Farmer John is new river champion

The important role of farmers and landowners in the protection of the environment has been highlighted as farmer John Tullie from Teviothead has been chosen as the 2021 Tweed Forum River Champion.

Sheep and cattle farmer, John Tullie from Teviothead, has been chosen as the 2021 Tweed Forum River Champion. Photo: Lloyd Smith.
Sheep and cattle farmer, John Tullie from Teviothead, has been chosen as the 2021 Tweed Forum River Champion. Photo: Lloyd Smith.

A sheep and cattle farmer for over 45 years, John has developed water, wetland and woodland initiatives on his land for over a decade.

He undertook a whole-farm conservation plan and implemented a significant conservation scheme on land he owns and tenants at Heronhill near Hawick, including a large area of grazing management for wildflower grasslands and fencing off watercourses to reduce pollution and damage to river banks by livestock trampling.

Where he tenants the Buccleuch Estates farm of Bowanhill in the Upper Teviot catchment, he was an early adopter of habitat creation to help with Natural Flood Management. Here he restored part of the River Teviot floodplain by planting native trees, creating a wetland and re-meandering a section of watercourse, work which had the added benefit of protecting his silage fields.

John said: ““I have had a lifelong interest in the Teviot and its wildlife, going back to the days of my youth when I guddled for troots on what seemed like endless sunny summer holidays.

"In more recent years the various schemes I have undertaken, with expert guidance from Tweed Forum, although individually relatively small, all add up to provide a very varied wildlife environment. I am sure there is scope for every farmer to look at the awkward and unproductive areas of their farm and to greatly expand this process. It allows a farm to remain as a valuable source of locally produced, sustainable food but also do its bit for climate change mitigation.”

On the hill slopes, under the direction of Tweed Forum’s Derek Robeson, John fenced off significant lengths of watercourse and planted riparian woodlands that also help to conserve fish stocks by providing shade that cools the water. Wildlife scrapes and wetlands have been created to enhance local biodiversity, with the work combining to slow down surface water runoff after high rainfall events. Working in partnership with neighbouring farms, initiatives such as these, created at landscape scale, could in time help to reduce flooding downstream in Hawick. John’s passion for conservation has also been passed to his son Andrew who is undertaking similar work at another Buccleuch Estates tenanted farm nearby.

This is the second time in the six-year history of the River Champion Award that the accolade has been given to a farmer, emphasising the importance of the farming community to the protection of the landscape.

Tweed Forum Chair, Debbie Playfair said;

“The work that John has carried out, and continues to implement, illustrates that farmers can both run productive agricultural businesses and be essential stewards of the environment. Farmers are used to planning for the longer term and are increasingly working together to create an impact at a landscape-scale, for example with Natural Flood Management techniques that will benefit our towns and villages by slowing flood waters. John’s passion for the protection and enhancement of the environment is obvious for all to see and we’d like to congratulate him and thank him for his commitment to tackling the effects of climate change and improving biodiversity.”

Speaking as he was presented with the Tweed Forum River Champion trophy, John Tullie said;

The Tweed Forum River Champion is chosen from nominations received from the public and from groups and organisations involved in the management of the river on both sides of the Border.

Their championing of the River Tweed includes activity undertaken after 2015 and can feature anything from wildlife preservation initiatives and flood prevention to woodland, wetland and moorland management, listed building preservation or other relevant work. It can be carried out through their employment, through volunteering or other personal commitment.

The eventual winner of the Tweed Forum River Champion Award is decided by a judging panel.

Previous Tweed Forum River Champion recipients are Frank Turnbull from Coldstream (2016), Jim Sinclair from Galashiels (2017), Eric Hastings from Drygrange (2018), Tom Rawson from Melrose (2019) and Edward Cawthorn from Berwick Upon Tweed (2020).