Landscape and Environment


There are several changing practices of farming and land use that are leading to long-term changes to the landscape and our environment. Many of these activities are driven by public grants or funding but are taking place without the opportunity for community consultation. A recent development is the acquisition of agricultural land for tree planting, driven by the availability of funding for carbon offsetting but with minimal requirement for maintaining or improving biodiversity. Some farms are moving to more intensive practices, replacing species-rich meadows with single-species silage grasses. These comments are focused on the Borgue area but they also apply to much wider areas of Dumfries & Galloway and the rest of the country.

Tree Planting

Landscape and Biodiversity

The character of the Borgue landscape is being changed by some current agricultural practices. The Borgue peninsula is part of the Solway Coast Regional Scenic Area and its characteristic land form is ‘Gorsey Knolls’, as described in the Regional Scenic Areas technical paper referenced below. These are the rocky outcrops with gorse, blackthorn and hawthorn trees that provide shelter for cattle, sheep birds and wild animals as well as food for birds and other wildlife.

  • Biodiverse meadows are being replaced with monoculture silage grass which is often treated with insecticides, weed killer and chemical fertilisers.
Biodiverse meadow at Castle Haven with daisy, buttercup, clover and other native plants
  • The characteristic rocky outcrops (gorsey knolls) are being removed to increase land value and create smooth fields that make it easier to grow and harvest silage. These activities were taking place in 2022 and 2023 near High Chapelton, Cairniehill and Ingleston.
January 2023
Rocky knoll removal and field smoothing near High Chapelton, January 2023
  • Field boundaries and hedgerows are being removed to create bigger fields
10th May 2022 – Removal of hedges and field boundary near Kirkandrews. The hedge line above and to the right has also now been removed.
  • All of the above are leading to loss of biodiversity. Single-species silage grass does not support a diverse insect population. This in turn removes food sources for birds, bats and other mammals.
  • The removal of rocky knolls and field boundaries destroys habitats that support a variety of mammals and bird nesting and feeding sites.

Water Quality

  • The Borgue area waterways and shoreline are currently showing high levels of pollution from both agricultural and human sources. This needs to be actively monitored and improved. SEPA have engaged with farmers to separate farm animals and field treatments from water courses, and with households around the Dhoon Bay area to upgrade septic tanks but many old properties in the Borgue area still discharge minimally treated sewage into local waterways.
  • There are many holiday rental cottages in the area that have outdated septic tank systems. These are often used by visitors who do not understand how to properly use these systems and leads to unwanted items and chemicals being released into our watercourses and coastal waters.
  • The bathing water quality at the Dhoon, Brighouse Bay and Carrick has been declining for the last 10 years and the Dhoon is in danger of being removed from the list of bathing beaches.
  • 5 out of 85 monitored beaches in Scotland are rated as poor and 3 of the 5 are in Dumfries & Galloway. Two are in the Borgue area.
  • Many of our watercourses, including the Pulwhirrin Burn, Stramoddie Strand and Plunton Burn, are used to provide cattle with drinking water and receive direct deposits of cattle effluent which impacts the river environment and drains into our coastal waters.

Local Examples

Some farmers in the Borgue area have been moving towards more environmentally friendly methods of farming, while others are moving away from traditional methods to more intensive systems. Click here to see photographs of some of the landscape changes.

  • Rainton farm has spent the last 20+ years in changing to a more ‘regenerative’ form of farming leading to improved biodiversity, improved pasture quality and better animal welfare while being economically competitive. You can read about their journey to creating the Ethical Dairy and the visitor attractions at Cream o’ Galloway
  • Littleton farm runs an intensive dairy system with indoor cows fed by silage collection from the surrounding fields but they also claim environmental credentials due to their use of biodigesters, wind turbines, solar panels, heat pumps, tree planting, maintaining hedgerows and leaving ‘wild’ field margins.
  • Rattra dairy farm has recently transitioned from traditional outdoor grazing to a more intensive system, keeping the cows indoors and transforming the outdoor, biodiverse meadows into smoothed-out monoculture silage production.
  • Ingleston Farm has been flattening fields, removing hedgerows and field boundaries and removing some sections of dry stone dykes.
  • Several farms have moved to a more diversified business model, converting parts of their land and buildings into tourist facilities. This started in the Borgue area in the 1970s with the creation of a holiday park at at Brighouse Bay. More recently Balmangan farm has created Solway View camp site and Ross farm has converted former farm buildings into holiday rental properties.
  • The land around Culraven and High Nunton is the subject of a planning application for a 30MW solar photovoltaic installation that will occupy around 48 hectares. The plans for the solar farm include areas of woodland and preservation/restoration of existing biodiverse wetland areas.
  • Mill of Plunton farm has recently been acquired by Future Forest Company, an organisation that plants woodland for carbon offsetting on 230 acres (90 hectares) of land that was previously used for sheep and cattle grazing. You can view the proposal for their woodland planting here.
  • There are proposals for a commercial forestry development at Upper Senwick farm, on 300 acres of land that was formerly used for sheep and cattle grazing. This is still at the pre-planning consultation phase.

How To Change Things?

Farming is a difficult business and farmers will do what they need to do to make a living. Their actions are however strongly influenced by government payment schemes and the availability of tax reliefs and/or grants for specific activities such as ‘land improvement’ or tree planting. We don’t want to be criticising the actions of specific farmers but, as the EU basic payment scheme is replaced by other payments, we should be lobbying to encourage the adoption of farming subsidies and grants that enable farmers to prosper but also help to preserve and improve the quality of our landscape and environment. The Scottish Government has published a vision for the future of farming in Scotland and is encouraging the transition over the next few years to more environmentally friendly farming that increases biodiversity and requires fewer chemical inputs.

Farmers and landowners receive payments from public funds for their role as custodians of our environment. Preservation or improvement of our landscape, biodiversity and environment should be in the conditions for receiving these payments and there should be the opportunity for communities to be consulted before major changes to the landscape and the environment are made. Most of this funding may be available at the national level rather than in the local council areas but we feel that local councils and communities should have more oversight and influence into the changing activities of land managers and farmers


Dumfries & Galloway Council Climate Emergency

Dumfries & Galloway Regional Scenic Areas

Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere

Farming For A Better Climate

UK Government Environmental Land Management Schemes

Scottish Government wants to double the amount of organic farming

Scottish Government Vision for Agriculture

Farm Advisory Service – Improving Biodiversity