Untidy farming at Treshnish
We are very keen on untidy farming at Treshnish – it is all about supporting the wildlife!
Agri Environment Climate Scheme (AECS)
We have been in several different environmental schemes since we moved to Mull in 1995. The first scheme was the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme, which automatically included any farm within Argyll and the Isles who wanted to join.
Our first agreement got us to realise the potential of farming with nature instead of against it. The fields changed in front of our eyes as the wild flowers returned – in abundance!
And a year after we started, we had a Corncrake calling in the fields below the farmhouse.
Now we are in the AECS Scheme, and are hoping to be accepted into a new agreement for the next 5 years.
Variety of habitats
The farm is split into two distinct zones – the hill and the in-by. There is a deer fence which splits the two – running from the bridge over the Ensay Burn where you come onto the farm, and the gate looking over towards the Treshnish Isles beyond Haunn.
The in-by is about 240 acres – a mosaic of habitats – herb and species rich grassland, wetland, coastal heath, and woodland.
The hill includes the grassy coastal raised beaches, areas of hill grazing and lots of boggy ground. It supports the hill sheep and a huge number of wild Red deer.
Getting the grazing right for wildlife is a complicated issue. We have a regime in place whereby we have grazing breaks without livestock in certain fields. This encourages wild flowers to grow and set seed before they are grazed or cut for silage.
We use grazing to create beneficial habitats for certain species.
The Marsh Fritillary butterfly is one of the targets. It is extremely rare and apparently we have the perfect habitat for them. They need Devil’s bit scabious to feed on in March. North facing sites. We have huge patches of Devil’s bit scabious! They like a mixed height in the sward – with longer grasses and shorter grasses (nice untidy farming!) We have lots of that! But we have never found them here.. though we keep on looking.
Nettles and Thistles
Part of the AECS agreement is about encouraging Corncrakes to breed here. Hence cutting silage crops later in the summer rather than earlier. This means that Corncrakes (and other ground nesting birds) can safely rear their chicks.
Part of the specific Corncrake agreement is the provision of ‘early cover’. Each field we manage for the Corncrake has an area of early cover (such as long ungrazed grassland or clumps of Nettles).
Nettles and Thistles are therefore encouraged at Treshnish, untidy farming! And they provide a feed plant for Peacock Butterfly caterpillars.