North Ronaldsay – Sheep and Waves

Our island crawl ended with North Ronaldsay. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love the island, its sheep and their fibre.

The weather was windy, so there were plenty of waves crashing in. Elly and I walked and drove to various spots to watch the waves and the sheep. Here are a few of the photos.

Elly wave-watching.
Elly wave-watching.
The waves Elly was watching.
The waves Elly was watching.
Sheep on the rocks.
Sheep on the rocks.
Sheep with Nouster Bay behind.
Sheep with Nouster Bay behind.
Waves off the north coast.
Waves off the north coast.
Sheep on the north coast.
Sheep on the north coast.
Closer up - I love the horns!
Closer up – I love the horns!
The waves were quite big!
The waves were quite big!
Westness Bay, with piles of seaweed.
Westness Bay, with piles of seaweed.
Some gorgeous fleeces...
Some gorgeous fleeces…
Different groups of sheep have different numbers of the individual types of marking.
Different groups of sheep (clowgangs) have different numbers of the individual types of marking.
The Westness clowgang have a lot of badger-faced and reverse panda-eyed markings.
The Westness clowgang have a lot of badger-faced and reverse panda-eyed markings.
The 'new' lighthouse - the tallest land-based lighthouse in the UK.
The ‘new’ lighthouse – the tallest land-based lighthouse in the UK.
In 1997, two lads helping rebuild part of the sheep dyke were killed when a section of wall fall on them.  The islanders set up this memorial for them.  The boys are not forgotten.
In 1997, two lads helping rebuild part of the sheep dyke were killed when a section of wall fall on them. The islanders set up this memorial for them. The boys are not forgotten.
Orkney is a land of rainbows.  This one off the north eat point of the island.
Orkney is a land of rainbows. This one off the north eat point of the island.

Deborah Robson on North Ronaldsay (1)

I first met Deb online a good number of years ago, and we talked North Ronaldsay sheep.  Over the years we kept coming back to the subject, then 3 years ago I met her face to face.  Today we met up again, this time in Kikrwall.

After a very nice lunch in my ‘town office’ (Lucano’s) with Jane Cooper of The Woolsack and Rod and Alison who brought Deb up here, Deb and I made the 20 minute flight over to North Ronaldsay.  (The fair haired lass at the front is the pilot.)

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It was a tad windy, both in the air and on the ground!

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We went down to the Bird Observatory (where we are staying) to dump our stuff, and after a long coffee and sheep chat, we headed off to the pier head to find sheep.  These were Deb’s first:

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And a bit closer:

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Then it was off to Westness, which today was the more sheltered side of the island.  I told Deb to go slowly as there could be sheep:

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And there were!

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There were also plenty on the beach, including this interestingly coloured one…

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… and this cute pair:

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They can be very well camouflaged:

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The sun was coming in and out, and when it was out, I loved the colour of the lichens on the sheep dyke:

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Then it was over to the east side to find more sheep!  Deb was in her element!

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And the sheep closer to:

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Our next stop was by the lochan in the north of the island.  Here we stayed in the car and the sheep paraded past.

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The last stop for today was at the lighthouse.  We stood in its shelter and watched yet more sheep…

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Tomorrow is forecast to be rainy, but we have inside stuff to see.  Hopefully it will have cleared up by the afternoon when we are due to meet with June Morris.  But that is another day!

 

 

 

 

North Ronaldsay, March 2013 – Part 3

Having torn muscles in my side (during a spell of cramp – talk about adding injury to insult) I haven’t been out and about as much this week. I have spent quite a bit of time looking out of the window:

01.  view from Nouster

The light here, as in the rest of Orkney, is fantastic. You never know when the sun is going to come out from under the clouds…

I did take Scottie round to the other side of the bay in the car, and then walked from there. So here is a pic to show exactly where Nouster is:

02. Nouster labelled

The buildings behind and to the left on the pic are the Bird Observatory, where I often go for lunch and wifi.

As we walked along the sheep dyke, which keeps the sheep on the shore, we came upon sheep. They are always VERY interested in Scottie – and he ignores them!

03. Scottie and sheep

Several stood and looked at us for a while, before deciding we were no threat and returning to feed.

04. sheep for screen sm

Another day I had been up at the lighthouse (wifi again!) and when I came back the sheep were just below the house, feeding on the weed which had come in on the latest tide:

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Watching them, a few feet to the right, was one of the common seals which live in the bay:

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Another day I took Scottie up to the lochan near the old lighthouse for a snoop about! Again, there were sheep….

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…. and also an old boat. This design is known as a North Ronaldsay pram. Many islands had their own design of boat, specific to the needs of the waters around the island.

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In this area there are quite a few stone structures from the past. These sheep are standing by a round pen which would have been used for burning seaweed. In the Nineteenth Century the ash was very valuable as a fertiliser and a source of iodine. Note the pair of fulmars to the right – they lay their eggs at the base of stone walls all over the island.

