A NORTH Yorkshire landowner has won one of the Royal Agricultural Society of England’s (RASE’s) leading awards.

Charlie Forbes Adam, who runs the family-owned historic 8,000-acre Escrick Park, near York, has been presented with the Bledisloe Gold Medal.

The award is presented annually to one landowner who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in successful land management and development of an agricultural estate in England.

Fittingly, the presentation, a focal part of RASE’s annual President’s Day, took place at Skipwith Hall, the family home of Mr Forbes Adam.

Senior members of RASE from all over the country attended what is one of the most important dates in the society’s calendar.

Mr Forbes Adam received the medal in recognition of a range of successful diversification projects and his commitment to improving the rural environment at Escrick Park.

Its diversification includes offices, commercial lets, holiday lodges, wedding facilities, an equestrian cross-country course and a national nature reserve.

Mr Forbes Adam, speaking at the awards ceremony in the Little Theatre at Skipwith Hall, paid tribute to his “fantastic team at Escrick Park, of whom I am incredibly proud”.

He said: “They are amazingly dedicated and have contributed massively to winning this award. “The estate has been in the Forbes Adam family since 1668 and has been constantly evolving. We are simply its guardians, whose duty is to pass it on in fine shape to future generations.

“This award, which is a huge honour and very humbling, reassures us that we are doing something right. In these challenging economic times, we cannot rely simply on income from farming – we have to diversify.”

The new RASE president, Sir John Beddington, the former chief scientific officer to the Government, presented the awards.

He praised Mr Forbes Adam and his team for the breadth of the estate’s diversification and their ability to maximise the potential of rural assets, while enhancing the natural environment.

He said: “No estate in the country deserved this honour more.”

Since 1990, more than 11 miles of hedges have been planted, 12 ponds created or restored, and 222 acres of wildlife habitat created on arable land.

Work is under way to create the 22-acre Three Hagges Jubilee Wood – the largest area of new woods in the district.

A programme of scrub clearance using rare breed Hebridean sheep, Longhorn cattle and Exmoor ponies to graze has helped restore open heathland on the estate and ensure the future survival of wildlife.

The estate has also boosted the local economy through a sensitive £1.4m renovation of redundant farm buildings to create 24 eco-friendly offices and 14 light industry units.

Hollicars – the estate’s 180- pitch, five-star holiday park, which opened in 2005 – has previously won the David Bellamy Gold Award for conservation.

Three other leading RASE awards were also presented on President’s Day.

The Excellence in Practical Farming and Business Award was won by the Dunning family for their pioneering Tebay service stations on the M6 in Cumbria; the Research Award went to Warwick University veterinary scientist Laura Green; and the National Agriculture Award was won by Norfolk farmer Jim Papworth for his outstanding contribution to agriculture.

After the awards and barbeque lunch in Skipwith Hall’s gardens, RASE members were given a tour of Escrick Park to see for themselves what had been achieved on the estate.