Rewilding the Test

Thursday, December 10, 2020

From restoring a stretch of chalk stream, to designing an oak wood for woodcock, Richard Wills is leading a wide range of pioneering projects on his family’s estates in Hampshire.

Richard Wills has a record of breaking new ground with conservation on the Middleton, Portway and Wades estates. His team won a Laurent Perrier Award in 1990 for rewetting the water meadows for waders, and in 2016 they received a Purdey Award for grey partridge restoration. He is currently rewilding three miles of the Test as well as researching how to improve woodland for woodcock.

Alan Walters, headkeeper on the 1,800-acre wild gamebird project, increased the rare grey partridge from one to 60 pairs in eight years and a count of 500 birds is anticipated this autumn. After ten years, grey partridge numbers are stable and the wild pheasant and redleg populations have gone from strength to strength with bags for the season rising from 50 to 1,000 in the first five years and still increasing. Since the project started, a wide range of threatened farmland species including skylark, yellowhammer, lapwing and stone curlew have benefited from the game management measures.

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