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And finally, at low tide, you can see the rocks of one of the skerries which surround most of the island, making it so dangerous for shipping. Many ships were wrecked on the different skerries, and it was this loss of life and cargo which precipitated the building of a lighthouse.

11. sheep by the lighthouse

North Ronaldsay, March 2013 – Part 2

Since Cathy and Steve left, Scottie and I are on our own. They had given him plenty of good long walks, so he was ready for a rest!!

Which was just as well, for the next morning we awoke to snow. Not a huge amount, but enough to make driving an unknown car out of the question. As well as the snow, there was a biting wind, and everywhere was pretty icy.

It did make for pretty pix, though. This is the laird’s house, still owned by the family…

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… and here are some of the sheep on the beach outside Nouster eating seaweed…

sheep on the beach in the snow

… and a close up to prove it!!

sheep on the beach in the snow close up

 

The next day was much brighter, though still very cold. We went up to the lighthouse where they were punding some of the sheep. They were using a digger and a car to chase them in the right direction.  Then they release the ones they are not interested in, and keep the ones ready for market, to go on the boat the next day.

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There were plenty of other sheep knocking about…

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(The structure in the back ground is the old lighthouse – it is being restored, and the scaffolding is keeping it up meantime!)

Friday morning dawned clear and bright (as they say) – but more importantly, the wind wasn’t too bad. So the boat was able to come:

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This is the Earl Siggard, and there were plenty of people at the pier by 08.30 to receive stuff that had been brought over (like FOOD!) and also with things to go back to Kirkwall. This included some of the sheep we had seen being punded:

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On the other side of the pier, the sheep slept and ate on, knowing the commotion was nothing to do with them!

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My car was the last vehicle off (click the pic for the video!)

x car coming off boat

North Ronaldsay, March 2013 – Part 1

Greetings from North Ronaldsay!!  This was written on Sunday night, but only posted on Tuesday as the net was down yesterday…!!

Cathy, Scottie and I got by plane on Thursday – but the wind was strong and the boat didn’t go, so I don’t have my car until next Friday or Saturday. Which means I don’t have a LOT of things. However, we are surviving… I have hired a car from Tommy ‘until mine arrives’ – a very accommodating man!

Nouster, the house where I am staying, is lovely. It belongs to June Morris, and she rents it out as holiday accommodation. It is very well appointed, and it is lovely to be able to watch the waves from my bed…!

We arrived as it was getting dark, and by the time we had settled in it WAS dark. So first thing Friday morning, Cathy was up and out walking along the beach. The wind was pretty strong, and the cloud cover thick, but she and Scottie had a good time – it was her first time seeing sheep on the shore…

01. North Ronaldsay sheep on the beach

… and a variety of waders, here Oyster catchers and Godwits.

02. oyster catchers and godwitts

Steve joined us on Friday evening, just in time for a dinner of North Ronaldsay mutton at the Bird Observatory. Delicious!

By Saturday the sky was brighter, and we saw the sun occasionally. We went up to the mill and Steve and Cathy learned how the fleece was turned into yarn. They then went for a walk while I caught up on the net (Wifi at the cafe there) and then we again eat the sheep – this time either mutton pie or sausages – and again delicious!

Later in the afternoon Cathy and Steve went up the lighthouse – 140 steps and 140 feet high. They were able to see Fair Isle, and most of the Orkney islands from the top. Unfortunately their pix are on Cathy’s phone…!

Yesterday morning Cathy, Steve and Scottie went for another walk along the beach. It is that sort of bay – you want to walk there. The seals were playing in the waves again and the sheep were eating sea weed at the far end.

04.North Ronaldsay ewe and lamb with dyke

And at one point, Steve captured alpaca over the dyke:

03. alpaca and dyke 640

Lunch was up at the lighthouse cafe again, then in the afternoon we went round to see June and her animals. She has a variety of rare breeds – these are some of her rams with Cathy – see if you can spot the breeds!

05. Cathy and North Ronaldsay rams

It was getting near feeding time, so the male alpaca had congregated in the yard. They were hopeful that Cathy might have brought the food…

06. Cathy and male alpaca

Also in the yard were some of the ewes. There are North Ronaldsays, Soay, Oussant, Icelandic and Herdwick here:

07. June's ewes - several breeds

June has one field of ‘special needs’ sheep – the elderly or recovering. Some have recovered, but stay here because they like it!! They include this ewe and her lamb I took pix of last September – the mother had been very ill during her pregnancy, and the lamb has only one ear and its mouth is deformed. But it is very healthy!

08. 1 eared lamb and ewe

Finally we went over to the female alpaca, with the one cria (baby) born last year. They again knew it was feeding time and were very curious to know what we had in our hands!!

09. female alpaca at feeding time

And in the spaces between going outside, we have spent the weekend knitting – all three of us. Steve has finished another neck shawl and work on his first ‘real’ lace scarf. Cathy has been working on a bolero and on a crochet bag. And I have been working on samples and getting designs ready for a couple of project, none of which I can tell you about yet!!

