The countryside came to town to celebrate the Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation, but it turned out that the winner was already there. Berwick Marshes in Rainham, just eight miles from Tower Bridge in the heart of London, shared the top prize with Caldecote Farm Shoot in Bedfordshire.
The shooting world gets little credit for the millions of pounds spent on conservation, woodland management and game crops that provide vital habitats to so many different species, but there can be few more remarkable stories than that of Berwick Marshes.
Gary Wilson and Steven Wallis acquired the 80-acre expanse of exhausted gravel pits from Tarmac in 2008. Since then, these remarkable men have transformed the pits into 30 acres of fen and open ponds for wildfowling and a further 50 acres into a rich biodiversity of plant and wildlife, providing habitat for skylarks, orchids and London’s third adder population.
The land is grazed by Dexter cattle to provide a natural means of controlling the scrub, and is open to the public. Thanks to shooting, a wounded piece of land has been transformed from nothing into a wonderful habitat. It has recently become an SSSI, too.
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