Heriot farmer Jim wins award for keeping flooding at bay

Jim Sinclair being given the 2017 Tweed Forum river champion award by Tweed Forum chairman James Hepburne Scott.
Jim Sinclair being given the 2017 Tweed Forum river champion award by Tweed Forum chairman James Hepburne Scott.

He might not be able to part the Red Sea in the manner of Moses or hold back the tide as the 11th century English, Norwegian and Danish king Cnut is credited with having tried, but farmer Jim Sinclair has got a track record of keeping flooding at bay in his corner of the Borders.

And that success at keeping the Gala Water in check has now won the 67-year-old, a tenant farmer near Heriot, a prize.

Jim has been named as this year’s 2017 Tweed Forum river champion in recognition of his efforts to integrate farming, forestry and conservation and for his enthusiasm for land and water management education.

Together with son Graeme, 47, Jim manages a 2,000-strong flock of sheep and 70 suckler cows at Crookston Farm on the Armet Water, a tributary of the Gala Water.

Nearby Stow and Galashiels have been hit by floods in recent years, but Jim has been doing his bit to avert that by using natural flood management techniques to slow the flow of surface water from the catchment above them to cut the risk of flooding downstream after heavy rainfall.

With the blessing of landowner Lord John Borthwick, Jim has planted more than 52 hectares of native woodland on the flood plain and hill-slopes of the Gala Water to reduce water run-off rates.

Four ponds have been created and 2,200m of fencing put up at the 815-hectare farm, with the resulting mix of wetlands and woodlands also providing an ideal habitat for wildlife species including otter, brown trout, lamprey, reed bunting and the great crested newt.

That work also safeguards streams vital for maintaining the region’s salmon population, a resource worth £24m a year to the Borders economy and supporting more than 500 jobs.

Jim is an enthusiastic ambassador for taking an integrated approach to managing the river catchment, and Crookston Farm has become a demonstration site welcoming visits from fellow farmers, students and land and water managers from as far away as Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy.

Jim, a tenant at Crookston Farm since 2000, said; “I’m surprised and delighted to be receiving this award.

“As a farming business, we’re always looking at ways to do things better, and we know that the work we’ve undertaken has benefited both our livestock management and the farm environment, as well as helping to reduce potentially damaging flood waters further downstream.

“We recognise that this is just one small element in the management of the river catchment, but we’re proud of the work we’ve done and hope it encourages others to think about how they can better manage the land and waterways in and around the Tweed for current and future generations.”

After presenting Jim with a glass trophy made by Edinburgh artist Jane Raven, Tweed Forum chairman James Hepburne Scott said; “Jim has made a truly outstanding contribution to flood prevention and biodiversity initiatives, and his commitment to helping to educate others about this work has also been exemplary.”

“The protection and conservation of the Tweed and the area surrounding it relies on the dedication and foresight of a host of people and organisations, and we’d like to thank Jim and others like him who work so hard for all our benefit.”

This is the second year the river champion award has been handed out, last year’s inaugural winner being Frank Turnbull, of Coldstream.

Funding for work carried out at Crookston Farm was provided by the Scottish Rural Development Programme and wind farm mitigation money through Scottish Borders Council.