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The Rural Stewardship Scheme 2005

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The Rural Stewardship Scheme

4 Capital works to benefit other habitats and features

Section 1. Designed Landscapes
Section 2. Field Boundaries
Section 3. Black grouse breeding areas
Section 4. Farm Ponds

pond

Section 1
Designed Landscapes

1.1 What are Designed Landscapes?

These are planned landscapes, laid out with aesthetic pleasure in mind as much as profit-making agricultural enterprise. Much of the Scottish landscape is characterised by the plantations and other features which form part of the designed landscape settings of country houses. Most of these designed landscapes have their origins in the 18 th and 19 th centuries, though some incorporate older features and others show the effects of more recent changes. Designed landscapes reflect changing styles and fashions, and may survive long after the original mansion house has been demolished.

photos

Typical features within a Designed Landscape include:

  • elements of the pre-existing natural or cultural landscape: e.g. areas of semi-natural woodland, stone dykes;
  • estate buildings: e.g. estate walls, bridges, dovecotes;
  • pleasure grounds: generally centred upon the mansion house, sometimes separated from surrounding parkland by a fence or ha-ha*;
  • policies: ornamental planting, often enclosing parkland and visible from the mansion house and its approaches;
  • kitchen gardens: often walled;
  • carriage drives and walks;
  • the wider setting: hill-planting, eye-catchers, field boundary trees, often outwith but visible from the designed landscape.

1.2 Why are Designed Landscapes important?

Designed landscapes are an important part of our cultural and natural heritage, and provide the setting for many important historic buildings. Works of art in their own right, some incorporate elements from different periods of their history, others represent the work of one particular designer. They can dominate wide areas of landscape, especially where several estates are in close proximity. Since these landscapes were laid out with amenity in mind, they frequently make excellent places for informal public recreation. Some contain woods, wetlands and ornamental ponds that may have been comparatively undisturbed for up to two centuries, giving them high value as wildlife habitats. Other estates contain important collections of ornamental trees and shrubs amassed by previous generations.

1.3 How do I find out if I have a Designed Landscape?

The Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland (1987) includes details of 275 nationally important landscapes. Historic Scotland and SNH are currently working to add further sites to this Inventory. Both those currently listed in the Inventory and the candidate sites will be eligible under this Scheme. For further information, please refer to Section 5 in Part 1 of this Booklet.

1.4 How do I manage a Designed Landscape?

It is important that the overall integrity of the landscape is protected, and also that the individual surviving features are maintained as far as possible, whenever changes of any sort are proposed. Appropriate management of a designed landscape often requires a balance to be found, between nature conservation and historic conservation objectives for the designed landscape as a whole or for the feature concerned. In existing areas of parkland, arable cropping can be detrimental to parkland trees, which are often of historic importance, and applicants will be encouraged to convert these areas to permanent pasture. Such land, if classed as eligible for Arable Aid Area Payments, could be converted to species-rich grassland under the Scheme's Creation and Management of Species-Rich Grassland option. If the existing grassland is unimproved, you may wish to consider managing the area under the Management of Species-Rich Grassland prescription. Such an area of species-diverse grassland will provide a valuable wildlife habitat, fulfil an historic conservation objective and establish useful grazing pasture.

If any measures are proposed within part of a Designed Landscape, you or your adviser must consult Scottish Natural Heritage.

The following relevant works will attract capital payments under the RSS:

CAPITAL ACTIVITY

SPECIFICATION

Additional items for Designed Landscapes only:

Restoration of gate piers.

i. Gate piers should be rebuilt with materials and workmanship in keeping with the original design.

Amenity tree planting.

i. The trees must be standard or semi-standard. Exotic species may be planted where appropriate.

Wooden post and rail fencing or metal tree guards to protect parkland trees.

i. Wooden post and three rail fencing shall not be less than 1.1 metres high with rails of at least 38mm x 87mm sawn timber and posts not exceeding 1.8 metres apart. Metal tree guards should be 1.1 metres high and painted to match existing guards.

