Graham White, ArdMoor’s shooting expert and Headkeeper at Holylee, tells us what he’s planning to do on the estate this spring.
It’s been very dry recently so we have taken the opportunity to so some heather burning on the hill. That’s a job that you just have to keep doing each year. We don’t have a huge number of grouse and only do a couple of family walked up days each year but the burning isn’t just for the grouse. We do it to keep the habitat on the hill fresh with young growth that attracts all sorts of wildlife and keeps the ground vibrant.
Then there are some partridge pens to move and all of those need limed. We’ve already started on that but it’s a job that needs doing to kill the bugs off and get rid of disease. We can often rely on a prolonged cold spell of sub-zero temperatures on the hill to kill most bugs off but, with it being so mild this year, that hasn’t happened so we will have to resort to doing it ourselves.
Spring tree felling at Holylee
We’ve got a felling licence for clear-felling part of one of the woods and we’ll hopefully get that done this summer because that wood has become worthless for the birds, so it will be good to get that redone. It’s over 30 years old so there’s some value in the timber which we can then use to replant it and put towards getting some work done in the some of the other woods too. There are some where we need to get some cover on the ground which means there’s some planting to do in those just to keep the habitat fresh and to give the birds and wildlife some cover and somewhere to hide from the raptors.
Improving tracks and using the right machines for the terrain
To help us get about, there are some tracks we are going to cut and some that we are going to improve with the use of a digger. The tracks are there already but there are parts that just aren’t very safe for others to use so we’ll get them improved so that I’m comfortable sending some of the others up there on their own.
Gone are the days when there were lots of keepers on the ground and I spend a lot of my time on my own in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal or radio reception so it’s important to be careful and look after yourself.
We’ve got the machines to help, such as the quad and the argocat, but it helps if you have been brought up with them and you have to have confidence in your kit by knowing where it can go and what it can do.
The game crops need some work, so there are some that need to be ploughed out and redone and others that just need a top but they are a critical part of cover for us and again give somewhere for the birds to hide away in and somewhere for me to feed them into to spread the flushing points for the drives to help ensure that all the pegs are busy.