Within Caerlaverock estate, on the shores of the Nith estuary, are two wildlife reserves; one, the National Nature Reserve (NNR), is run by Scottish Natural Heritage, and the other by The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, both operating on significant land within the ownership of the estate. Often, incorrectly, there is a perception that conservation means a removal of human interaction with wildlife and the natural environment. However, Caerlaverock is a wonderful example of how control over man’s interactions with his environment can lead to environmental improvements.
Wildfowling on the foreshore of the Nith estuary has been widespread for decades, if not longer. However in 1957, after a worrying drop in Barnacle Geese numbers, the NNR was set-up by the late Duke of Norfolk, but with limited controlled wildfowling to continue. This sport is still controlled by a panel including estate representation, and wildfowlers can apply for one of a limited number of licenses to shoot on the foreshore. The licenses are free, but their limited number allows a control.
Elsewhere on the estate limited sporting activity takes place, with the emphasis being on wide-spread species conservation. These take in a vast array of different wildlife habitats, all of which are ‘managed’ to allow the wildlife to abound. One could spend a day exploring Caerlaveraock and its wide array of species. Starting at the break of day on the foreshore you can see Pink foot, Greylag and Canadian Geese, amongst others, and then traversing across the estate seeking woodland birds you can find Pheasant, Pigeon, Woodcock. On to the marsh and wetlands you may be able to see Snipe, the occasional Rook, Crow or Jay, and then finishing at one of the duck ponds on the estate where no less than five different species (Mallard, Teal, Widgeon, Pintail and Shoveler) might be seen. The estates diverse species shows how this conservation view on the sporting use of the estate produces dividends for the wildlife.
The Natural bounty on Caerlaverock extends off dry-land also. Introduced by our Viking fore-fathers, a method of fishing known as ”Haaf Netting” is still practiced by a few hardy fishermen on the Nith, with strong wrists, lightning reactions and sure knowledge of the tidal currents and channels. Fishing for Salmon and Sea Trout, the ‘Haaf Netters’ still practice their art with the permission of the estate.
Caerlaverock, as an ancient Barony, manages the foreshore along the estuary, and therefore manages the sustainable harvest of the mudflats, on which a bounty of cockle may be found at the right tides and seasons.
Surely few places in Scotland can put claim to such a natural bounty.