Restoration of drystone or flagstone dykes or walls and ha-has*.

i. Drystone or flagstone dykes or walls should be rebuilt with materials and workmanship in keeping with the original design.

Replanting, coppicing or laying of a hedge.

i. Where re-planting or gapping-up is required, plants must be established in a double row with a minimum of 6 plants per metre; and

ii. Species selected for the re-planting or gapping-up must already be present within the existing hedge.

* A ha-ha is a feature, usually a ditch faced on one side with stone, which was increasingly used after the 18 th century to allow efficient farming within an ornamental landscape. It provided a stock-proof boundary to a park or garden without interrupting the view from the principal house.

Section 2
Field Boundaries

2.1 What type of field boundary is eligible for enhancement or management under RSS?

Drystone or flagstone dykes or walls and hedges are eligible for enhancement or management under the scheme.

Hedge photos

2.2 What works can I carry out under the RSS that will benefit field boundaries and what minimum specifications must be met in order to qualify for the Scheme capital payment?

CAPITAL ACTIVITY

SPECIFICATION

Building or restoration of traditional drystone or flagstone dykes or walls.

i. Drystone or flagstone dykes or walls should be rebuilt with material traditional to the locality and to a standard normally found there.

Erection of a scare fence.

i. A scare fence must consist of a minimum of 2 line wires with post at intervals of not more than 6 metres. Scare fences will only be eligible to protect dykes built or restored under the Scheme.

Planting, replanting, coppicing or laying of a hedge.

i. Where new hedging or gapping-up of existing hedges is undertaken, plants must be established in a double row with a minimum of 6 plants per metre; and

ii. A single species must not account for more than 75% of plants established.

Erection of a fence to deny stock access to a hedge newly planted or re-planted under the Scheme.

i. The construction and all materials must conform to the appropriate British standards.

ii. Except as otherwise provided, fence posts must be placed at intervals of no more than 3.5 metres, or 12 metres where high tensile wire and droppers are used.

iii. Except as otherwise provided, a fence must have a minimum of 6 line wires or 2 line wires and woven wire netting.

iv. Fences erected to enhance hedgerows must be sited at least 1 metre from the centre line of the hedge.

Erection of rabbit-proof netting to protect a hedge newly planted or re-planted under the Scheme.

i. Rabbit-proofing must be carried out with galvanised wire netting. The netting must be not less than 1.05m wide and have a mesh no larger than 31mm. The top edge of the netting must not be less than 0.9m above ground level.

ii. The netting must be fastened to the fencing and the bottom edge of the netting shall be buried in the ground to a suitable depth or turned outward and anchored.

iii. All gates in rabbit-proofed fences must also be rabbit-proofed.

2.3 Why are such field boundaries important?

Stone dykes, fanks and buchts owe their existence to their practical agricultural function as stock barriers and gathering and handling pens. They are now essential features of the landscape, characteristic of particular areas both in their construction and the pattern they make in the wider landscape. They reflect local geology, quarrying history, crafts and traditions. Even those rarely put to their original use can still give much needed shelter to a ewe and her lambs and will have landscape and historic interest. Dykes can provide habitat for small mammals, flowering plants, mosses and lichens and nest sites for birds such as wheatear and wagtail.

Hedges are often the product of enclosures created in the late 18 th century. Where they exist, hedges may act as stock barriers while also providing shelter. Hedges also provide a valuable habitat for a wide range of wildlife, especially small birds and mammals. These important landscape features act as corridors connecting other habitats and allowing safe passage through farmland for vulnerable species.

Section 3
Black grouse breeding areas

The black grouse is one of the most rapidly declining bird species in the UK: between the late 1960s and the early 1990s, there was a 30 to 40 percent decline in its breeding range.

