We are trying to turn a bare piece of overgrazed scrub land on the West Coast of Scotland into a productive forest garden.
About the project
Eighteen months ago, my husband, son and I moved up to the tiny crofting community of Badrallach in the northwest Highlands of Scotland. We took on a newly created croft (smallholding) with the idea of transforming the unproductive swampy land, that has been overgrazed by sheep and deer, into a forest garden. We intend to sell our fresh produce at the local market in Ullapool and market less perishable goods such as marinated artichokes and craft items like blackthorn walking sticks via the internet.
We believe that by using permaculture methods, we can turn our rush and bracken covered croft into a beautiful, wild and productive place from which we can provide quality organic produce. We plan to link with local Care Farming initiatives that provide opportunities for vulnerable people to come and experience the benefits of working on the land in the great outdoors, learning new skills in a supportive and caring environment. Badrallach is situated in a stunning and inspirational landscape. Standing up on the croft, staring across Little Loch Broom to the majesty of Sail Mhor and An Teallach. You cannot help but feel close to the land and the people who have scraped a living here for centuries. We want to inspire other people to learn the skills to provide for themselves through the fruits of their own labour.
Since we arrived in Badrallach, we have been learning how to negotiate the vastly complicated crofting grant system which offers to provide 50% grants on certain improvements to croft land in order to make it more productive. We have a very small budget to get our project up and running and do need the grants to put in place all the infrastructure required to make our dream a reality.
The initial requirement to get our project up and running is for a deer fence to enclose the whole two acres so that we can begin planting our forest garden. We have applied for a grant from the Scottish Government but, after several months of waiting for a reply, we discovered that Brussels had not yet agreed the Common Agricultural Policy Budget for Scotland, so no grant applications were currently being processed and that no-one could tell us if or when they would be able to offer us a grant. This is a tremendous blow to our plans as we are unable to begin any planting as everything will be eaten by the local livestock and deer until we are able to fully enclose the site.We are desperate to begin creating our dream as it will take time to prepare the site and bring it up to a suitable standard so that we can have groups of people visiting us and taking part in our project. If we can successfully raise the money we need to cover half the cost of the 433 metres of deer fencing then we won't need to have the grant at all and can get the deer fence up and start planting this summer.
Forest gardening makes the best use of the land available by placing plants that complement each other in mixed groups around larger trees and shrubs to provide shelter and, as their leaves drop, they provide a natural mulch for the smaller plants. Mixing several different species together makes it much less likely for nutrient imbalances to develop in the soil (as often happens when a single crop is planted in one area) thereby removing the need to use artificial fertilisers. Because permaculture gardening is organic, it also creates a haven for a wide variety of insects, pollinators, reptiles and birds because no insecticides are used that can damage local wildlife and massively reduce the biodiversity of the area.
Thank you for taking the time to read our proposal, we so hope that you can help us to bring our ideas into reality. Any offers of advice or support and very welcome and we'd love people to come and visit us if you're in the area.