Head keeper Geoff Garrod said he was “very honoured and very humbled” to be named Gamekeeper of the Year at an awards ceremony at the Great British Shooting Show.
Mr Garrod came top out of five finalists in the BASC-sponsored category of the Great British Shooting Awards, held at the show on Saturday night.
He thanked his wife for “being behind me” and the Audley End Estate, where he has worked since 1984, for “allowing me to be the ‘keeper that I am”.
Mr Garrod said: “Thank you to every single person that voted for me so I could win this award.
“I’ve never had anything like this. I’ve just always gone on and got on with my job and because it was a public vote, this gives it a little bit more feeling because the public have taken the time to vote for me so that makes it a bit more special.”
Mr Garrod, who is also vice chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), went on to praise the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust (GWT) for the “good work that it does looking after ‘keepers in times of trouble”.
The charity works tirelessly to support gamekeepers, ghillies and stalkers, and their families, in times of hardship and strife as well as helping young people access college courses and future employment.
He encouraged people to do one thing during 2020 to raise funds for the charity as part of Year of the Gamekeeper 2020 – an initiative launched at last year’s Game Fair to support, raise the profile and ensure the future of the GWT.
He said: “I think in this day and age the role of gamekeeper is underestimated to a degree. “Gamekeepers are a very important part of the countryside.
“When ‘keepers fall on hard times, as people do in any profession, the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust is there.
“It’s the gamekeepers who are out there at the forefront of the shooting community, protecting flora and fauna and carrying out conservation work. The world we see in the countryside that we look on, is very much curated by gamekeepers and of course landowners.
“If anyone feels that they want to help, do something for the GWT as part of 2020 Year of the Gamekeeper or go along and help support an event run by the GWT.
“All of a sudden as with most jobs you’re not working, you lose your house, you lose your job, this is where the trust really do come into their own – just to get them back on their feet a little bit.”
Glynn Evans, BASC’s head of game and gundogs, presented Geoff with his award.
He said: “As a former ‘keeper, I am really pleased to see the good work that Geoff has carried out recognised at these awards.
“Congratulations to Geoff and to everyone else who was nominated and shortlisted.”