Corehead is a 1,580 acre (640 hectare) hill farm in the Southern Uplands, Dumfries & Galloway. The Devil’s Beef Tub, Hart Fell Shoulder and the source of the River Annan sit within its boundaries. The Devil's Beef Tub, a cavernous hollow in the hills where the notorious Border Reivers once hid their stolen cattle, is one of the most iconic landmarks in the South of Scotland.
The vision for Corehead Farm is a community-engaged, sustainable project integrating the restoration of native woodlands, wetlands and heathlands with a farm operating on organic principles. It will become an important educational resource in the South of Scotland demonstrating how biodiversity, ecosystem services and farming can thrive together.
Restoring a forest fair
Corehead was once part of the Ettrick Forest, with significant areas of native woodland and other habitats, including wetlands, teeming with wildlife. After centuries of grazing by farm animals, the land was greatly changed, with only small pockets of native woodland and heather moorland remaining.
In the year 2000, Borders Forest Trust began working nearby on the restoration of the Carrifran Wildwood. The then owners of Corehead became interested in this work and, thanks to their support and their patience during the fundraising phase, the money was raised to purchase this special site.
In 2009, with generous donations totalling £700,000 from over 750 individuals and 30 charities and trusts, Borders Forest Trust acquired Corehead Farm.
New habitats take root
Over three years, contractors and volunteers including local schoolchildren planted 195 hectares of new native woodland - more than 230,000 trees in all. Planting took place in three valleys: Tweedhope Burn, White Hope Burn and Lochan Burn, along with three small riverside sites on the lower ground. The final tree, an oak, was planted in May 2013. As well as oak, the new planting includes ash, aspen, juniper, rowan, alder, willow, birch and cherry.
In addition to the new native woodland, BFT has supported the planting of two community orchards on Corehead Farm. Fruit trees are known to have flourished years ago in the neighbouring farm at Ericstane so, with this in mind, 16 varieties of apple, plum and crab apple were planted at Corehead by members of the local community including pupils from Moffat Academy. Students from the University of Glasgow's Crichton Campus in Dumfries work with the local community on the on-going management of the orchard.
As the young trees at Corehead develop they will support a rich diversity of native plants, birds and animals.
We keep a breeding flock of 320 blackface ewes and 80 ewe lambs at Corehead, restricted to the Beef Tub and the Skirtle by a new stock fence. Our farmer, Jim Mitchell continues the important local tradition of hill farming. His family have been sheep farmers in the South of Scotland for over 200 years.
What next for Corehead?
Next, our ecological focus for the site will be turned towards restoration of other habitats, including wetlands, wildflower meadows and heathlands, as well as further wildlife surveying.
Thanks to funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, we are running a three-year Natural Connections programme of events to 2016, connecting people with the cultural, historical and ecological heritage of the site. See our Volunteering [LINK] and Events [LINK] pages for further details and upcoming activities.
Visitors are also encouraged to explore the site outwith organised events. Walking is an excellent way to do this, possibly following formal walking routes such as: heading to Hart Fell from the Devil’s Beef Tub, the Annandale Way and the Strait Step, all of which criss-cross Corehead.
For more information on visiting Corehead, telephone Borders Forest Trust on 01835 830 750 or email email@example.com.