During the course of 2013 you will see a lot of activity on Croick Estate to further improve our management of the estate for wildlife and biodiversity. This follows on from an award to the estate of grants under the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP), broadly equivalent to the Higher Level Stewardship scheme in England.
Some of the key activities you will see include:
– The establishment of a number of small new native woodlands along the estate. We are particularly focused on riparian planting on some of the key burns which feed the Blackwater. The estate has already benefited from some very large native woodland schemes and the new plantings will not be on the same scale but they will over time further develop the character of the estate. The first step in establishing these woodlands will be to put up protective fencing to guard the trees as they grow. This will be starting early in the New Year.
– The establishment of wild flower meadows on some of what is currently sheep pasture in the area of Glaschoil cottage. We are currently finalising a plan for exactly how to achieve this but it require excluding stock and deer from the area, at least over the summer, and knocking back the existing pasture so that wild flowers and less invasive grasses have the chance to establish themselves. The first step will be an stock and deer exclusion fence which again will be going up early in the New Year.
– The need for additional fences is certainly a short term drawback of our plans as it would be much nicer to have no fences on most of the estate. But there are some old stock and deer fencing which is no longer required and we shall be taking down some 8 kilometres of fencing during the course of the year. In fact we are removing twice as much fencing as we are adding.
– A concerted attack on up to 50 hectares of bracken which is establishing an increasing hold on parts of the estate. However the only effective way of tackling bracken on this scale is helicopter spraying with Asulam, a salt-based spray which is very effective against bracken and seems to leave other vegetation untouched. However, the EU became concerned about the inappropriate use of Asulam in other countries and there is currently an EU ban in place (see here for all the details) but there seems to be a good chance this ban will be lifted in time for the 2013 bracken spraying season.
– The introduction of peat dams to stop water run off and erosion from old hill drains. These drains were established with government grants in the 1970s and beyond but are now causing in some areas significant peat erosion. The new peat dams placed in key drains at regular intervals will be an important step in reducing erosion. And as peat is probably the most important tool for storing carbon in the UK (far more effective than woodland) this will be very helpful in improving carbon sequestration.
These are the main programmes with which we shall be involved. You will also see us continuing to keep sheep in particular off areas of heather and potential heather and for us to be active in heather burning and swiping whenever circumstances allow. Heather restoration in areas which have historically been over-grazed is a key objective of our overall land management programme.