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The Croft Woodland Project is welcoming a new member of the team to its successful planting initiative across the islands with the appointment of Robin Reid. 

The project, which is a partnership between Point and Sandwick Trust and the Woodland Trust began in 2016 and has been spearheaded by Project Officer Viv Halcrow, planting trees on croft land across the Western Isles.

By the end of April 2022, more than 163,000 native species and hardy trees will have been planted, aided by Viv who offers practical advice, grant applications and ongoing support for islanders interested in the project.

After almost six years of covering the entire Western Isles from her home in Berneray, Viv’s role is being split into a job-share arrangement which will allow her to focus her efforts on planting in Uist and Barra. 

Robin Reid will take over the reins for Lewis and Harris and the pair will work closely together in terms of grant application support for crofters with practical, hands-on advice to those undertaking new planting on their land.  Robin brings a huge amount of experience and local knowledge to the role, having worked in conservation since 2002, as an ecological consultant, a Ranger for the North Harris Trust and locally with the RSPB for a number of years. He is well versed in working with community groups towards improving habitats and the natural environment on Lewis and Harris.   Robin’s significant experience will mean he can hit the ground running and continue the excellent momentum of this project across the Western Isles from his base in the Bays of Harris.

Viv said of the project to date, “I’ve really enjoyed working with crofters to start to restore this missing habitat, so important for wildlife and soil fertility, with all its other benefits for shelter and the landscape. I’ve met lots of interesting people and been inspired by their determination to make this work, in the face of very challenging conditions!”  

That being said, Viv is also looking forward to Robin’s involvement, which will bring new energy, another perspective with local knowledge of the unique situation on the Western Isles and a better work/ life balance with much less need to spend time travelling the length and breadth of the Hebrides.  Despite the impact of lockdown, and a period of furlough, the enquiries into planting trees as a way of diversifying crofts have continued to pour in and the duo are looking forward to a busy planting season ahead. 

Robin Reid lending a hand with Lochs school tree planting December 2021

Robin commented, “There is a growing interest in woodland creation on the islands and I’m excited to be working with crofters, communities and landowners to establish more areas of native woodland. The small areas of remnant native woodland found on crags and on islands in lochs have been an inspiration to me and a reminder that woodland can thrive here and was once much more widespread.”

Iona Hyde of Woodland Trust Scotland said: "The world currently faces a climate crisis and a nature crisis. Creating new native woodlands is one of the most straightforward ways we can fight back on both fronts. As well as managing over 1000 of our own sites across the UK, the Woodland Trust helps other landowners to create new woods too. The Croft Woodland Project is uniquely tailored to the needs of crofters. We are delighted to welcome Robin Reid as our new Croft Woodland Advisor for Lewis & Harris."

Both Robin and Viv will continue to visit interested crofters and grazings committees to discuss options for planting schemes, to provide information including a site report, a map and an outline of budget and cash-flow.  Most recently they have worked together on the Trees for Primary Schools planting project which is supported by Point and Sandwick Trust and the Rotary Club of Stornoway. 120 children from Primary One in Lewis were helped to plant their own trees on their school grounds during National Tree Week this December.  Looking to the future for Croft Woodland, the project focus will remain on more planting of small, carefully-planned schemes that fit into the crofting landscape without substantially reducing the amount of productive croft land.