A RARE game bird’s numbers are increasing in Cambridgeshire thanks to a solar farm and two men who run it. Partridge might be a familiar sight in the region, whether it be foraging in fields, sunbathing in hedgerows or frantically trying to cross busy roads.

But when it comes to the English Partridge, also known as the Grey Partridge, numbers are extremely low. In fact, their nunbers have fallen by as much as 85 per cent in the last 25 years.

At Mingay Farm – the 35-acre solar farm in Twentypence Road, Wilburton – its owner,Tim Hughes and maintenance contractor and part-time gamekeeper, Ben Furness, are doing everything they can to boost numbers of the rotund bird. And it’s paying off.

Ben said: ”Around three years ago we had between three and five breeding pairs on the farm.

“It doesn’t sound like many but that’s not bad when you consider there are so few of them in the country.

“Years ago there would have been thousands of them just like ·there are the French Partridge but it’s a different story now.

“We’ve been trying to increase our numbers for around eight years and we’ve now got around 20 breeding pairs on the farm, which is a massive increase.”

Ben believes the farm’s solar panels themselves are helping to increase the bird’s numbers.

He said: “We’ve had about three or four broods on the farm this year and they’ve all thrived. “The solar farm not only has the ideal habitat with plenty of shelter and insects for the birds to eat but it’s also fenced off which means there aren’t many people walking around – or dogs.

“Not only that but the solar panels themselves are helping as they provide protection from the elements and the birds are able to get underneath them and away from birds of prey.

“We’re not really doing anything out of the ordinary to help the English

Partridge – we’re just protecting them as best as we can and letting them get on with it.” The solar farm has been up and running for around two years now and cost approximately £13 million to build.

The scheme will currently save more than 55,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over a 25-year period, although there are plans to more than double the solar farm in size, which are currently in the hands of planners at East Cambridgeshire District Council.

See Ben Furness’ recent testimonial here: