A MOORLAND improvement scheme which has boosted bird and red squirrel numbers in Weardale has won a coveted award.

Work at the Weardale Estate, near Wolsingham, County Durham, has being on-going for 30-years and so far 900 acres of mature conifer plantations have been cleared.

The team behind the project is led by landowner Michael Stone.

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He bought 4,300 acres of land, which contains the clearance area which has been returned to heather mooland, from the Forestry Commission in 1984.

This has led to a dramatic increase in the numbers of grouse, golden plover, merlin, curfew, lapwing grey partridge, woodcock and red squirrels on the land.

The work has attracted praise and it has won the gold Purdey Shield award in the Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation.

Richard Purdey, who organises the award, said: “The Weardale Estate is an extraordinary winner of our awards.

“We set out to give recognition and reward to those projects that achieve exceptional results, and Michael Stone has certainly done that.”

Mr Stone will be presented with the Purdey Shield and £4,000 in London tonight. (Thursday, November 22).