Most of you know that the North Ronaldsay sheep live on the shore on a diet of seaweed, and many of you know that they are kept there by a 6 foot high dyke, or wall, all round the island.
Early in the year, a big storm from the east, coupled with very high tides, smashed a long length of wall, totally destroying it. Then a couple of weeks later, a storm from the west took out another long length from the west of the island. Several kilometres of wall are down and will have to be replaced – a huge undertaking.
And in that pic, see the sheep eating seaweed?…
Meantime, the islanders are replacing the dyke with shire wire fencing to keep most of the sheep off the good grass. However, the North Ronaldsay sheep are good at jumping fences (and walls!) and that is only a short term solution.
I went to take pix of the damage on the east side and on the way back down the island I came across a scene which typifies the breed. In places the new fence is a couple of feet inside the old dyke. There was a very cold easterly blowing hard, and there, between the remains of the dyke and the new fence, were a group of sheep sheltering from the wind!
Yesterday I went round to the west of the island. Here, too, long lengths of the dyke are down.
New fencing has been put up in places, but rebuilding will take years. Mark and Simon from the Bird Observatory were rebuilding by the Gretchan hide, but even with some of the fallen stone to hand, it is desperately slow – not any old stone will do – they need to sit firmly, and interlock with their neighbours. There is no point in rebuilding something which will be blown over by the wind – it needs to be done properly, hopefully to last for many more years.