A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Crofting Forestry

As it was a pretty dark and very misty morning decided not to go out. Although can be used as an excuse and we can find our gear with ease using GPS plotters the problem arises when you shoot back the creels in a busy area. It is impossible to see the other boats buoys in time so end up being foul on some one else’s gear. I had been putting off renewing some anodes and pressure washing the bottom of the boat so made that today’s job. I had a copper paint put on three years ago so I would not have to use anti fouling every year and this seems to work economically and also as I hate painting especially lying on my back underneath a boat.

On monday I took Dougal and family down to the Toscaig Regeneration scheme on the Ardmor peninsula. This came about in the early 90s as a direct result of a European grant scheme I was involved with. At that time I was developing a scallop farm and included building a shore base and a new boat, taking on a full-time employee, casual labor and lots of debt. There was an environmental follow-up scheme which developed into fencing off 122 hectares of hill croft land with the intention of allowing trees to naturally regenerate. It is a beautiful part of the Applecross landscape but is fairly inaccessible as the ground is rough, a very peaceful place. As a committee we are relatively wealthy but lack the ability to take many decisions so the scheme remains in its basic state.

Love the view looking over the old homestead. My grandfather’s house is the one with the red roof and blue porch. It is great that it is being lived in and not a holiday house, joining 50% of the houses in Applecross. Since moving up the road to the schoolhouse I have always wanted to do something with the croft but economics and time has always stepped in. I am now going to have it ploughed and resown with species rich grasslands. A return to the meadows of old. Even in the early 80s they still existed but as the crofting population has got older the grazing rules relaxed and sheep destroyed the old hay meadows. To the south the view out Loch Toscaig is spectacular.

The little lochan has shrunk to half its size due to the spell of prolonged dry weather. Although the dogs put up a very healthy hind there does not appear to be too much damage to the regeneration. There are areas that are bursting with young birch and there are rowan and oak appearing as well. Over to the west it was another still day on the Crowlin Sound with a solitary sail boat heading north. Over a hundred years ago my family came over from the southeast of Harris and thought the Crowlins were a step up. They must have come from a material poverty unimaginable now.Eventually they came ashore and settled in Toscaig due to the generosity of the people at the time. As I remember this it is something I try to put in practice when people ,especially young , try to live in Applecross. It appears wrong that it is such a struggle for people to establish themselves here. There is only 65,000 acres to choose from , I suppose. Back in Harris things are now looking up with the North Harris Trust and also on the west side with the south looking to join in. School roles are growing and population demography is getting younger, houses are being built, not as investments but as homes. The investment is in the people.

One of the obligations for the Toscaig crofters is to keep the fence in good order,a job that Dougal does not find onerous although on monday he did think it a little muggy. He does appear to have a big tongue.

Back home after a couple of hours where as you have been out on the hill your senses are sharpened and I noticed the orange blossom tree was in full display. They do not last very long but when out they look and smell wonderful.

Comments on: "Crofting Forestry" (6)

  1. That’s a smashing picture of Toscaig and it looks as if the croft inbye is actually used which is rare these days. I remember sailing to Toscaig on the ferry from Kyle back in the early 70s. My recollection is that Loch Toscaig is very deep hence not very suitable for us yotties to anchor in, Poll Domhainn (sp?) being preferable although is PD not gaelic for “deep pool”?

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      The major change in crofting recently is the hill ground is not being used so much as sheep disappear and people are growing a lot more veg and fruit. Its almost becoming allotment style and access to a house site is important too as access to land here is so restricted. Poll Creadh is good as well. That is the main fishing mooring and there is usually a mooring spare. Toscaig is not too bad either of the pier or Camus na Ba but it slopes away quickly so if there is any drag to the south then you are quickly in deeper water.

  2. Also, just to comment on your point about the availability of housing, I always think the way to bring price down is to increase supply and that is within the gift of the planners. I sometimes think estates get an unfairly bad press for not releasing house sites when in fact they would if they could get planning. House sites are very often more likely to be on crofts than estates as well.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Housing is a huge problem and access to land is the main issue. Although there are different problems on different estates there is growing evidence that the Community owned lands are doing better in solving this problem. Maybe the crofters on these estates have realised that something has to be done and are more farsighted than those in the more moribund estates. I do agree with you in that crofters have to look to themselves if they either block sustainable development or sell out at the highest price. Either way they are just as culpable as negative and/or absentee landlords.

  3. Hello Ali, I’ve met your great son in Cologne and I took some photos of him, which you may find at my blog.
    I’d like to send an email to you, but couldn’t find any opportunity.
    Would you be so kind to let me know?
    I’ve put this Applecross-wedding-photography offer on my blog 🙂
    and I’m quite curious what willhappen

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Great photos of Ruariadh and you must have a big following as my little blog is getting hundreds of hits from germany. Going by your photos I am not surprised.Good luck with your Applecross wedding. I will forward to the Applecross Inn. You never know.

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