The Knoydart community (around 115 people), through the Knoydart Foundation, are custodians of 7,000 hectares of land, that’s roughly 0.1% of Scotland. The community is keenly aware of the responsibility it has to look after the land to maximise the potential of that land and assets to bring environmental, social and economic benefits to the local and wider community.
Since 1999 the Knoydart Forest Trust (KFT) has been working to regenerate the woodland on Knoydart through community land ownership and management, and working with other landowners on the peninsula via its trading subsidiary, Wood Knoydart. The shared long-term vision is to link woodland habitats across the peninsula from Loch Nevis to Loch Hourn, creating stepping stones for plants and wildlife to support biodiversity, the resilience of the habitat and address climate change crisis, as well as provide many other social and economic benefits.
The past year has seen significant progress in realising this vision with 64 hectares of new woodland created on community owned land and over 80 hectares on privately owned land plus restock planting – a total of 152,000 trees planted.
Planting this number of trees as a tiny organisation with a core of 4 employees, on a remote peninsula with boat only access, over the dark, wet & windy winter on the north west coast of Scotland on some very rough terrain has not been without its challenges but with the help of a hardy bunch of folk it all came together.
Finding enough people to plant the trees and who are willing and able to cope with the challenges of remote tree planting in an already remote location and finding a way to house them is one of the biggest hurdles. Like many rural communities the shortage of available affordable accommodation is an ongoing issue and can really impact on what can be achieved.
The work at one of the sites, Ben’s Wood at Croulin, the challenge was heightened by its very remote (even by Knoydart standards) location. The planning and logistics for the planting was taken to another level (and the hardiness of the tree planters!) due to the location and it not being feasible to travel daily to the site. All the trees, the digger for mounding, food, firewood, bell tents, a big ex-army tent, a wee woodburning stove, tables, chairs, pots, plates etc, were transported round to Croulin on the Spanish John, a local landing craft, with the tree planting squad. The planting team setup camp and worked for 10day stints, returning to Inverie for long weekends by walking for an hour and a half to the nearest road and getting picked up. The generous hospitality of the owners of the only house at Croulin was very much appreciated and helped to make things a good bit easier. The result – job done - 37,000 trees planted by the local team of planters supplemented by a few extras that were drafted in from around the country.
What’s next? The rest of the planting, 60,000 trees, at Ben’s Wood is due to kick off in September and fencing work on a new 58hectare woodland on community land will start in the autumn with planting planned for the start of 2023. There’s also work for a neighbouring landowner to establish a big area of new woodland. So, the search for tree planters and accommodation resumes. If you or anyone you know is an experienced tree planter and would be interested in helping Knoydart Forest Trust to restore the woodland habitat on Knoydart please do get in touch for a chat.
(Main photo: Danny & Trisha celebrating planting the last tree of the season at Ben's Wood (photo credit: Trisha Birch))