6 Mar 2023

Shetland gears up for more tree planting

Shetland is famed as having a “treeless” landscape but demand for trees is growing on the islands.

In response to the increased interest in planting, Shetland Amenity Trust’s tree nursery in Lerwick is expanding its production with the help of a £9,500 Scottish Forestry grant.

The increase in interest for trees is thought to be largely down to enthusiasts like crofter Andrew Hall, who has been promoting his success of integrating trees into his crofting business.

There has also been proactive advisory work to support tree planting, backed by attractive forestry grant schemes operated by Scottish Forestry and Woodland Trust Scotland.    

On a recent visit to the Lerwick nursery, Jonathan Hawick of Scottish Forestry heard how tree production there is set to rise from 18,000 to 45,000 thousand by next year.

He said: “We are really pleased to see the growing level of interest in planting trees and this nursery has a crucial role to play in providing suitable, well adapted trees to folk in Shetland.

“The Trust is carrying out excellent work collecting seed, including from Shetland’s few remaining native woods and growing them on.

“If we are to meet our Scottish Government target for woodland expansion, we need everyone to participate, and that includes those in the Northern and Western Isles.

“Crofters here have many challenges and we have a specific funding option available to help them,  which is the highest available in Scotland. With these extra trees from the nursery, and through the support available, we are aiming to help three or four new woods a year through our grant scheme.”

The main interest for tree planting is for livestock shelter and amenity, but also to add to Shetland’s biodiversity. The Shetland Amenity Trust is actively supporting those interested in developing their plans.

The Trust has worked closely with many people over the years to support tree planting, including on Orkney.

It has collected seeds from places such as the steep sided Burn of Valayre in order to plant them out in other woodlands across Shetland. These old sites are remnants of Scotland’s original woodland and part of the Atlantic forest.

Georgia Smith from the Trust added:

“These trees are really important to continue with the genetic diversity of Shetland’s native trees which are well adapted to our conditions.

“We also grow some hardy species from overseas, such as Willows and Alder from Alaska, to help provide windbreaks and shelter.

“We welcome the funding and partnership from Scottish Forestry and aim to meet the growing demand for new trees on Shetland and we hope to increasing planting on Shetland to at least four hectares a year.”

Woodland Trust Scotland has contributed £5,000 to the nursery expansion.

Woodland Trust croft woodland adviser Gordon Cumming said:

“The enthusiasm for woodland creation in Shetland is genuinely inspiring.  Going by the number of requests we have for croft visits there will be strong demand for locally grown trees and the nursery expansion is going to be critical for the delivery of future schemes.  Great work by the Trust’s team for driving this successful initiative forward.”