We farm with conservation very much in mind and we have been in the Rural Priorities Environmental Scheme and its precursor the Rural Stewardship Scheme since 2003.
Uncropped headlands, beetle banks, unharvested crops, thick hedges, winter stubbles and restricted summer grazing all help to give the birds and insects as much chance as possible. In recent years we have planted over 3,000 trees and 3,500 metres of hedge to add to what was already there. The hedges are trimmed every other year or every 3 years to ensure that there is always blossom and fruit (which grow on the old wood) to provide food as well as sufficient nesting cover. We always do this in February once all the fruit has been eaten by the birds.
Our farming rotation means that the estate is like a patchwork quilt with different crops at different stages spread across the land. This helps the wildlife to find the habitats they require. For example the lapwings breed in spring sown crops.
There are also wildlife corridors - mainly hedges - linking all of the woodlands on the estate so that wildlife can move around with less risk of predation.
We have 3 fields (70 acres) managed as wetlands where many rare species of birds and plants thrive. We have also created 4 ponds.
The watercourses are all fenced to keep cattle out of them and to allow reeds to grow along the banks. This provides habitat for a number of rare bird species including reed warblers.
We host over 20 beehives on the estate and the bees help to pollinate fruit trees and flowers, maintaining a healthy biodiversity.
It is a source of pride that the estate fosters a rich bodiversity whilst remaining highly productive. A number of endangered species thrive at Arbigland such as red squirrels, natterjack toads, otters, skylarks, barn owls, corncrakes and lapwings. We are currently assisting a local barn owl project with barn owl boxes in 5 potential nesting sites around the estate. We are also working with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to colonise a potential natterjack toad breeding site from stock elsewhere on the estate.