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Aswanley is a mixed farm in West Aberdeenshire managing a mix of farming and conservation. The land runs from moorland at 410 m above sea level at Corsemaul, down through woodland to 1000 acres of fertile cropping and grazing along the River Deveron Valley. We are replacing some more traditional farming systems with a broader ecological approach to land use through a Scottish Rural Development Programme Agri-environment scheme. This rural development scheme will augment our established programme of wildlife habitat creation and management.
We have a flock of more than 350 breeding ewes – Greyface, Mules and Texel cross, which lamb outdoors in May – similar to the New Zealand system – ready for market in autumn. At certain times of the year Aswanley can hold up to 1000 head of sheep managed by shepherd Sandy Robson. We used to have our own heard of cattle at Aswanley but now we let for cattle grazing in the summer. Breeds include Aberdeen Angus, Highland, Charolais and Short Horn. We crop around 100 acres of barley and oats.
Moorland Our small heather moor is being managed through heather burning and predator control for the revival of grouse, curlew, black game, golden plover and other moorland birds. We try and burn 10% of the heather each year to encourage the re-growth of fresh heather shoots for upland wildlife. By arrangement with Scottish Natural Heritage we also look after the second largest colony of Common Gulls in Europe on what is now a protected area.
The River Deveron We manage our wetlands, burns (streams) and river margins to improve habitat for everything from beetles and frogs to foxgloves. Fishing for salmon at Aswanley is by fly only and we practise a strict catch and release policy in common with other beats as part of the overall Scottish salmon conservation effort. We deliberately fence off riverside fields to prevent livestock destroying fragile riverine eco systems.
Forestry Thinning operations are opening up woodlands to give established trees more growing room. We are replanting with a mix of Scots Pine, Sitka and mixed native species. The planting on Talnamount Hill was one of the first carbon credit pine schemes in Scotland.