There are 26,000 hectares of land to be managed on the Applecross Estate, from coastal lowland and grassland areas to harsh upland zones. These are home to an exciting range of plant and animal species. The Trust tries to carefully balance the needs of the different land users. Consideration is given to balancing deer management and cattle grazing. Management includes muirburn, habitat monitoring and protection of sensitive habitats.
Highland Cattle Fold
The Fold of Highland Cattle on Applecross Estate is probably the oldest. In the first of the old herd record books kept in the Estate Office, Duncan McNair writes in 1884: “Grandfather ….came to be herd on the Highland cows to old Thomas McKenzie of Applecross (the then Laird) in or about 1776. The fold of black cows was kept at Applecross …..since the year 1700, however long before then.”
With changes in farming, the Highland breed became less popular; it was in areas like Applecross that the breed survived, due to its ability to thrive on poor land, no matter the weather.
Today, the Fold ranges freely in the Applecross Glen throughout the summer and autumn months, grazing on low grade vegetation such as molinia, which the deer cannot eat. Many keepers of Highland Cattle from around the world have visited the Applecross Fold.
Highland Cattle are part of the heritage of Applecross. In a time when global food production is coming under pressure, animals such as Highland Cattle are likely to play an increasingly important role.
Read more about our Highland Cattle Fold in this blog post by one of our Estate workers.
Agri Environmental Management
Management of the hill land on the estate is carried out according to an approved medium term plan with Scottish Government.
Moorland management benefits a range of habitats, including upland heath and peatland, by maintaining appropriate levels of wild and domestic stock. Applecross moorlands include habitat types from acid grasslands to dry and wet heath, to mires and blanket bog. Sustainable grazing levels, diversionary grazing and careful use of vehicles ensure that the vegetation and soils remain as intact and undisturbed as possible. Moorlands support a range of important wildlife and biodiversity, and peatlands in particular contribute to climate change by storing carbon.
The estate has a policy of muirburn and targeted cattle grazing. In addition, deer management is undertaken to safeguard sensitive habitats such as the Bhein Bhan Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Native hedging has been planted to provide useful habitats for a range of seed eating birds; they also act as wildlife corridors, which provide important transport links for small mammals and invertebrates.
Grassland habitats managed in the interests of biodiversity include species-rich grassland, wet grassland, water margins, acid grassland and improved silage fields.
The Trust, along with the South Coast Applecross crofters, Crofting Counties Agricultural Grant Scheme, Heritage Lottery Fund and Trust contributions, constructed an 8,000 metre deer fence from Milltown to Toscaig in order to remove deer from the in-bye crofting areas and so help restoration of land and habitats.
In association with Applecross Landscape Partnership Scheme (ALPS) the Trust also contributed towards the cost of establishing woodland on croft land at Milltown, plus drainage, reseeding and bracken control on croft land across the peninsula.
There are 109 crofts on Applecross Estate, divided between the Crofting Townships of the North Coast – Lonbain, Callakille, Fearnmore, Fernbeg, Arrina, Kenmore and Ardheslaig – and those on the South Applecross peninsula - Milltown, Camusteil, Camusterrach, Culduie, Ardbain, Coilliegillie, Ardhu, Toscaig and Uags.
While sheep continue to provide a significant crofting interest, numbers have fallen over the last 5-10 years.
The recently erected deer fence between Milltown and Toscaig has helped to prevent deer from gaining access to crofts and it is hoped that this will encourage crofters to develop other enterprises.