Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Shep was having one of those days.............
I was now heading out to neighbouring ground. A farm which has an open march, in other words no fence between neighbouring hill ground, and my task was to head to that neighbouring hill ground and set any sheep back onto their ground ready for gathering the next day. Unfortunately the neighbouring hill ground rarely has any sheep on it these days due to environmental schemes, therefore the ground is fresh and sweet and no fence to stop sheep from wandering over and having a good old munch - hugely frustrating but that is 'modern' hill farming for you. Take my word for it 'modern' hill farming is a pain in the proverbial, one day I might get around to letting vent on such issues, for the time being we'll content ourselves with the task which faced me this particular day.
Head out onto neighbouring ground and set sheep back home, the following morning they would hopefully still be at home and we could gather them ready to set the tups out. Easy! Except.......
As the first two photos show, the fog (or is it mist) really rolled in. I knew where I had to head but got lost. Lost? Not exactly, I knew where I was, as in I was out on the hill, I knew where I was meant to be heading, I just wasn't succeeding. Visibility turned atrocious, landmarks were none existant, sense of direction seemed fine, until I came upon a spot, a spot I realised was not where I was meant to be heading, I turned and fifty yards further on came to another spot which I realised was no where near the spot I thought I was at fifty yards back...... Oh hell!
It was time to turn back, confusion was setting in. I found a bike track which I was convinced was taking me back on my route. I bumped into some sheep, the red keel mark on their shoulders immeadiately told me which part of the hill ground they belonged upon and that wasn't the hill ground I ought to be upon - Shit!
There is no doubt, going round in circles does happen in the fog or a blizzard, something I am well aware of from past experiences. There was company out there in the grey nothingness, my dogs, some ghostly apparitions of sheep and the odd grouse, a cackle as they rose up infront of the dogs and vanished into the grey nothingness beyond. I have proof........
I stopped the bike, switched off the engine, rolled a fag and took five. 360 degrees around me and the sight was the same, grey, bland, quiet. Like a wall. It felt like an impenetrable wall, solid, ungiving, unrelenting but peaceful. Panic wasn't setting in but concern was, I needed to get a grip, set out in the right direction, homeward bound was my desire, which way is that? I had 7,000 acres to roam around on, I needed to make the right decision.
The weight in my pocket reminded me I had a 'buddy' on board. A GPS emergency gadget, it had been insisted that alone on the day the gadget went with me. Press the help button and certain 'phone numbers would receive a message that help was required, along with a grid reference. Press the emergency button and probably air sea rescue would be scrambled, again following a grid reference. Useful gadget should I still be concious if I happened to roll the bike or such likes, not a great deal of use when lost but not lost if you get my meaning.
I turned the headlights on on the bike, a usual occurence when two of us are out there, easy to see whereabouts of the other person from a distance. I was alone, why turn the lights on? Was I hoping the beam would cut through the gloom and offer me some visibility - a shining light to follow? No, the 'buddy' had got into my head and I thought if I did happen an accident mebbes I'd be found easier if the lights were switched on, a beacon for rescuers to home in on. Was I beginning to feel vulnerable?
Eventually I turned the bike, I'd made a decision, head in THAT direction, away from those sheep, that has got to be the way home.
I had had enough. What if the grey stuff returned? we were heading into the afternoon, daylight hours were getting shorter, time was getting on, I had clocked up 13 kilometres (about 8 miles), used up two hours and achieved absolutely nothing. Time to quit.
Upon finishing the job, letting lambs out to the field, tidying up and leaving the shed I was reminded of Sherlock Holmes films, crossing the farm yard the mist was swirling around in the glow of outside lights, shadows, greyness, darkness, a mystical beauty.
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