Focussing on his long experience of conservation work there, Roy, described a management system for stock grazing that allowed an exceptional abundance of wildflowers to develop.
The Loft and Hill of White Hamars Grazing Project is described in more detailhere and here.
Roy and his colleagues have demonstrated that if the grassland is kept stock-free in the spring and early summer but grazed in the autumn and winter, an exceptional abundance and diversity of wildflowers quickly develops. Without this deliberate grazing management, such biodiversity is only found of the steep cliff edges, inaccessible to cattle and too windy for scrub growth.
With the help of EU funding that promotes wildlife conservation, farmers were successfully encouraged to adjust their grazing and hay-making regimes so that significant areas were transformed into flower rich grassland, maritime heathland and wetlands.
One of the particular rarities that Roy told us about is the Scottish Primrose, Primula scotica. Endemic to Caithness and the Orkneys, this little flower has increased in abundance from a few hundred to several thousand over a ten year period of restricting the early grazing.
Roy left us with the clear message that if farming were to work constructively with conservation objectives, a landscape of diversity and abundance could once again become commonplace rather than a rarity.