Mersehead gets honour Work commended in RSPB awards
A project at a nature reserve has been praised at the RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards.
Fifty years of farming and conservation at Mersehead, Southwick, was highly commended in the food and farming section of the awards, cosponsored by Scottish Natural Heritage.
The awards aim to celebrate the passionate and dedicated people fighting to save Scotland’s wildlife and its unique and special places.
The RSPB acquired Mersehead Farm in 1994 and retained Eric Neilson, who had worked there since 1968, as farm manager. He quickly put his intimate knowledge of the site to good use for conservation management, transforming the site from an arable farm to a magnificent wetland.
Former water courses have been restored, reedbeds, wet grasslands and pool systems established and plantations and scrub encroachment have been removed. Eric’s skilled use of the 3600 tracked digger and tractors has produced ideal conditions for a variety of wildlife.
The site sometimes has more than 110 pairs of breeding wading birds, more than 300 natterjack toads and more than 10,000 wintering barnacle geese.
Eric retained a small area of wildlifefriendly arable rotation on the sandier soils and this provides winter food for thousands of farmland birds, as well as cereals and hay.
The wildlife spectacle on the coastal floodplain also draws visitors from near and far who can enjoy the many walks, the hides and visitor centre.
Almost none of this would have been achieved without Eric and his trusty digger, his agricultural knowledge, skills and dedication, all of which he has been keen to pass on as he mentors the team at Mersehead.
RSPB Scotland area manager Andrew Bielinski said: “Eric has been a brilliant ambassador and demonstrator of how wildlife and conservation can go hand in hand. His work at Mersehead has transformed a mixed arable and dairy farm into a wonderful wetland to the benefit of a huge array of wildlife. The many staff and volunteers over the years have all gained from his knowledge and we are delighted that, in his retirement, he will continue as a volunteer and keep an eye on all of us.”
Skills Eric Neilson in his trusty tractor at Mersehead