When Jasmin Bray Triance’s parents bought Balnamoon Croft near New Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire in the 1980s, other than a few self-seeded natives, it was devoid of trees.
Jasmin’s father, Chris Triance, recalls how the purchase of the croft was sealed with “4 bags of croft cut peat and 2 bags of organic Kerr’s Pink potatoes!”.
Today, all but four of the sixteen acres of former pastureland have been restored to a wondrous native forest of mixed shrubs, flowers, and trees.
Funded in part by the Woodland Trust’s MOREwoods project, the croft is home to over 10,000 trees: elder, rowan, willow, hazel, ash, aspen, poplar, birch, holly, hawthorn, oak and Scot’s pine. Gorse, marsh orchids and St. John’s Wort are some of the many plants that grow in between. Balnamoon also boasts an orchard of apple, pear, wild cherry, and plum trees.
There is a noticeable absence of deer fencing around the forested areas. Interestingly, Jasmin says that the deer seemed to make no difference to the forest’s growth, providing a form of natural coppicing which ultimately served to stimulate tree growth.
Balnamoon is so much more than a magical forest. Jasmin and her partner Ewen are working hard to create a self-sustaining business by developing a range of outdoor activities and nature-based learning opportunities, along with guest accommodation, and home-grown food!
The croft’s old threshing barn has been converted into Airbnb accommodation powered by solar and wind power (Jasmin’s father built the wind-turbine from a kit!) and boasting a home-made, outdoor hot tub. Balnamoon currently offers wild camping and there are plans to build A-frame, off-grid cabins in the near future.
Balnamoon has already hosted some outdoor educational activities and Jasmin is keen to develop this side of the business. Sustainable and ethical woodland activities such as bushcraft, den building, and nature trailing are some of the initiatives she hopes to offer to local primary schools and after-school clubs.
Jasmin is currently undertaking further training to teach children permaculture – one of the many things she is passionate about. Balnamoon also hosts special events such as their upcoming Zerowaste Christmas Wreath Workshop.
Jasmin and Ewen are cultivating a large veggie patch using organic mulch to suppress weeds naturally to avoid too much digging. Potatoes, beetroot, red cabbage, chard, brussels sprouts, kale, peas, and parsnips are amongst the crops grown outside. A spacious polytunnel houses a grape vine (from which they make their own wine and delicious grape jelly!), tomatoes, asparagus, chillies, peppers, pumpkins and, plant-protein champs, lupins!
Balnamoon Croft is embracing all three of our Three Roads to Stock-Free Farming: growing crops for human consumption; native tree and ecosystem restoration; and embarking on diversification enterprises. They provide a terrific example of ‘making the most of what you’ve got’.
Walking around the croft, enfolded in nature, it feels right; how Scotland was meant to be.
We wish them the absolute best.