3.1 Which parts of my farm are important for black grouse?

Black grouse are birds of the moorland/forest edge, requiring a mosaic of different habitats:

  • Areas of moorland provide heather and blaeberry for adults to feed on, whilst cotton-grass flowers can improve female condition prior to breeding. Open, grassy areas are used as lek sites, whilst patches of grass greater than 30 cm in height produce important chick foraging habitat. Wet flushes on moorland also provide invertebrate-rich habitat for broods.
  • Mosaics, lightly grazed or ungrazed forests and woodlands with plenty of open areas provide shelter in the winter, as well as feeding for adults in the winter and early spring. Trees and shrubs provide food for adult grouse, with species such as birch, willow, rowan, larch and Scots pine preferred. Black grouse require a well-developed ground layer, including heather and blaeberry, therefore young forest stands of less than 20 years age, or open woodlands with less than 20% canopy cover are favoured, whilst closed canopy forests are avoided.
  • black grouse

    Black grouse - Black cock displaying at lek in dawn light
    Photo: Chris Gomershall (RSPB Images)

    Inbye herb-rich meadows are thought to be important for hens and broods; while spring-sown cereals - followed by overwinter stubble - in upland areas adjoining moorland or forests with black grouse, may be used by adults. Fodder crops with weeds may also be beneficial in these locations.
  • Black grouse also utilise enclosed habitats adjacent to moorland or in open areas of forest. Short, in-bye grassland provides lek sites for males, whilst herb-rich meadows and wetlands can yield invertebrate food for chicks. During the winter, grain from arable crops can attract foraging black grouse.
  • Wet flushes are important for broods, as they tend to be rich in invertebrates upon which chicks depend for the first weeks. Heaths and mires with cotton-grass may be important in providing an early spring food source for adults.
  • Management for black grouse should therefore be used to maximise the following habitat mixes in close proximity (within about 1.5 km of a lek site): dwarf shrubs (heather and blaeberry), grass (both short and tall) and open woodland. The presence of cotton-grass bogs and arable fields will also be beneficial. The use of separate RSS prescriptions to promote suitable moorland, woodland, and in-bye habitats together should be encouraged.

3.2 What measures can I carry out under the RSS that will benefit black grouse?

  • The moorland/forest or woodland edges should not be heavily stocked, especially during the winter, to ensure availability of cotton-grass and blaeberry for the grouse.
  • Prescriptions "For Moorland" (11, 12, 13 and 14) may be useful to achieve this.
  • Deer fences are a significant factor in black grouse mortality.
    • In consultation with the Forestry Commission or woodland owner, dismantle or reduce the height of any deer fence if now redundant.
    • Position any essential deer fences very carefully, for example not on knolls with blaeberry, nor on the break of slopes nor close against plantations.
    • Ensure that any new or existing deer fences are made more visible by using a fence marker, as described in the specifications table.
  • Prescriptions 11, 12, 13 and 14 (moorland management) should be used to promote a mosaic of dwarf shrub and grass habitats. Depending upon the habitat condition, different levels of grazing, cutting and muirburn management may be required to produce the appropriate mix of heather, blaeberry and grass habitats. Where appropriate, the production of cotton-grass flowers should be encouraged on bog habitats through low winter stocking levels, whilst grazing levels should be adjusted to maintain and enhance blaeberry cover as appropriate. Management of grass moor and rough grassland habitats should produce a mix of sward heights, including small (less than 100 ha) areas of greater than 30 cm height, and other areas of shorter vegetation.
  • Appropriate management can be encouraged through prescriptions 29, 30 and 31 for scrub and woodland. Importantly, deer fences should not be used to protect these habitats unless necessary, as they can be a significant cause of mortality of adult grouse. Redundant fences should be removed in consultation with the woodland owner, whilst essential fences should be positioned carefully to avoid likely flight lines, and marked to increase visibility.

A dwarf shrub understorey should be promoted through restricted grazing, although low levels of grazing may be required to open up dense heather swards and encourage blaeberry. Exclusion of livestock from areas of scrub encroachment may produce areas of tall sward as brood foraging habitats. Control of deer may be necessary for regeneration of the woodland or dwarf shrub component in the sward.

