Woodland crofts - a new twist on an old tradition

A croft is a small agricultural unit, most of which are situated in the ‘crofting counties’ in the north of Scotland being the former counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Ross & Cromarty, Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland, and held subject to the provisions of the Crofting Acts.

A crofter is the person who occupies and works a small landholding known as a croft. A crofter is normally the tenant of the croft, paying rent to the landlord of the croft.

The rent paid by the tenant crofter, except in fairly rare circumstances, is only for the bare land of the croft, for the house and agricultural buildings, roads and fences on the croft are provided by the crofter.

A crofter with a woodland croft will have to meet the terms of their lease, the provisions of the Crofting Acts and obligations imposed by the local forest plan. Broadly these obligations mean that the crofter has to work the land, live on or near the croft and replant any woodland that has been felled.  In exchange the crofter has security, they have a long term lease on the land that can only be terminate if they fail to meet the terms of the lease and other obligations. The leases that have been issued by KCFC mean the crofters are not able to sell the lease on and can only pass it on to immediate family members. This ensures the land remains in the hands of the local community.

Woodlands managed this way has the potential to produce many more resources and of higher quality. The health of the woodland can be monitored more thoroughly, allowing less intensive intervention, resulting in an overall healthier local environment.

Crofts will increase the diversity of the local economy by producing many different types of resources. Woodland types could take common forms like orchards, coppice or standards, though they can also utilise more specialised forms like agro-forestry and continuous cover forestry. Limited percentages of woodland crofts are permitted to be kept clear for other crofting operations, allowing the development of garden centres, tree nurseries and market gardening.

In the first phase we have assigned three crofts to tenants and are currently in the second phase where we are in the process of created a second wave of crofts. Anyone interested in taking on a crofting tenancy at KCFC should get in touch.