Lambs

Conservation

Our Environmental Policy

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Photograph taken from "Herman Law" 614m (2015ft) on Cossarshill Farm looking down the length of the Loch of The Lowes & St Mary's Loch in Yarrow Valley.

We are keen conservationists and have always done our best to protect and enhance the environment around the farm and local area. We are committed to providing good quality service to our guests while also minimising the environmental impact of our activities.

A symbol of this commitment is our membership of the VisitScotland Green Tourism Business Scheme. This scheme provides accreditation and encouragement for tourism businesses to reduce the environmental impact of their activities. By encouraging sustainable practises it ensures the continued enjoyment of the environment of Scotland for future generations.

Ettrick Holidays through the membership of the Green Tourism Business Scheme has committed to:

  • Adhere to good environmental practice in all business activities.
  • Assure that the business meets the minimum requirements set by environmental law and fulfils its legal Duty of Care requirements for waste disposal.
  • Achieves sustainable environmental improvement.
  • Continues reduction of polluting activities.

Ettrick Holidays are first in South Scotland

Elspinhope Cottage on Cossarshill Farm in the Ettrick Valley was the first self-catering establishment south of the central belt of Scotland to be awarded a Gold award by the Green Tourism Business Scheme.

The Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) is an environmental accreditation scheme for Scottish tourism businesses, launched in 1998 by Quality Assurance at VisitScotland (formerly the Scottish Tourist Board). The scheme helps tourism businesses save money by improving their environmental performance and helps protect Scotland's key asset: the environment.

To gain a GTBS award, businesses are assessed once every two years by registered environmental auditors that have considerable experience in tourism. The businesses are graded against over 120 measures of best practice reflecting a balance of environmental, economic and social issues. These cover measures from efficient lighting and heating, to nature conservation, local crafts & produce, new renewable technologies, education and interpretation and community support. Outputs such as actual achieved projects and physical evidence are necessary to gain an award.

Owner Daphne Jackson was delighted to receive the award in spring 2004. She said, "We have held the silver award for two years and we are thrilled to have been upgraded to the Gold award. We have worked hard over the past two years, making improvements with regard to ongoing conservation work around the cottage and farm, information provision and purchasing recycled materials. We also offer guests guided nature trails to see otters, badgers and other wildlife, hopefully adding to their holiday experience with us." We are delighted to have continued to acheive GOLD during regular assessments which take into consideration both our farm and holiday business.

Daphne was also involved in setting up the largest floodplain and woodland restoration project in the UK, at the time chairing the Steering Group of the Ettrick Marshes Floodplain Restoration Project.  A huge amount of conservation work has taken place throughout the whole of the Upper Ettrick Valley.

Riddell Graham, Chief Executive of SBTB said "We would like to offer our congratulations to Daphne and all those associated with Ettrick Holidays for this achievement in gaining the gold award in this important scheme. The natural environment is such a key part of a holiday experience in the Scottish Borders and more and more visitors are demanding that accommodation they stay in meets appropriate environmental standards. I hope that other tourism businesses in the area are encouraged to apply for GTBS accreditation as a result"

An insight into Conservation work at Cossarshill

The Scotch Argus

The farm is in an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) and is a member of the Rural Stewardship Scheme.

Cossarshill has belonged to the Jackson family since the mid 1940s, Ogilvie and I moved here in spring 1975 and over the years we have tried to protect and enhance the environment around the farm and local area.

We endeavour to maintain the stone walls around the farm, and over the years have rebuilt several that had fallen down; these include the old sheep falls (pens), situated at the top of the field behind Elspinhope and all stells on the farm. Irish labourers, who brought their families to Scotland to find work, originally constructed the dykes and stells during the early 19th century. All stone and other materials had to be carted to the sites. Each stell is forty yards around and are used for shelter by the sheep.

November 1999 saw the creation of our "millennium" woodland located on the side of the Cossarshill burn (SSSI) near to Elspinhope Cottage. The ground was fenced off to keep stock out, and planted with Alder, Beech, Birch, Hawthorn, Oak, Rowan, Willow and Wild Roses all grown from seeds native to the Borders and collected in the Borders. Similar work has taken place at several other locations around the farm. The tree species planted correspond closely to those that naturally grew in this area in the past. We have removed all Sitka Spruce from the farm and replanted with native woodland. During autumn 2005 we had 50 tree boxes erected and planted with native trees on the hillside towards Brockhoperig, this is a new way of planting without the need to fence off areas of hill land. Recently, autumn 06 more trees were planted in tubes along the riverbank. There are also many species of birds and wild mammals including Pipistrelle Bats, Badgers, Brown Hares, Foxes,Otters, Stoats and Weasels. One of the added bonuses of creating special conservation areas is the increase in the number of wildflowers, my favourites being the wild orchids. Invertebrates such as butterflies thrive in the sheltered spots; we have a large number of Scotch Argus breeding on the farm. There are also many species of birds and wild mammals.

