College Valley Estate covers just under 5,000 hectares, it is located in the north Cheviots and lies within the Northumberland National Park.
From the top of Cheviot to the rumbling College Burn, the College Valley Estate has a range of diverse habitats, landscape features, archaeology and wildlife. The Cheviot Massif and the Harrow Bog woodland are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest; there are large tracts of upland bog alongside dry and wet heath, as well as areas of grassland that support a variety of flowers, waxcaps and invertebrates. Woodlands range from large stands of commercial conifer to semi-natural ancient woodlands.
George Dodds & Co is proud to provide on-going environmental advice, assistance with the Single Payment Scheme (now Basic Payment Scheme) and help with agri-environment stewardship schemes; in addition we are carrying out a long-term vegetation survey across the whole Estate.
The last 15 years have seen a transition from Countryside Stewardship to Higher Level Stewardship. During this time two Higher Level schemes were put in place on the estate, which included two very large Farm Environmental Plans. Since the schemes started, the Upland Entry Level Scheme has been added and, as tenancies have changed, several land transfer and amendments have been facilitated.
We have been instrumental in delivering effective solutions and ensuring that the schemes work for the Estate and partners such as the Northumberland National Park and Natural England. The nature of the Estate and its management means that there needs to be regular reviews of the agreements, which can result in subtle changes to option prescriptions.
Single Farm Payment Scheme (SPS)
Over the last three years, we have been working with the estate to ensure efficient submission of the SPS. This has been particularly effective in relation to on-going changes in forestry and the relationship between permanent ineligible features, agri-environment and SPS. The on-line SPS system has made applying, altering and reviewing much more straightforward.
In 2011, there was a changeover in the largest tenancy on the estate (Elsdonburn); following this the Directors of the estate took the decision to remove sheep from the Cheviot Massif in the south. It was deemed necessary to put in place a vegetation monitoring programme that would effectively determine change; consultations with Professor Robert Bunce (world renowned vegetation specialist) and Dr Simon Smart (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) produced suitable methodology.
George Dodds & Co have been surveying the re-locatable random plots since 2012 with the intention to repeat these after 5 years. Initial years concentrated on moorland habitats especially within the south of the estate. The vegetation is surveyed within a 10m x 10m grid square. All plants, mosses, fungi, bare ground and animal faeces are recorded. Sward heights and photographs are also taken to help to record change.
Further monitoring includes three 1km squares where all of the birds are recorded during two visits in the bird nesting season. A moth trapping session was also run in 2013.
This long-term vegetation monitoring programme is one of the largest independent scheme of its type in England.