Prescriptions "Management of Open Grazed Grassland for Birds" (2), "Management of Species-Rich Grassland" (6) and "For Moorland"' (11, 12 and 13) may allow the creation and maintenance of suitable lek sites.

  • Prescriptions that will support the provision of feeding areas for hens and their broods include "Extensive Management of Mown Grassland for Birds" (1), "Introduction or Retention of Extensive Cropping" (25) and "Unharvested Crops" (28).
  • The creation and maintenance of wetlands on grass moor and rough grassland (prescriptions 15 and 17) will help to provide a rich source of invertebrate food for chicks. Where bracken is an invasive threat to the required mosaic of moorland habitats, bracken eradication may be required (prescription 14). Control of deer may be necessary for regeneration of the woodland or dwarf shrub component in the sward.
  • Maintenance of any areas of wet ground on moorland or inbye will ensure an adequate supply of invertebrates - a source of protein for grouse, especially in the early spring.
  • Legal control of foxes and deer may also benefit black grouse. The former potentially prey upon birds, chicks and eggs and the latter cause a change to the nature of the vegetation and the dependent invertebrate population that provides food for the grouse.

In-bye management

  • The provision of short areas of grass for leks can be achieved using prescription 2 (Management of Open Grazed Grassland for Birds). This may be important in situations where surrounding land is heather- or woodland-dominated. Tall (greater than 30 cm) areas of grass to provide food sources for broods can be promoted using prescriptions 1 (Extensive Management of Mown Grassland for Birds), 6 and 8 (Creation and Management of Species-Rich Grassland), but it is important that such areas abut moorland or suitable woodland habitats, and are less than 100 ha in extent.

Winter feeding

  • Additional feeding areas, particularly for wintering birds, can be provided through the introduction of prescriptions 25 or 28 (Introduction or Retention of Extensive Cropping and Unharvested Crops) to produce overwinter stubbles.

Predator control

  • Legal control of corvids and foxes may be necessary to reduce predation of nests and chicks, and to increase breeding success.

Combining prescriptions to maximise benefits for black grouse

  • The fact that black grouse are characteristically birds of habitat mosaics means that the above prescriptions should ideally be used in combination, to ensure that at least one prescription is offered from as many as possible of the of the following groups.
  • Woodland (where present): 30, 31 - with deer fences marked or removed. Maintain appropriate dwarf shrub and grass cover: 11, 12, 13
  • Brood foraging habitats: 1, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17
    Lek site provision (short vegetation): 2, 11, 12, 13
    Low winter grazing of blanket bog (where present): 12
    Bracken control (where required): 14
  • Provision of arable and winter food: 25, 28

The following relevant works will attract capital payments under the RSS:

CAPITAL ACTIVITY

SPECIFICATION

Marking of a deer fence to reduce bird collision.

In areas where black grouse and capercaillie occur, to make the fence more visible and thus reduce the number of collisions, use either:

i. A double strip of orange barrier netting, each strip of approximately 45cm in width. Both strips should be secured with pig rings/wire twists at intervals of approx 30cm on the upper and lower edges. The top of the upper strip should reach the top strand of the fence. The top of the lower strip should reach the middle of the fence.

or

ii. Other fence marking approved by SEERAD for this purpose.

Dismantling of deer fence to remove a cause of bird death and injury by collision.

i. All wires must be removed from posts and coiled/rolled. The wire must be removed from the site and taken to a recognised disposal site. Posts may be left lying along the old fenceline.

Erection of deer fence marked to avoid collision.

i. Deer fences shall not be less than 1.8 metres high and have a minimum of 3 line wires and woven netting with stobs at no more than 3.5 metre intervals and 12 metre intervals with droppers every 2 metres for high tensile wire.

ii. In areas where black grouse and capercaillie occur, to make the fence more visible, and thus reduce the number of collisions, a double strip of orange barrier netting must be used, each strip being approximately 45 centimetres in width. Both strips must be secured with pig rings/wire twists at intervals of approx 30cm on the upper and lower edges. The top of the upper strip should reach the top strand of the fence. Alternative fence marking designs will require the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers.