The meadow to the front of our farmhouse has been included as part of an Environmental Project, it is managed for the benefit of wildlife and wildflowers. It is used for sheep in spring and autumn only, and a very late crop of meadow hay is taken in August (weather permitting), after the seed heads have fallen and the ground nesting birds have hatched their chicks. We have 1 mile of riverbank at Cossarshill and approximately 0.5 mile at Ettrickhall, both SSSI and kept free of livestock for the benefit of the flora and fauna.

The Ettrick Marshes - Floodplain Project

The largest floodplain woodland restoration project of its kind in the UK. One of the most ecologically interesting areas identified in Scotland. Work is ongoing on this Millennium Forest Project, which was officially opened in May 2002. Visitors may use the footpaths, boardwalks, tracks and hides to hopefully see some of the many different species of birds, animals and plants including Osprey and Red Squirrels in this valuable habitat. The main area of this project is only 2 miles from Cossarshill Farm.

Cossarshill Farm

A non-intensive 1,400-acre hill sheep farm, amidst the beautiful rolling hills of The Southern Uplands. Rising from 250 to 620 metres above sea level.

Our boundaries are The Ettrick Water (SSSI) for 1 mile, between the Cossarshill Burn (SSSI), and the Back Burn at Brockhoperig. At the far end of the farm, a fence follows the boundary along the ridge on Herman Law & Trowgrain Middle between the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys.
The Ettrick Water is designated a sight of special scientific interest and flows for approximately 26 miles from its source before joining The Tweed near Selkirk. The River Tweed is internationally famous for Salmon fishing, and our stretch of the Ettrick Water is known as one of the most important spawning grounds for the Atlantic Salmon.

The farm is in a Rural Stewardship Scheme which means we are expected to protect the land & environment. There are many lovely walks with wonderful views on the farm & along the river. 

Sheep Stock: we run approximately 650 breeding ewes, all South Country Cheviot except my small black pet sheep. Lambing starts in mid April and finishes towards the end of May. The lambs are counted and marked during early June and then spend most of the summer on the hills. The twin mothers and lambs are normally in our fields at Ettrickhall Meadows (1 mile down the valley) on richer grazing, this helps the ewes produce more milk to feed two lambs.

Around mid June we start clipping (shearing), first the rams and young sheep known as hoggs - they are the best of last years ewe lambs, which are kept for breeding. Finally during July the breeding ewes are clipped and the wool goes off to the merchant at Galashiels. The wool is then graded, baled and sent to Bradford to be sold at auction. July we hope is a dry month for hay making. We make only 2 acres at Cossarshill; the majority is made at Ettrickhall in the flat fields opposite Ettrick Kirk. If the weather is kind we hope to make around 29 acres total each year. If it is wet everyone tends to make big bale silage wrapped in black plastic, this can be harvested while the grass is still damp.

During September / October the lambs are weaned from their mothers, and selected to go to market at Lockerbie or Longtown. Our lambs are mostly bought by dairy or grain farmers and go to better grazing over the winter where they continue to grow. The ram sales are held in early October, a hectic time for all shepherds who spend endless hours preparing their breeding sires for the big day, ours are sold at Lockerbie.

The draft (old) ewes are taken to market during October / November before the next breeding season begins on 22nd November, the traditional date for hill cheviot tups (rams) to go out to the ewes. During tup time (mating time) the sheep need to be herded twice a day to make sure they all stay on their own hefts (part of the hill) with the chosen sires. Carefull breeding is vitally important.

Winter work with the sheep depends mainly on the weather. If it is stormy the ewes are brought down off the tops and fed with hay or silage. In kinder winter conditions they are happy to stay out on the hills eating moss and rough grasses and taking shelter behind the peat hags and in the stells.

February brings technology to the sheep -- when all the ewes are scanned to see how many lambs they are carrying and how many are "yeld" (not in lamb). Yeld ewes are unpopular and receive a mark on the neck to show them up! Ewes carrying twins are also marked and then taken to better pasture down at the Ettrickhall Meadows to be given extra feed and attention.  South Country Cheviots don't normally have many twin lambs & very rarely they have a set of triplets which is unusual for a hill ewe. The ewes carrying singles return to the hill after scanning with their particular mark to await the big day when they come down into the fields to lamb!

So goes the cycle into another season!!

Other domesticated animals on the farm include our working Border Collie (Zen), pet Border Terrier (Ted) and Kitty the black cat.