Linking farming and conservation at Threepwood

Threepwood is a Borders livestock farm of 424 ha.  It has been run as a grassland farm producing and fattening in the main cross bred lambs. In the early 2000’s a decision was taken to plough out a grass field of 7ha , put it through an arable rotation and  ultimately return it to grass.  Within a week of the field being ploughed in the spring, lapwings, which had not been seen previously on the farm, started flighting onto it. Since then the field has never been put back into grass, but has remained as an  arable or root crop, with the lapwings returning each spring and nesting in the field. Cultivations are carried out in the spring to provide a bare nest site for the lapwings . There is also a beetle bank running through the middle of the field which provides cover for the chicks.

Since the first arrival of the lapwings a considerable amount of work has been devoted to making the farm more attractive to them and other “waders” during their short stay here. Scrapes have been dug close to the arable field to provide water and food for the chicks, and a nearby area  has been developed into a wetland area comprising rush pasture, scrapes,  and a series of inter connecting, shallow ponds, which have proved attractive to a variety of birds including lapwing, oyster catcher, greylag geese, tufted duck, snipe and teal. A herd of 12 single suckler cows have been introduced which graze the wetlands in the autumn and early winter, resulting in the rougher ground being grazed down which makes it not only more palatable for sheep but also more attractive to a variety of birds, as well as allowing for wild flowers to flourish. 

Close to the wetland area is Threepwood Moss, a raised bog of around 40ha which is classified as a SSSI and SAC. This area is being managed in conjunction with SNH  to improve  its water retaining ability. The heather cover is also being managed through cutting to make it more attractive to birds and wildlife in general. The aim is to connect this area to the wetland area by forming a corridor of hedges, partially grazed land and bird friendly crops.

In order to provide a safe haven and wildlife corridors on the farm, numerous other conservation measures have been put in place over the years. These have included fencing off waterside margins, establishing woodland corridors, cultivating areas for wild bird seed, protecting species rich areas, excavating numerous scrapes around the farm and carrying out feeding of songbirds in the woods. 

Although Threepwood remains principally a commercial livestock farm, conservation is playing a very significant role which has been successfully integrated into the overall management of the farm. While there will always be more work which could be done to further enhance the conservation aspects, the amount of environmental improvements which have been put in place have ensured that wildlife, from insects to birds and plants, have all received a significant boost.   From the outset advice has been provided by Dr. Derek Robeson of Tweed Forum, who has been involved in the whole concept of conservation at Threepwood, and ensuring that it all integrates with the farming activities.