Managing Small Woodlands in the Highlands and Islands

The Scottish Crofting Federation has recently published this useful little tome, packed with goodies about planting and managing woodland on the croft.

Husband and I have just spent a happy hour or so debating the wisdom of tree shelters vs. spiral tree guards for the protection of newly planted whips and young trees. A lot will depend upon the strength of the wind on the slope, which we won’t really be able to assess until we’ve lived there through a year or so of seasons.

We are travelling up to the island next month and are hoping to be able to walk the land with a representative from the local Woodland Trust, who will be able to assess the site and recommend viable tree varieties. It would be good to start the tree planning even if the trees can’t go in for a further year. And of course, the whole croft will need to be deer fenced before anything much can be planted.

We’re thinking of planting willow to help drain the boggy bottom of the croft, which can apparently act as a pioneer tree and help preparation for other species, along with birch, alder, elm, rowan, hazel, sycamore, sessile oak, bird cherry and others elsewhere. But of course we’ll take advice.

Husband is a just wee bit excited to read that Walnut and Sweet Chestnut are now considered viable species in this part of the world. Being Nut Boy, anything nut-related is worth a try in his eyes!

Fallen trees and a soggy bottom

It’s been a bizarely warm, cloudy day today on Skye, but we’re here! We spent the afternoon taking soil samples and exploring the croft with planting plans in mind, and it was so mild that we left our waterproofs hanging on a fence. Not at all like February.

On the western boundary of the croft is a grove of trees, providing a welcome shelter belt. At some point in the past an enormous fir tree was felled, and the trunk, denuded over time of it’s branches, still lies there.

We explored the bottom of the croft more thoroughly, a rough, overgrown area that borders the high moorland and common grazings at the back of where the house will be built.

We knew that there was a burn on the western boundary of the croft, running between us and our neighbour, but what we didn’t know was that there was a small tributary stream that runs through our land which joins the main burn, hidden in a low dip to the north.

It’s quite magical. The trees overhang the cut that the stream has carved for itself out of the bank. Everything is green, mossy and lichen-covered. Today the only sound was the gurgling of the stream, the occasional bleat of sheep and the song of the birds.

Our very own soggy bottom.