November 30, 2020
The Prince’s Countryside Fund (PCF) is providing further support to the island of North Ronaldsay, where the historic sheep dyke is in urgent need of repair. The dyke works to keep the native ‘seaweed-eating’ sheep on the beach, which are vital to both the island’s economy and identity.
The sheep dyke, which follows the island’s coastline, is probably the largest drystone construction conceived of as a single entity in the world at over 12 miles in length and some two metres high enough to deter ‘louper’ (jumping sheep), was built in the mid-nineteenth century to keep the North Ronaldsay flock on the shoreline. The dyke suffers greatly from winter storms, with large, fragile sections collapsing during severe weather. Without the dyke however the future of the flock would be at risk, and the sheep are vital to the economy of the island.
In 2018 The Prince’s Countryside Fund, with thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, provided the North Ronaldsay Trust with a grant of £15,000 to support the ‘gateway house’ project to reverse the island’s declining population. The island was once home to over 550 people but now has fewer than 60 residents, many of which are over the age of 65. The lack of housing is one of the main barriers to attracting new people to the island and this led to the establishment of the ‘gateway house’ by the North Ronaldsay Trust. This provides accommodation for a set period (18 – 24 months) as an encouragement to move to the island and become an active member of the community. The ‘gateway house’ is currently home to Sheep Dyke Warden, a post created in summer 2019 to maintain the dyke.
Keith Halstead, Executive Director of the PCF said: “We hope that by awarding the Orkney Sheep Foundation £3,500 it will now enable them to apply to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to cover the costs of rebuilding the foundations of the historic drystone dyke. The community, the sheep, and the dyke are all inextricably linked to the future of North Ronaldsay, which is why this project is so significant, and deserved our support.”
Kate Traill Price from the Orkney Sheep Foundation said: “I am delighted to be receiving this grant from The Prince’s Countryside Fund on behalf of the Orkney Sheep Foundation. The grant will allow us to work with a wide range of organisations and agencies to seek the funding required to ensure the future of North Ronaldsay’s Sheep Dyke and the Island’s unique sheep.
“This grant comes at a time of great regeneration for the island, with the arrival of several new families and the imminent reopening of the Island school. The Prince’s Countryside Fund grant will enable the OSF to take the vital first step in preparing for a major funding application for the essential structural work needed, and to ensure that the ancient breed and traditional communal flock management can survive into the future.”
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