TWO farmers who helped dwindling wild partridge numbers through a devastating year for the birds, have had their efforts rewarded.

Peter Dowson and his son Phil, who both farm at Eppleby near Richmond, North Yorkshire did everything they could to ensure that wild, grey partridges could survive the year.

According to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), the birds have suffered their worst breeding season since the trust was founded in 1933. The massive decline in their numbers has been attributed to the unusually wet summer.

The two farmers decided to modify their farming on their 130 hectare farm to ensure the bird population had the best possible chance of recovering. Taking the trust’s advice, they provided an autumn and winter habitat for the birds with their winter oil seed rape, potatoes and over-winter stubble.

Once harvest is over, the birds are usually vulnerable to predators without cover.

They also provided additional food for the partridges and controlled key predators during the nesting and brood rearing season.

For their efforts, the trust awarded them the 2012 Durham and Northern Dales Grey Partridge group trophy.

Henrietta Appleton, an advisor from the GWCT and one of the judges, said: “Whilst large scale conservation schemes tend to grab the headlines, the work of farmers like Peter and Phil are important in conserving the declining populations over wide areas of rural England.

“As the Dowsons prove, every little bit helps, especially in difficult years such as this year.”