Tree Planting Plans

When we first saw the land, a number of pieces of life’s puzzle slipped neatly into place. The croft was steep and unsuitable for agriculture, but it would be perfect for trees.

Hugh and I both love trees and believe that there is a strong need to plant them, both to increase the biodiversity of the land but also to offset the effects of climate change with carbon capture in whatever way that we could.

We started to look into Woodland Croft creation. Despite the northern latitude, strong winds and exposed coastal location, many types of tree are naturalised and grow well on the island.

Sleat is the least exposed part of the island, a peninsula turning its face towards the mainland on the south side of Skye. As such, lying nestled between the Cuillins to the North West and the Knoydart hills to the South East, it’s at least partly sheltered from the full force of the Atlantic.

Although Skye is almost barren of trees, being famous for huge expanses of high moorland and mountain, Sleat has more trees than the rest of the island. We are lucky, and the more we looked into it, the more we felt that a diverse planting would be completely viable.

The Woodland Trust offer advice and help with tree planting, but due to the recent rise in interest in this area, they are completely overloaded. There are long lead times to even get to see them to discuss plans. They’ve handed over some of their work to the Scottish Forestry Commission, who have been in touch at last and who will be assessing the croft land for tree planting viability next week. We can’t wait for the report.

We expect the recommended species to be a mix of trees such as rowan, alder, blackthorn, grey willow, downy and silver birch, sessile oak, scots pine, hazel, wych elm, holly and aspen.

We want to supplement these plantings with wild, edible hedges filled with crab apple, blackberries and hawthorn, and an area of sheltered orchard with hazelnuts, apples, cherries and pears.

As soon as we have the Forestry Commission report we can discuss deer protection and build a planting plan for the land. Even though we know that the first trees probably won’t go in for at least another year, it still feels like a milestone in the journey!

The relative slowness of this process is frustrating, but in a way it’s also contemplative, allowing time for our initial thoughts to be challenged and supplemented with local wisdom. We’re watching other local crofts start this, and learning what works and what doesn’t.

Don’t get me going on the merits of spiral guards, staking, vole protection and windbreaks now…☺️

Of sick dogs and cancelled flights

We’ve been waiting impatiently for the opportunity to get back up to Skye for the last three months now.

Work schedules, family commitments, and the time it took to complete the croft purchase all conspired to stretch that time out to what seemed like an agonisingly long wait.

But eventually the week of the flight to Inverness approached and we started packing our bags and finalising the visit arrangements. And then disaster struck.

In the week before we were due to leave, our lovely old spaniel got sick. Up several times a night, my husband slept downstairs on the sofa with him so that he would be close in case anything happened. Bertie was listless and weak, had continual diarrhoea which his medication didn’t seem to be helping, and we were terrified that his time had come.

We cancelled the flight and the accommodation. We cancelled the dog sitter. We couldn’t leave him.

Exhausted from several nights of worry and scant sleep, we despaired of when we would get the chance to make the trip again, feeling both frustrated and guilty at voicing our feelings at a situation that was of no-one’s making.

Last night he turned the corner. He brightened. He started to eat again. We breathed again and watched in delight as he gained in energy. We dared to wonder whether we could get him comfortable enough over the weekend to squeeze a short few days in on the island out of the original week that we had planned.

The bags are still there, still packed on the bedroom floor, awaiting the outcome of the next few days.

As we approach Hogmanay

As we approach the turn of the year, and Hogmanay especially, it’s time to look forward in anticipation of the new year to come.

Tomorrow is a double day of reckoning for me – it was my fathers birthday as well as being New Years Eve. He was a Scot, and died some years ago, but is always in my thoughts on this day.

I like to think that although he chose to spend his retirement on the South Coast of England that he’d be secretly chuffed that I was returning to Scotland for mine. He is much of the reason that I have always felt a love for Scotland, bringing my brother and I up in familiarity with all the things that represented Scotland to him in terms of Stovies, white pudding, Lorne sausage, butteries, porridge, Edinburgh, the total superiority of the Scottish race and.. well, you get the picture. 😊

Here’s to planning approval and the start of the Croft build next year. Thank you for joining us!

Hoping that you all also have a wonderful 2019.