A crofter on Shetland is taking advantage of grants from Scottish Forestry to grow trees to revitalise his business.

Andrew Hall, of Burravoe Croft, has successfully received forestry grants on four occasions in past years, contributing to his hard work to diversify his business into a success.

Establishing trees on Shetland is said to be notoriously difficult due to the climate and poor soil, but Mr Hall is busting this myth.

He has just received approval for more funding from Scottish Forestry which will help him plant another 2,500 trees. All the paperwork for the planting was carried out himself and it took only seven weeks for his proposals to be approved and funded.

Recognising the challenges of establishing trees in places similar to Shetland, Scottish Forestry introduced its highest grant rate specifically for the Northern and Western Isles.

Through the Croft Woodlands Project, of which Scottish Forestry is a key partner, over 800 site visits have taken place to help crofters discuss woodland creation, and this has led to nearly 100 separate Forestry Grant Scheme applications being submitted.

Mr Hall said: “Diversification is vital for the financial viability of our croft. It has taken a good number of years of very hard work to get where we are today, but it has been worth it.

“In our planning, we factored in tree planting from the start, along with introducing kye and sheep to the croft. The trees have provided shelter belts for the livestock, transformed boggy areas for the better, and allowed us to create a scenic area for glamping pods.

READ MORE: Farmer to grow largest woodland approved by Scottish Forestry this century

“The application process for forestry grants has become so much easier and more user friendly. The less time a crofter has to sit down doing paperwork, the better – that is how it should be.”

When Mr Hall and his wife first bought the croft it was run down and it took them years to renovate the house and outbuildings. In 2005 he received his first forestry grant which funded around 3,000 trees on former silage ground close to the crofthouse.

Since then, he has planted more trees and bushes. He says planting willow and poplar has worked very well, but rowan and hazel struggle with the conditions.

The forestry grants covered many aspects of getting trees planted on the croft, including livestock fencing, gates and annual management grants over a number of years to help get the woodlands established.

Jonathan Hawick, Scottish Forestry’s woodland officer at the Highlands and Islands Conservancy office, said: “If we are to meet our Scottish Government target for woodland expansion, we need everyone to participate. Small woods are just as important as the larger woodland-creation schemes that we help to fund.

“We are very pleased that Andrew is getting the many benefits that tree planting brings. He’s put a lot of hard work into his croft and we are delighted trees are central to his plans.”

Scottish Forestry has recently published a new ‘walk-through’ guide to planting trees which can be found at www.forestry.gov.scot/publications.

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