Withycombe shoot

To ensure the habitat and cover crops reach the potential enabled by the contours and terrain of the Withycombe shoot, Kings advisor Richard Barnes has worked closely over the last four years with head keeper, Chris Jones and agricultural contractor, Kevin Westcott. Mr Westcott works with a number of shooting estates across Somerset and has developed his business on establishing crops that are often grown in challenging and isolated locations.

WYTHYCOMBE IMAGE STRIP

This teamwork has been key to the success of the 55 acres of game crops which are grown in the same location year after year. Cover crop sites are fixed due to the exceptionally steep terrain, so a comprehensive management plan has been developed to get the best out of the plots each year. Soil testing is undertaken every spring as the combination of high rainfall and thin soils can lead to leaching of key nutrients. Lime is regularly applied to ensure the pH remains at the 6-6.5 target level.

To ensure consistent results, reed canary grass or Stand and Deliver (perennial chicory) has been established over a third of each plot to create longer term cover areas. These crops are excellent at providing shelter on the more exposed sites and creating valuable flushing cover. The remaining areas are then planted with a special kale blend, which consists of Coleor, 1000 head and Goldeneye varieties, along with triticale/linseed and maize.

All crops are selected to match a corresponding agronomy plan as, given the previous cropping history, weed control is critical. Each crop is partnered where possible to allow ease of management for Mr Westcott, so that a block of triticale and linseed mix, for example, can be sprayed at the same time as the maize crop.

Maize had previously been avoided on the shoot due to the height and exposed nature of the plots, but in 2014, Poacher maize with Synergy treatment was successfully introduced. The maize areas were all heavily mucked to introduce additional fertility and improve the soil structure.

The nutrients in the Synergy treatment helped the crop established quickly and it has since thrived. It has stood very well throughout the winter and has helped to improve the performance of some key drives.

The combination of dedication from the shoot team, excellent local contractor support and advice from Kings has helped to make the 2014/15 season one of the best on record for the Withycombe shoot. The partnership approach clearly demonstrates what can be achieved when everyone works together for a common aim.

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