Blainslie estate scoops environment award

Colin Strang Steel at home in Threepwood.

Colin Strang Steel at home in Threepwood.

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Landowner Colin Strang Steel of Threepwood, Blainslie, Galashiels was awarded a coveted Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) accreditation at the Scottish Game Fair earlier this month.

The WES is a national version of the EU Wildlife Estates (WE) initiative aimed at protecting, preserving and improving the environment.

Colin Strang Steel at home in Threepwood.

Colin Strang Steel at home in Threepwood.

Mr Strang Steel, who applied for and underwent “quite a rigorous assessment” before gaining the accrediation, said: “This seems to be another logical step along the way towards showing what we do and how we do try and integrate everything on the farm from wildlife managment to predator control to farming and shooting, so that everything is run together for the benefit of each other.

“I’m pleased to get it and it will spur me on to try to do even more.”

He hopes to put in a ‘major wetland area’ in an already boggy spot. He has been farming Threepwood with a manager, and latterly another, since 1995.

Conservation and wildlife promotion work includes creating ponds, wildlife scrapes and planting crops such as kale, quinoa and triticale, which provides food for birds over the winter.

And he leaves the stubble from spring barley for lapwings and others, as well as hares. He has also planted about two miles of hedges.

He runs predominantly sheep on the 1,020 acres and has a small family shoot.

For the last two years, a part-time gamekeeper has controlled predators such as crows and “since he’s been here we’ve seen a marked increase in song birds and lapwings” said Mr Strang Steel.

The Songbird Survival trustee explained: “I just love birds and wildlife generally, and I have always been very attracted by birds, especially songbirds: they are under an enormous amount of pressure, not from farmers, but from predators such as crows, magpies, jays and cats, and they need a lot of protection.

“I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to help.

“It’s enormously rewarding when you go out and turn a corner and there’s a lapwing on a scrape you know would not have been there two years ago.”

He released 50 grey partridges last year and is set to do the same again this year.

Last year, Threepwood gained a Highly Commended certificate at the annual Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation.

And in 2010, Threepwood was awarded the RSPB’s Nature of Farming Award in Scotland.

WES was founded by Scottish Land & Estates with support from Scottish Natural Heritage, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland and the Cairngorms National Park Authority. It has been supported from the beginning by the Scottish Government.

Threepwood was one of five estates to win the accredition.

Wildlife Estates Scotland Chairman Robbie Douglas Miller said: “The recipients are diverse in nature, ranging from large farm businesses to more traditional sporting estates.

What they all have in common, however, is a desire to work exceptionally hard for the good of the nation’s wildlife at the same time as sustaining their own business activities, and it is pleasing that this effort in wildlife management – that is sometimes taken for granted – is being recognised more widely.”