Jonathan: Having completed the new hill gate the other day, I’ve been itching to put it into use! Yesterday I led the flock out of Field 3 (we still haven’t settled on nice names for our fields) up through what will in a few months be fenced-in as Field 4. We went through the new gate and out onto the common grazing. One young ewe was a bit alarmed at the Pied-Piper-like procession. She refused to come out of Field 3, and stayed behind with her lamb, bleating wildly as the others disappeared, with me, out of sight. The others followed me, the ewes in line, pausing briefly here and there to sample some of the delights of what will be Field 4. Wild sorrel and thyme, young heather shoots, a variety of grasses, and a lovely drinking place at the shallow crossing of the stream. Their lambs – less mindful yet of where their mother’s milk comes from – are more into climbing up rocks, jumping down again, racing hither and thither.
Through the new gate – most without any delay, others a bit more wary ; and then, after the sheep nuts are dispensed and eaten up – off exploring the common grazing – or at least this little bit of the hundreds of hectares of the Beinn Sgiathan Common Grazing. It’s unfamiliar ground to them, and they’re cautious. They keep together, following Queenie (the alpha female) and keep me and the gate in view. Soon the flock realize that the grazing on the common is very poor (due to years of over-grazing). Its only merit is that there are hundreds of hectares in which to look for the best food, shelter and water – none of which they yet know anything about. So, been there, looked about, and now can we go home please?
I called, they came, and together we proceeded slowly back down the hill to Field 3. It’ll take some getting used to, but today we’ve made our own little bit of history – a new hill gate brought into use, and making use of the common grazing for the first time! In fact it could be the first time that our grazing share – the share belonging to Croft 11 Bun a Mhullin – has been used since the 1960s, or possibly much further back.