Cathy and Steve go back this morning. As I write they are having one last walk on the beach with Scottie. I will take them to the plane, then go on up to the cafe to get this on line and catch up on emails. It is rather nice to be able to confine the net to one part of the day – it means I am getting a LOT of other work done!

And added now, a pic of Steve and Cathy walking out to the plane…

Cathy and Steve leaving

North Ronaldsay again

I am home after a couple of days on North Ronaldsay with Sarah and Mike Williams.

How ever many times I go to the island I never tire of it. It was Sarah and Mike’s first time, and taking folk there adds to my enjoyment.

We left Flotta early on Thursday and spent the morning in town, mainly at the museum looking at the exhibition of the work done at the Ness of Brodgar. It rained and rained and rained, and the wind blew and blew and blew…

By the time we got to the airport after lunch (at Lucano’s of course!) the rain had abated, but it was still pretty blustery. It was also pretty misty, but the plane was able to fly. Sarah and Mike (M&S???) had never flown in such a small plane, and they were able to get the seats with the best view, behind the driver. As we flew north, the cloud lifted slightly and we got a good view coming in to land.

After coffee and cake the rain had stopped so we went out for a walk – the usual first stroll down to the rocky shore. The wind was still pretty fierce, but we were able to walk, and it did mean plenty of big breakers. There were a few seals about, but no sheep. We checked round the corner, but still no sheep – it was clear they were being sensible and keeping to the sheltered end of their territory! I then went back to the Bird Observatory where we were staying while M&S went on round to the east, sheep and seal watching as they walked. As expected, the sheep were mainly in the shelter of the pier eating weed.

Soon after M&S got back the rain started again, so we settled in the bar with our spindles for the evening…!

Overnight the wind was fairly high, but in the morning the sun was shining and there were white clouds instead of grey. We went up to the mill at the north end of the island, and as Jane was not there, I did the tour. Back in the shop Mike couldn’t resist a beautiful sheepskin – long wool with lots of different greys and fawns. Then we went down to the fog horn to sheep watch once more.

In the afternoon, M&S went up the lighthouse. There are fantastic views from the top, and the sun was still out. Straight after that we went over to see June Morris and her livestock. The alpaca were as lovely as ever, and even friendlier! June thought she had taken the young male away from his mum and out of the field before he came to sexual maturity, but in the spring a previously ‘barren’ female gave birth to a baby girl!! This was just before they were all due to be sheared, so that had to be put off until next year, as the process of shearing is distressing for all involved, and they didn’t know whether any of the other females were pregnant! (They weren’t.)

June still has a flock of a variety of different mainly rare breed sheep. These Soays were wanting their tea…

…. and these North Ronaldsay lambs were ever so friendly!

Once more the evening was spent spindling in the bar. We left early the next morning for the Kirkwall Spin in Public event. It was only a short trip to the island, but we ;eft planning the next one…!!

The Final NIFA – North Ronaldsay

We have only been on the island for just over 24 hours but what a lot we have packed in!

The first thing one HAS to do on North Ron is to walk down to the rocks to see the sheep.  So once we had settled in and had a coffee, that is what we did.  The sheep obliged:

We watched for a bit, then they took off round the corner, so we walk along the other way to see the Atlantic breakers – which also obliged:

As we returned the sheep were on the rocks once more – but this time they didn’t like the look of us and so they gave us a good demonstration of why they are called ‘short tailed’!

This morning our first stop was the New Kirk where there is an exhibition of photos and documents from the island over the years.  Every time I go I find something new and for those at Ganseyfest it was here that I first saw the photo of Johnny Cutt in his gansey.

We have hired a car, but it only takes 5 and there are 6 of us, so despite the wind, each time some folk started walking.  After the Kirk it was the same system so Maddy and I were taken up to the lighthouse in style and left there while Byron went back for the others.  By now the sun was out and the colours on the grass and water were very intense.  Once we were all there, it was time for our tour of the mini mill.  Jane had very kindly given up her Sunday morning to show us round, and a lot of questions were asked and discussion had!

After wool and roving had been bought it was back to the Bird Observatory for lunch.  And then, still in sun and wind, we set off for Howar to visit June Morris and her animals.

June has several breeds of sheep, from tiny Oussent (a French breed, the smallest breed of sheep in the world) to the huge Herdwicks.  This is one of her North Ronaldsay rams:

He is only 3 years old and his horns will grow even bigger over the next few years!

In another field are the North Ronaldsay ewes, all of whom come running when June appears (she is the one in the red coat):

Then there are the alpaca.  Like the sheep, they come running to June even when she doesn’t have feed bowls in her hand!

Those of you who have been with this blog over the summer will have seen the two babies (crias) born just before we visited in July.  They have now grown considerably:

Tomorrow morning we say goodbye to Anna K, Maddy and Byron.  Anna S, Jane and I fly up to Shetland for Wool Week…..