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…☺️

The Inner Project Manager

roomplanner

Now that the building warrant is in, we need to spend the next few weeks finalising decisions on kitchen, bathroom and flooring options. I started the process earlier this summer, but parked the initial designs when we got consumed with such things as the access road, electrical points and window types, all very essential for the warrant submission.

I didn’t really dare breathe much more on the more cosmetic elements, almost feeling that it was in danger of jinxing things somehow to spend time on this without having all the permissions in place. But on Friday I picked up the phone to the kitchen designer in Scotland, sent him the final room dimensions, and told him that it was time to re-engage.

Lock and load, kitchen designer! I’m back. And with some new ideas!

Poor man….

In some ways the break of six months without fully considering things like tile colours, tap designs and shower fittings has made things easier, and my vision of what we want clearer. I’m more convinced than ever that simple is best, with good quality, natural materials wherever possible. Most of the ideas that I originally hatched six months ago still hold water, but some things have changed, and I’m grateful that we have had that time to alter things.

The inner project manager within me is now itching to list out all the decisions we need to make, create mood boards, check out suppliers, arrange samples, agree visits wherever possible to physically try things out (like the bath), estimate costs, and get on with it…

 

 

Building Warrant Submitted!



At long last, what feels like a major milestone has been achieved – the building warrant pack is complete and has been submitted to the Highland Council for review and approval!

This has been so much more of an effort than we ever imagined.

Every SIP panel, roof tile, larch board, power outlet, plug socket, door material, light switch and window frame has had to be specified, documented and checked.

We’ve had the SAP assessment completed by the Energy Consultant and we’re very pleased with the energy rating for the house. It should be snug and cheap to heat, with an Air Source Heat Pump, underfloor heating and tons of insulation.

We’ve had our challenges with the access road. The gradient of the croft leading up to the building plot is pretty steep, and the engineer has had to wind the road around the plot much more than we’d originally thought to keep the gradient of the road useable and within building regs. That means more road, more excavation and more expense, but it has to be done.

Now we sit back and wait, hoping for a smooth approvals process so that we can finally start looking at the build itself next Spring.

We are creeping forwards! Slowly and painfully, but progress is being made…

 

The Foraged Home

I truly work with the most wonderful people.

Jo read my last blog on insidious consumerism and responded with this brilliant book as inspiration to strengthen my resolve to reuse, recycle and renovate rather than buying new.

A beautiful, stylish, inspirational book. That’s my reading for the next few nights sorted out.

Thank you Jo 🙏

The insidious pull of consumerism

The weeks are flying by.

Gorgeous but expensive floorboards ….

Progress is at last happening with the building warrant submission, and we’ve been busy with power points, drainage, guttering, flooring and window specifications. We are almost there, and with a following wind and a call with the energy consultant we should hopefully be able to submit final warrant drawings in the next week.

I think that the hardest thing about this time is stopping myself going crazy trying to make this home perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

It’s our home.

I need a serious dose of pragmatism and a bit of a reality check at times. This is difficult whilst being constantly bombarded with images of stylish, deceptively simple design, which is usually fiendishly expensive.

Actually, my husband doesn’t suffer with this – it’s just me. I want to reuse, simplify and recycle, but I’m often conflicted because I buy into the aesthetic. I want our environment to be restful, and natural, and beautiful…

Every time I see a gorgeous wood floor (the latest one was wide-board limed Douglas Fir) .. it’s way over budget. I need to keep telling myself that there’s no need to spend that kind of money. What we think is reasonably priced is perfectly fine. It really is.

It’s even worse when it comes to furnishings. For the most part, the furniture that we have is perfectly usable. However, it’s a bit of a mash-up of styles from many previous homes, and the temptation to sell it all and start again with a clean, new, streamlined home is very strong.

This is both unnecessary and potentially financially ruinous, so we’ve been looking at a few key things that we may need to change (sofas, rugs) and are working out how we shed the rest via eBay or charity shops. We can always recycle some of the other things like side tables with a lick of paint. Repeat after me, you do not need that designer birch strip side table. You really don’t …

I don’t want to be part of the consumer bubble replacing perfectly good things for the sake of it. We already have too much stuff.. and it’s key that we resist the constant and insidious pull of commercial consumption.

Scones and silver sands

We took the ferry from Armadale across to Mallaig to check out the local shops. Being so close to the ferry means that Mallaig is actually closer than our closest town on the island as the crow flies, so it was useful to check it out from a supplies perspective.

There is a fabulous bakery and bread shop in Mallaig called the Bakehouse. They bake a great selection of sourdough breads, scones, cakes and other pastries. The local community stores on our southerly part of the island get bread deliveries from them each week. Alongside a great focaccia we sampled what must surely be the best cheese scones on the planet!

Mallaig is also an active fishing port and here you can buy locally landed fresh fish, langoustine and shellfish. Good to know when the cravings come upon us. It’s getting better, but there aren’t as many outlets for locally caught fish on Skye as you’d imagine.

On the way back to the ferry terminal we took a detour along the coast. Not knowing this part of the coastline at all we were astonished to discover that there are glorious white sand beaches all the way along a ten mile stretch or so. Quite stunning.

We were lucky with the weather. Despite enjoying a mostly dry, breezy day whilst we were out, once we turned for home the rain started in earnest as Storm Dorian swept in and clipped the coast. The crossing was very choppy and visibility almost zero with the rain.

We watched the storm lashing Knock Bay from the warmth of our cosy cottage on the hillside, glad to be home and dry. And thinking, not long now 😊…

The Big Blue

When the sun shines, everything changes. The storm front moved across the island and left a freshly washed world of brilliant blue behind it.

This is actually the first picture that we’ve managed to take from the croft whilst the sun is shining!

The big blue. No filters needed.

We spent a happy few more hours on the croft in the sun earlier last week measuring, planning and dreaming.

Perhaps because it’s the only building on the land, we find ourselves always gravitating to the barn.

It’s clear that we will have to build a modern metal shed/barn for our croft equipment and storage, as our very picturesque ruin will need mammoth effort and cost to restore. We won’t have the money or the energy to do anything with it for a good few years.

As things stand at the moment, other priorities such as the house build, deer fencing, the access road and tree planting will have to take immediate precedence.

But that doesn’t stop us sitting with our mugs of tea and cake planning for possibilities.

A coffee shop? A library for our spare books? A bread barn? Spare accommodation for visitors? A studio? In between building warrant discussions for the house we skittle between ideas that we know may never come to reality, but are fun nevertheless.

Endless possibilities.

Everything seems possible whilst the sun is shining.