Western Isles Croft Woodland project passes the 100,000 tree mark

The Croft Woodland project passed its target of planting 100,000 trees in five years.

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More than 100,000 treees have been planted in The Croft Woodland project in the Western Isles.

Set up by community wind farm Point and Sandwick Trust as one of its legacy projects, the initiative has been able to continue despite the wind farm’s sudden loss of income in October, due to the break in the subsea power cable, thanks to additional emergency support from project partners Woodland Trust and Scottish Forestry.

Woodland Trust agreed to fund the project for a year, until Point and Sandwick Trust got back on its feet, and Scottish Forestry recently committed £30,000 to further secure it.

These two significant commitments meant the project has been able to continue throughout this planting season, with the project passing its target of planting 100,000 trees in five years.

The project, set up in 2016, would have passed this milestone in 2019/20 but the Covid pandemic meant a number of people decided to put their plans on hold. But 42,915 will have been planted this season, taking the total number planted under the project so far to 134,340.

Former Western Isles MP Calum MacDonald, who piloted the first Crofter Forestry Act through Parliament in the 1990s, said: ‘To break through 100,000 is fantastic and to power on to more than 130,000 native trees planted is a great tribute to the work of Viv Halcrow, our forestry officer, as well as all the individual crofters and their families who have done the hard graft of planting trees on their crofts.

‘This will be one of our most important legacy projects. Croft by croft, village by village, island by island, year by year, this will enhance the landscape and wildlife of the Outer Hebrides for the better. It will green the townships, increase biodiversity and provide beautiful wood, berries and birdlife for future generations.’

One couple who appreciated the support of the project are Mary Ann and John Joe MacIntyre, who planted 1,685 trees on their croft in Loch Eynort, South Uist.

Mary Ann said: ‘I’d never planted a tree in my life. I’ve done gardening but I’m a ‘plant it and hope for the best’ kind of gardener. This is new to us. Everything is a learning curve just now, but it will get there.’

As well as the financial support from Woodland Trust and Scottish Forestry to keep the project running, money for many of the trees came from Lloyds Banking Group this year, through its funding of the MOREwoods planting schemes and community tree packs.

That means the project is secure for 18 months, by which time the cable crisis should be resolved and the community wind farm be generating money for good causes once again.