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On the shore beyond, the ancient native sheep graze on seaweed

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North Ronaldsay is an island of contrasts, with rocky cliffs facing the Atlantic and sandy beaches by the North Sea

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Our mission has two strands: to raise and allocate funds to restore and maintain the ancient Sheep Dyke of North Ronaldsay, an historic listed structure which is essential to the survival of these unique seaweed-eating sheep on the island shoreline. The Dyke is the key to their survival in this very special habitat and therefore our ultimate mission is to secure the future of the island flock on their native isle.

“The Estate welcomes the input of the OSF in conserving North Ronaldsay’s ancient breed of sheep, and in supporting a unique Island way of life.”

                                       Caroline Tindall, Laird of North Ronaldsay Estate

“From the sea, North Ronaldsay looks like an island fortress, defended by its massive stone walls, with the thousands of sheep eating seaweed on the rocks and beaches, a diet on which they have thrived for many generations.”

North Ronaldsay sheep home

These are an ancient breed of sheep – small, hardy and short-tailed – and managed under a communal shepherding system. Confined to the seashore by the drystone dyke encircling the island, they survive on a diet of seaweed to which they have become adapted…

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The dyke is regarded by Historic Scotland as ’probably the largest drystone construction conceived of as a single entity in the world’. It is over 12 miles in length, and stands some two metres high – enough to deter a ‘louper’ (jumping sheep)…

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The-Island-North-Ronaldsay-home

North Ronaldsay is an island of contrasts, with rocky cliffs facing the Atlantic and sandy beaches by the North Sea. It lies on a great east-west shipping route, which over the centuries brought ships of all sizes and led to the building of two lighthouses…

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The Sheep Court wish to record here their appreciation and thanks to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust for their generous financial assistance to enable the purchase of temporary fencing materials to close the breaches in the sheep dyke caused by recent storms.

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Volunteers from elsewhere have provided help at various times, their presence and work a big morale-builder for the island. But overall it has become clear that the only way to safeguard the dyke is to develop a long-term programme, mobilising resources to tackle the areas needing foundation work, and thereby enable the dyke to be maintained and rebuilt in the traditional way that has continued for almost two centuries.

 

“The prospect of a complete restoration of the Sheep Dyke and its ongoing maintenance is joyful, and I look forward to working in common cause with the Foundation.”

Dr Kevin Woodbridge, Clerk of the North Ronaldsay Sheep Court