches and the numbers reported have fallen dramatically since the early 1960s. The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 ruled that hedgehogs may not be deliberately trapped, though unless measures are taken to exclude them they can still occur as a by-catch in tunnel traps.

Regrettably, we cannot distinguish to what extent the trend in NGC records indicates a declining hedgehog population, lower trapping effort, more focused trapping, unwillingness to record hedgehog captures, or all of these effects.

There is nevertheless a widespread perception that there has been a decline in UK hedgehog numbers in recent decades. As with many other mammal species, there is no routine surveillance system, and no established method to determine distribution or population trends. There have been questionnaire surveys, and systematic recording of road kills.

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species has mapped hedgehog distribution through questionnaire surveys to householders. This has told us a lot about the national distribution of hedgehogs in gardens, but inevitably it also reflects the distribution of people in Britain.

Trends in the number of hedgehogs killed on roads are complicated by traffic density and speed and by shifts in recorder enthusiasm. In either approach, the 70% of Britain’s land area that is agricultural is essentially unsurveyed.

Fig 1: GPS tracking of a single night’s movements
by an adult male hedgehog during one April night
The Nottingham Trent University, in partnership with the Mammal Society, has researched the use of simple ink-and-paper tunnels to detect the presence of hedgehogs by recording their footprints. This provides a cheap tool to help determine hedgehog distribution, and potentially an index of abundance too.

So hedgehogs present themselves as a component of the farmed environment in which the GWCT should take an interest. As opportunity and resources allow, we have made the decision to do that. We believe that we have something to offer, both in further developing the detection methodology (much as we did in the context of mink control), and in establishing what is happening to hedgehogs in the farmland landscape.

Is there a decline? And if so, is the cause a shortage of invertebrate food, or predation, or something else? Why do hedgehogs appear to favour gardens, even in the middle of farmland (see Figure 1)? How can we best manage farmland so as to achieve the most satisfactory balance between all our native species?

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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Exclusive Scottish Game Fair benefits for GWCT members

The 2015 Scottish Game Fair takes place from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th July and GWCT members will be able to enjoy a host of exclusive benefits.

Our members can access a designated forward car park and those registered in Scotland will receive a Fair information pack enclosing their car park pass and informing them of our members’ welcome marquee. Those members south of the border can email to request a pack.

If you're not a GWCT member you can join online and request a pack.

Once we've greeted you in our members' marquee we'll provide you with your official swingtag to allow you and your guests entry to the Members’ Enclosure. At the Main Entrance those who have purchased tickets online will have them scanned in the fast access lane. There will also be a special members’ lane for those purchasing tickets on the day.

Members also benefit from the excellent restaurant facilities and comfortable surroundings of the Member’s Enclosure where Saltire Catering will be providing us with delicious food and bar facilities throughout the day. Just display your member’s badge at the entrance and we will be delighted to welcome you and your guests.

Order your tickets and get 10% off

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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

5 tips for successful gamebird & songbird feeding

1. Feed during and after the shooting season

2. Set excluders around your feeder to reduce visits by deer and badgers

3. If you cannot control rats, place your feeders in open fields, far from hedgerow cover.

4. Change the location of your feeders regularly: birds will find them quickly and you will prevent rodents becoming established beneath the feeder.

5. Use camera traps and get an estimation of the grain consumed to see who is eating what.

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Guest blog by W Horton & Sons Ltd

W Horton & Sons Ltd started out life in Birmingham’s Gun Quarter in 1855. William moved his business to Glasgow and the business blossomed, carried on later by his son Oliver. Oliver had two daughters, in the 1920’s it wasn’t seen as good form for Ladies to run any business, let alone a gunmaking company. The stock was sold to Arthur Allen and the records passed to Olivers cousin James William Horton who at the time was foreman at BSA (Birmingham Small Arms).

Steve Horton, great grandson of James William Horton, has re-started the business back in Birmingham’s Gun Quarter literally feet from where it started back in 1855. The aim is to be the Midlands Premier retail destination for the shooting community in and around the Birmingham. We offer a friendly consultative sales experience, with a cup of tea always offered.

We have a well presented Gunroom containing a selection of new and used guns manufactured by Berreta, Browning, Fabarm, Caesar Guerini, Lincoln, Rizzini and Zoli. We have the largest selection of classic side by side game guns in the midlands (Old English and Spanish). An up to date stock list with pictures can be viewed on our website

W Horton & Sons Ltd offer a wide range of clothing for shooting and general country wear from Deerhunter, Laksen, Seeland, Harkila, Le Chameau, Aigle and Musto. In readiness for the 2015 season, we’ll also be offering Dubarry boots and clothing. This again can be viewed on our website.

We have some unique selling points within the industry:
  • Finance up to 4 years (0% APR is available on selected items) along with a guaranteed future value on any purchase based on a part exchange with us within 5 years (allowing for fair wear and tear).
  • Your new gun can be delivered to your home address (mainland UK) for £45 allowing us to sell nationwide with little effort from our clients.
  • Due to our location, we have several highly skilled gunsmiths on our doorstep and can offer a wide range of servicing and repairs.

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