Section 4
Farm Ponds

pond4.1 Why are farm ponds important?

Ponds provide an essential habitat for wildlife. They are often very rich places and are particularly important for aquatic invertebrates, wetland plants and amphibians. Especially where they connect to wetland areas, ponds are also used by a variety of mammals, birds and fish. Significant in terms of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, ponds can support species such as great-crested newt, natterjack toad, otter and water vole. Ponds have a cultural and archaeological value too. They are not just important landscape features but can, for such as mill ponds, distillery ponds or curling ponds, tell us something of the history of a place. Ponds may also be of considerable amenity value: some are used for shooting or fishing, others for boating or as part of a nature reserve.

4.2 Are there any special considerations?

It will be helpful to collect some historical and ecological information about the pond before any decisions are made about the restoration work. Where associated with a semi-natural habitat such as unimproved grassland or ancient woodland, the pond is likely to be of high conservation value. Generally, the different habitats around the farm pond, such as strands of wetland plants and some shaded areas, should be maintained. Rich mixtures of native plants, some partly submerged, some floating, should be encouraged and dredging operations, in some circumstances, may actually damage the conservation interest of this habitat. Where appropriate, you should aim to create variation in depth, margin and surrounding vegetation. Where tree or shrub growth is causing excessive shading, in particular around the southern margin of the pond, this should be cut back. Stock access should be strictly limited to the provision of a watering place and then only if there is no alternative source of water for them. A strip of less-intensively managed land around the pond will act as a buffer, filtering pollutants from surface water. However, if the pond already has polluted sediments and large quantities of algae, it may require dredging out. The timing of the pond restoration work is important: the breeding/nesting season of, in particular, amphibians and aquatic birds using the site should be avoided. When either creating or restoring ponds, professional advice at the planning stage is essential.

4.3 Where can I find guidance on pond creation and management?

SEPA, through the Habitat Enhancement Initiative (HEI) and in partnership with key environmental organisations in Scotland, has published a comprehensive guide to best practice in the management and creation of small waterbodies in Scotland, entitled "Ponds, pools and lochans". This includes information on pond location, size, design, construction principles and the various uses to which ponds can be put.

4.4 What works can I carry out under the RSS that will benefit this habitat?

The following works may be carried out to benefit this habitat and will attract capital payments under the RSS:

CAPITAL ACTIVITY

SPECIFICATION

Creation or restoration of a pond.

i. Any existing conservation interest must not be damaged;

ii. The site must be capable of retaining water; and

iii. There must be an adequate water supply.

iv. Any outfall must be properly constructed. The last length of the buried pipe must be solid and frost-proof. The outfall should be at least 150 mm above normal discharge channel water level. The last 2.0 m of buried pipe must be sealed with well-rammed soil to avoid water flow outside the pipe. Headstones of cemented stones or bricks or purpose built installations are needed to stabilise the bank and to keep the pipe in position. Drip stones or concrete aprons may be needed to prevent erosion of the discharge panel.

Rhododendron Control.

i. Rhododendron control is to be carried out by cutting or mechanical destruction.

Erection of a fence, gate or stile required to exclude stock from the margins of a pond created or restored under the Scheme.

i. The construction and all materials must conform to the appropriate British standards.

ii. Except as otherwise provided, fence posts must be placed at intervals of no more than 3.5 metres, or 12 metres where high tensile wire and droppers are used.

iii. Except as otherwise provided, a fence must have a minimum of 6 line wires or 2 line wires and woven wire netting.

iv. Where fences are erected to exclude stock from a pond area, they must be sited at least 1 metre from the water margin.

Native-species tree planting around the margins of the pond and on a site no more than 0.25ha.

i. Planting density must not exceed one tree per 10m 2; and

ii. Native species appropriate to the site must be planted.