Meet The Purdey Awards Winner

Meet The Purdey Awards Winner

“I don’t think there’s anything out there that gets people talking about and engaged with the work that’s being done in shooting and conservation like the Purdey Awards,” says Stewart McIntyre, when we meet to discuss his success at Hainey Farm Shoot, this year’s Gold Award winner. 

“Don’t get me wrong, there has always been an element of conservation within game shooting, but I’ve absolutely seen it increase in importance over the last decade. For a lot of land owners, farmers and shooting syndicates there has been a big mindset shift, not only because of subsidies and the direction of agri-environmental schemes, but because people actually care about it. It’s at the forefront of every shoot; and we also supply grown and fresh produce to major retailers, who have shown an increased interest in our environmental work in the last five or so years, which is fantastic.” 

Set across six farms in Cambridge, each with a distinct approach to game management, McIntyre has been shaping Hainey Farm for the last 15 years. His focus on habitat improvement for wider biodiversity is evident. Intensive arable and horticulture farming exist harmoniously, and much of the land is solely dedicated to conservation, ranging from wetlands and reedbeds to wildflower meadows. What motivates him to go above and beyond; or rather, what makes for a Gold Award winner? 

“Personally, it’s the love of the job. It can be very isolated, and there are so many challenges that are outside your control when working with nature. But, if you step back and look at the bigger picture, if you prove that you can grow intensively, produce food for the country, but not have a negative impact on the environment, it makes getting up for work every day so much easier. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but at the end of the day you’re leaving somewhere better than when you got there. 

“Some of my biggest pleasures at work have been creating landscape changes: reed beds, wetlands, SSSIs [sites of specific scientific interest], extending the river bed, all of those things that you know are going to be there a lot longer than you. It’s hugely satisfying knowing you’ve helped design, develop and transform the land from a field into something that is now producing all manner of life, creating an ecological focus for the area, delivering for different species year-on-year rather than being a monoculture, adding to the overall diversity.” 

McIntyre spends a significant amount of time with the local community, whether it’s giving a working gun dog demonstration to the 9,000 visitors that attend their Open Farm Sunday events – ”so people can engage with it from an emotive standpoint” – or making bird feeders and leading walks through the estate’s woodland. “It’s grown from Open Farm Sunday being about farm machinery and produce, to now focusing on the work we do with the environment, conservation and biodiversity, incorporating shooting, which is pretty special and unique.” He also hosts cookery classes at local schools during shooting season. “They all get their own game bird to prepare and they absolutely love it, seeing where their food comes from, learning about the health benefits and the fact that it is locally sourced. Changing mindsets in the space of an hour-and-a-half is one of my favourite things, it’s quite remarkable.” 

We speak about the changing attitudes towards the role of shooting within conservation. “There are still a lot of barriers to overcome,” McIntyre notes. “But, when you can demonstrate the direct link between, for example, red-list species numbers increasing and habitat and pest and predator control, it’s hard for people to deny the benefits. There’s still a massive challenge for the shooting community to highlight the work that goes into broader conservation, which is where the Purdey Awards is great because of its significance and recognition. It highlights people that are doing that fantastic work that would otherwise go under the radar.”

McIntyre has had the Purdey Awards in his sights since his early days as a game keeper. “It’s been a lifelong career ambition that I’ve worked so hard to achieve,” he says. “I was almost hesitant to enter because I thought, it’s all I’ve ever dreamed of, what happens if we are fortunate enough to win, then what? Actually it’s just given us even more drive and a passion to go beyond what we’ve done so far. We’ve got so many plans: creating more habitat, building more biodiversity, using blended-sector finance rather than relying on agri-environmental schemes. There’s still massive scope, and it takes a lot of work to maintain this standard, just to keep going, achieving year on year is quite a challenge.” 

“The Purdey Award really makes you sit down and take stock,” McIntyre reflects. “I remember vividly when Charles and I wrote our initial application, we spent hours putting the presentation together for the judges. It made us realise that we’ve actually achieved quite a lot. Within the shooting community, no one is particularly keen on having lots of people come to look at your farm or estate, everyone is quite reserved. So, it takes something like the Purdey Awards to give people the confidence to talk about our successes, because it’s so significant. I’m so glad we entered, it’s been amazing to be recognised for all of the hard work we’ve done.”

The Purdey Awards for Game & Conservation 2024 is still open for entries, with applications closing Friday 31st May. Take inspiration from Stewart McIntyre’s success and download your entry form at the bottom of the page, here.