The Bolton Castle estate team were recently awarded the prestigious NGO Educational Trust’s Bellamy Award for their hard work and mission to conserve the seriously threatened curlew.

The seriously threatened curlew, which has suffered a massive 48 per cent population decline, has found a safe haven on the Bolton Castle Estate in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire where conservation efforts by the estate’s team, including the gamekeepers have seen curlew numbers soar by up to 1,000 overwintering birds. 

In recognition of their achievements to curlew conservation, the Bolton Castle estate team were recently awarded the prestigious NGO Educational Trust’s Bellamy Award for their hard work and mission to conserve this iconic but rapidly declining species.

The team, comprising Tom Orde-Powlett the son of Lord and Lady Bolton, head keeper Ian Sleightholm and his underkeeper Daniel Place, were delighted to receive the Bellamy Award from the NGO Educational Trust in recognition of their efforts to ensure that curlew thrive on their estate.

Ian Sleightholm, head gamekeeper at Bolton Castle, said, “Helping curlew is our number one conservation task on the estate. It’s been hugely satisfying to see our hard work pay off when we see more breeding pairs and this award means a lot to the team.”

Ian continued, “We have studied curlew closely on our managed moorland areas and estimate that we have 170-220 pairs of breeding curlews and between 200 and 700 birds in the overwintering flocks. Significantly, occasional sightings of over 1000 have been recorded.

“We work with a range of partners and have colour ringed 41 adults and approximately 15 chicks and have had over 100 re-sightings of these birds, the furthest afield being Roscarbery in County Cork. We have also been working on a trial with the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) which included nest monitoring and developing a new method of surveying called ’Trapline Surveys’.  This is showing really positive results and helps to identify areas where our curlew conservation practices are working.”

The Bolton Estate was particularly singled out for the BTO study because it was already carrying out extensive conservation work for curlews and it was recognised that on the grouse moors of Wensleydale, where predator control provides protection for young grouse chicks, waders are found to breed at higher densities than in moorland without predator control.

The Bellamy Award, named after the renowned conservationist Professor David Bellamy is presented to the gamekeeper or estate teams who have done the most to promote the conservation role of gamekeepers.

Brian Hayes, of the NGO Educational Trust, who organise and fund the Award, said: “We are thrilled to acknowledge the work they have put in to conserve and support the population of curlew at Bolton Castle through habitat and population management.

“The estate team also organised a Curlew Festival in 2017 and 2018 which not only raised awareness of the plight of the curlew, but also brought together many varied and interested groups to discuss how to keep increasing their numbers. Their achievements are quite remarkable and it is a huge pleasure to present this award to the Bolton Castle team.”

The prestigious trophy is made from a piece of bog oak, which is many thousands of years old.  It was presented to the NGO Educational Trust by the renowned conservationist and NGO Patron, Professor David Bellamy to symbolise the enduring nature of mankind’s relationship with the living landscape.

Liam Bell, Chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation said, “I am delighted that the Bolton Estate has won this award.  Winning this award highlights the exceptional work of moorland gamekeepers and shooting estates, who rarely get acknowledged for the considerable conservation work that they undertake on these spectacular moorland landscapes.  Without their expertise and passion our upland areas would be much poorer places in terms of biodiversity and wildlife.”  

The NGO Educational Trust’s Bellamy Award was launched in 2010 and recognises those who display exceptional creativity and initiative in promoting sustainable land management.  Last year’s winner was Mary Colwell, one of our leading curlew conservationists.



1) The seriously threatened Curlew is being thrown a lifeline by a Yorkshire grouse moor.(photo Credit: Peter Thompson

2): Tom Orde-Powlett the son of Lord and Lady Bolton and head keeper Ian Sleightholm receiving their Bellamy Award from the NGO Educational Trust for their efforts to conserve curlew on the Bolton Castle Estate.

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation: The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) represents the gamekeepers of England and Wales. The NGO defends and promotes gamekeeping and gamekeepers and works to ensure high standards throughout the profession. The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation was founded in 1997 by a group of gamekeepers who felt that keepering was threatened by public misunderstanding and poor representation. Today, there are 13,000 members of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.

The NGO Educational Trust: The NGO Educational Trust is an independent registered charity established under the parentage of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.  Its main aim is to educate children and older people into the ways of the countryside and the important part it plays in our lives.  It provides a wide-array of educational teaching material aimed at school pupils including KS3 to help them have a better understanding of the countryside and the role of gamekeepers.  This is freely available to teachers through the Times Educational Supplement.  So far 14,000 teachers have downloaded or visited the resources and children who rarely have access to the countryside are immediately captivated by our easily digestible material.  This is proving to be an invaluable teaching aid covering many elements of the syllabus.



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