Making woodland work on the farm
Since moving to Crannich Farm, Isle of Mull in 2003, Robin and Sam Sedgwick have planted thousands of trees – with plans to plant thousands more.
- Robin and Sam Sedgwick have transformed the landscape at Crannich Farm in the Isle of Mull by planting trees, managing stock and creating ponds.
- Crannich means “Place of Trees” in Gaelic – but there were virually none on Crannich Farm when the Sedgwick’s moved there in 2003. Since then, they have planted between 500 and 2,000 trees every year.
- The reforestation has seen wildlife return to the farm and flower density increase.
- Despite some challenges, Robin and Sam have not been deterred. They plan to plant approximately 14 hectares with 20,000 trees.
Crannich is a 150-acre farm, located in the Isle of Mull. It comprises hill grazing, peat bog, and some reasonable quality in-bye paddocks. Robin and Sam Sedgwick have been there for over 17 years, during which they have transformed the barren landscape by planting trees, managing stock, creating ponds and landscaping.
In this video, Robin talks about the changes they've made to the land, the challenges they've faced along the way, and the benefits they've seen for biodiversity.
Before moving to Mull, Robin and Sam lived at farms in Bristol and Devon, where they planted more than 60,000 trees. With so many trees to plant, they designed and built their own tree planter, which, in good conditions, can plant up to 11,000 trees a day. The machine means they can not only to plant their own farm, but also plant for other land managers.
Crannich means “Place of Trees” in Gaelic, but when Robin and Sam arrived on Crannich Farm in 2003 there were virtually none. The land had been heavily overstocked, resulting in unproductive, infertile land.
But since their arrival, Robin and Sam have planted between 500 and 2,000 trees every year, mainly without aid. Their reforestation has resulted in increased wildlife and recovery of flower density (bluebells, orchids, primroses, wood anemones and others), which in turn has helped the return of diverse animals, from bugs to barn owls, to their farm.
Image: (L-R) Sam and Robin Sedgwick have planted thousands of trees, transforming the landscape at Crannich Farm, Isle of Mull.
Other advantages include carbon capture, drainage enhancement in wetter areas, shelter for stock, wildlife and the building (including the caravans they rent to visitors), and a future wood source.
There are also challenges, such as difficulties with sourcing trees nearby or finding species that can establish themselves in difficult conditions and challenging weather. Tree growth is slow initially, because there aren’t existing trees to nurse tree. Plus, a short planting season, and deer and vole damage can also cause problems.
Successful tree planting
The Sedgwicks have not been deterred by the challenges. They plan to plant approximately 14 hectares with native broadleaves; around 20,000 tress including oak, hazel, alder, birch, and wych elm. Robin says they have had success with tree planting by:
keeping deer and all farm stock out with good quality fencing
preparing the land to be planted by flail mowing where possible
when planting, creating a good tilth in the root area to enable strong growth
protecting the trees from voles, rabbits and hares using spirals supported by bamboo canes
keeping the area around the young trees free from bracken and general vegetation as this steals lights and nutrients and slows down the growth of the trees for at least five years.
Making woodland work for you
In August 2020, Robin and Sam Sedgwick from Crannich Farm, Isle of Mull hosted an online discussion exploring woodland creation and management in the environment of the west coast of Scotland.
They discuss why they decided to relocate, their tree-planting background and the local project. They talk about challenges – soil management, handling bracken and wind damage ¬– and solutions, as well as their preferred tree varieties and the story behind the planting machine they use. And they discuss taking an integrated approach to farm diversification and talk about seeing biodiversity come back to the land.