More trees please

So Friday was a big day for us at Lynbreck….

Whenever we bought the croft, we made the decision that any ‘intervention’ relating to the land would always be made with the best interests of the environment as a whole at the very core – this includes everything from what we plant, to what animals we graze and how our actions affect what already lives here. To some this may sound lovely, to others idealistic, and to many naïve but to us it is an area where we won’t compromise. No good for the environment, no go.

We feel a huge responsibility living here and having this massive space under our guardianship. We get one chance to do this right and so we need to make sure we do it all with our eyes and ears open. But it was clear from day one what our first project would be – planting trees.

Old tree

We’d like to plant these of the future. Old trees! A lovely big old Birch in one of our woods

 

Everyone knows that we haven’t got much native woodland left across the UK. Scotland is no different, and indeed the Cairngorms National Park, whilst in some areas isn’t doing too bad, could definitely do with some more. As we’re a croft, we’re lucky enough to have access to a superb service offered by the Woodland Trust. They provide free advice and support to crofters who want to plant trees on their land. Our local contact was Lead Project Officer Willie Beattie and he’s been a key player in getting us to this stage. We’ve also had some great input from the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB.

View from side

This wee hillside is what we’d like to see covered in trees

 

So on Friday we got the go ahead from our local Forestry Commission Woodland Officer (another great chap) that he was happy for us to submit our Woodland Creation application to fund the planting of 17,000 trees (ish…) on our western hillside. We plan to plant a native broadleaf mix (Birch, Oak, Rowan, Aspen, Hazel to name but a few) ourselves. All the planting spots for the trees will be chosen and prepared by us before we then plant them. We don’t know for sure when we will find out if we’ll get the funding but it’s going up the chain so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

View from top

Luckily we’re not starting completely from scratch. There’s some natural Scots Pine regeneration on the slope

 

Think we’re mad? Many do, but many don’t. We think it’s so exciting. And really it’s just the beginning of our tree and woodland plans. Definitely more to follow on this one…..

This crofting life

We’ve just come back to the croft after a weekend with old friends and new acquaintances. We spent a lot of time chatting with folk, sharing where we live and what we do. It was really interesting to hear people’s reactions and watch how excited they are that we are ‘living the dream’.

Here’s the thing though. It is living our dream, or the dream (however you want to put it). This notion of the good life, living off the land, striving for self-sufficiency, treading lightly on the land, being ‘eco’ with an ‘eco-business’, being our own bosses etc. They’re all key ingredients of the life we ultimately want to lead (and the point we want to make, but that’s for another day). One where we, and all who come here, live and work in harmony with the environment, but one that will fit 21st century demands. That is, we love trees and plan to plant a lot (and maybe hug the odd one or two) BUT money doesn’t grow on them.

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One of our Rowan’s flowering – you can’t put a value on the wonder of nature but you can’t always eat it either…

 

Because the good life is a hard life. It’s long days, it’s hard physical work, it’s hours scratching heads over grant applications, it’s writing management plans, it’s coming up with business opportunities, it’s crunching numbers on spreadsheets, it’s working in the rain or with the occasional hungry highland midge for company, it’s learning about building websites, it’s asking for advice, it’s digesting that advice, it’s making lists, it’s surviving……. So that’s why moral support from friends, family and the rest right now, (and in the future), is key for us.

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Our veg beds. A fair bit of work went into these and that’s just the start of it

 

But this hard life is still most definitely the good life. It’s got all the elements: the chickens are laying, the veg is starting to poke above the soil, the wood burner (and wood pile) are in and the environmental and business ideas are starting to grow from the acorns in our minds. These acorns are being watered every day by us, by new people we meet and by the army of support from our friends and family further away.

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These wee ladies have started to deliver fresh eggs for breakfast

We have a bit of a journey ahead. One where we plan to take you all along with us…..

Introducing Lynbreck Croft

Well, it’s happened. We’ve arrived in the Scottish Highlands where we finally plan to put down roots (figuratively and literally).

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Introducing our home – Lynbreck Croft

Lynbreck is spectacularly situated at the foot of the Cairngorm mountains in the Cairngorms National Park. The land is made up of a lovely mix of heather hills with regenerating Scots Pine woodland, rough pasture and a peatbog (it doesn’t get more Scottish than that…). Flora and fauna seem to be abundant and a walk without a pair of binoculars is a big mistake.

And it’s a croft! Many people outside Scotland won’t know exactly what that is and to be honest, we weren’t entirely sure either but this sums it up nicely…

“A croft is a relatively small agricultural land holding which is unique to Scotland and is an integral part of life in the Highlands and Islands. There are specific legislative duties which crofters must comply with (to cultivate and maintain their croft or to put it to another purposeful use, for example). There are currently just over 15’000 individual crofters.” (Plus 2 more counting us)

In the 3 months that we’ve been here we’ve had snow, rain, a bit more snow, sun, sun, sun and more sun.

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Snowfall in April

We’ve met the neighbours (near and far), bagged a couple of Cairngorm munros, wandered through miles of Abernethy Forest, dug a few veg beds, took on a handful of chickens, installed the wood burner (and associated wood) and begun to plan for the future.

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Woodpile outside the byre

It is a dream come true and we’re now trying to balance a long list of jobs to do with long lists of ideas and the never ending distraction of admiring the views.  However we do have a vision for Lynbreck Croft and have already started laying the first stepping stones to help take us there.

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Spring and summer (they come together up here) have arrived

We’re hoping this blog will help to keep friends and family up to date with all the news from the croft, as well as introduce new acquaintances to our wee haven. But just as importantly it will serve us as a digital diary to help jog our burdened memories in years to come!