Wednesday 23 November 2011

Lost?.......... and found.

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Where the hell am I?
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Is that a landmark?

Shep was having one of those days.............
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I had gathered sheep earlier in the morning, mist rolled in and out but visibility was bearable.

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........
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You didn't seriously think I could manage to photograph them did you? Be content with their droppings, proof in itself that they were there. There were also a couple of deer, lying resting in the gloom, almost giving me heart failure as they sprung to their feet and shot off, white backsides standing out before being swallowed up in the surrounding greyness.

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.
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Boy! was I pleased to stumble upon this trig point. A landmark at long last. Not where I thought I was going to be but who cares - I knew where I was! I was at the trig point. Yipee. Now which way?
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It seemed a long way through the gloom but this sight really lifted my spirits, a well worn bike track and a well known cairn, at last, I really was heading home.
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The cairn a humble pile of stones, probably built by a shepherd who is long since forgotten. I could have hugged it, relief, ecstasy, a mixture of emotions. At long last I really knew where I was and where I was heading.
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The gloom was lifting, there was greater visibility 'home' is over there, but not before I took five, and spent some time with the cairn, I doubt she has ever been scrutinised so closely since she was built, more on that to come.....
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Heading back in I turned to look back on the ground which had caused so much grief, the mist (or is that fog?) was lifting, there was blue sky. What had all the fuss been about? Ought I not turn back around and resume my journey, try and complete the job in hand? After all, it doesn't look anywhere near as threatening any more.

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.
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Thankfully my decision had been the right one, an hour later and conditions had once again worsened, I had set some sheep down off enclosed land after lunch, but had I? I saw some, then the greyness returned, I bumped into them, huddled up and hiding in the gloom, they moved on, never to be seen again. Did I set them off one enclosure and into another? I honestly don't know, only time will tell.
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Occasionally a watery sun smiled down on the dogs and I, beautiful in it's own right but not strong enough to give much help, although useful to take directions from when the need arose. There was no doubt that Monday 21st November had been a frustrating day, it felt like little had been achieved. I eventually departed the said farm, took 'buddy' out of pocket and pressed the button which relays the message "shepherd is okay" and set of to do the 'night' shift.
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The days are short, a farmer a few miles away required lambs sorting and tagging for auction the following day, thankfully there was a shed and artificial light, I got out of the gloom of the day and into a shadowy existence commonly experienced on dark winters evenings.

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.


Dafad said...

Bless you Shep, you make me smile!
Only yesterday, I tried unsuccessfully to take photo's of Grouse guano (that's polite) yesterday morn, but fog so low, pic wasn't clear. I've yet to find out red or black ... grouse!
More on that from Dafad soon after an interesting chat with a conservation chap just today.
A few years ago, I got lost "atop" in deep fog and oddly enough found our trig point. "Phew!" Guess who smoked a relieved rollie too?
Meanwhile life meanders on.
Take care up there.

Tarset Shepherd said...

Succesful day if I made someone smile - not a lot more you could ask for in life really.

You have Black Grouse down in Wales too? They are getting very few and far between in these parts - a huge miss, I look forward to learning more.

Believe it or not but experiened the first snow shower of the winter today, far cry from last weekend that's for sure! many thanks for your comment and thank god for trig points!

Dafad said...

Snow? Blimey, you're well ahead of us there, today was sunny if a wee bit nippy due to cold westerlies.
Am waiting for more info on grouse, before I do a post about them, but today found out we have only 60 individual Red Grouse over quite a vast area.Better than nowt.
At the moment someone disputing that I've seen Black Grouse even though they flew from two feet away from my own feet.
Ah well... time will tell.

Tarset Shepherd said...

Hope it was black grouse Dafad, the powers to be can sometimes be cagey to admit to such things, but you'll know what you've seen. Take it you have heather out there to have grouse around. Wet and wild, mild too, no snow, thankfully

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