Scottish Borders farmer takes top prize in contest championing River Tweed

Farming sheep and cattle for the past 45 years, John Tullie has seen how nature has affected the landscape; from floods in nearby Hawick to damage from pollution and livestock. 

For his work John was chosen as the 2021 Tweed Forum River Champion.

John has been making small changes to his land for the past decade, planting trees, rewilding, and fencing off watercourses, but he wanted to do more and he set about implementing a whole-farm conservation plan.

The scheme on land he owns at Heronhill included a large area of grazing management for wildflower grasslands, in the Upper Teviot catchment he created a 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. 

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. 

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.

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.