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Case study: Treshnish Farm, Isle of Mull

Herb-rich headland at Treshnish © Carolyne Mazur

Herb-rich headland at Treshnish © Carolyne Mazur

Treshnish is a 750ha farm, with hill ground, coastal heath and small areas of woodland on the west coast of Mull.

When present owners Somerset and Carolyne Charrington first arrived at Haunn in 1994 it was overgrazed and very few flowers were evident. By reducing sheep numbers, diversifying grazing by starting a small herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle and introducing insect-friendly vetinarary treatments they have watched the variety of wildlife increase.

An abundance of wild flowers now thrive on at Treshnish, providing nectar for 17 species of butterfly and over 250 moths. Field gentian (Red Data List Status: vulnerable) and wood bitter-vetch (Red Data List Status: near threatened) grow in the silage fields and 15 species of orchid have been found on the farm, including the nationally scarce bog orchid, frog orchid, small white orchid and sword-leaved helleborine (Red Data List Status: vulnerable). Corncrake has probably bred here and barn owls and hen harriers can be seen along with twite, skylarks and golden plovers. 

Management of the in-bye works on a four-year rotation of three years’ grazing and 1 year silage. The grazing regime carefully balances grazing pressure and timing of grazing: sheep are excluded at particular times, with low grazing density on the hill ground. The silage is late cut after flower seed has set, and tight grazing in winter cleans up pastures to avoid the build up of rank vegetation. Bracken needs constant management and encroachment into the species-rich grassland can be challenging because timing of cutting has the potential to damage the range of wild flowers under it. In September - when the majority of wild flowers have set seed - the meadow is cut for hay which used to feed the farm's livestock over winter.

Treshnish Farm is managed with agri-environment scheme support through Rural Priorities.