New croft woodland project launches

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Crofters in all parts of the Western Isles will be offered free help and support for creating and managing woodland .

The new project is being sponsored by the Point and Sandwick Trust, working partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland, the Woodland Trust and the Scottish Crofting Federation.

The Croft Woodlands Project aims to help create 100 hectares of new woodland on croft land by 2020.

Point and Sandwick Trust is supporting the project by funding a Croft Woodlands officer for the Woodland Trust, Viv Halcrow, who will be based in the Trust office at Knock.

Point and Sandwick Trust is the charitable arm of Point and Sandwick Power, the company behind the community-owned Beinn Ghrideag wind farm.

The Trust, which expects to make £500,000 a year profits from its three-turbine wind farm, has pledged to use every penny for good in the community.

The Croft Woodlands project will run throughout the Western Isles and launched at an event this week attended by senior Forestry Commission figures.

Angus McCormack, chair of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “In our community consultation in 2013, establishing woodlands to improve village amenity and the crofting environment was high on local people’s agenda, and so PST is happy to host and support Viv’s new post.

“Although Viv will be based in our office in the community shop in Knock, she will be available to offer support to crofters throughout the Western Isles which is very much in keeping with the philosophy and values of the Point and Sandwick Trust.”

North of Scotland Officer John Risby said: “Forestry Commission Scotland is delighted to see the community taking the initiative to provide support to crofters and we fully support the partnership.

“Under the Forestry Grant Scheme, higher rates of grants are available for applicants aiming to create new woodland on the Western Isles and this will build on the 95 applications received since the Western Isles Woodland Strategy was created by the council in 2003.”

Croft Woodlands Project Officer Viv Halcrow said: “Trees and woodlands give multiple benefits for individual crofters and for villages when the right trees are planted in the right place - including shelter for livestock, crops, and buildings, sustainable sources of firewood, increased variety in the landscape, shelter and food for wild birds, local amenity and opportunities to involve schoolchildren in a range of educational projects.”

She added: “We can assist the establishment of woodland on both common grazings and in-bye land.

“I am happy to visit interested crofters and grazings committees to discuss options, and to provide information including a site report, a map and an outline of budget and cash-flow. I can also help with funding and grant applications.”

Pictured is the Croft Woodlands Project Officer Viv Halcrow.