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Friday, 22 July 2011


“Nigel, there’s a deer outside the window eating your canoe boot.”

Two years ago we would never have thought that this kind of remark would become the stuff of our everyday conversation. You certainly experience nature at close quarters when you come to Lochranza.

One evening last week Nigel and I went for a dip in the sea near Dougarie. The beach was covered with moon jellyfish waiting for the tide to rise. The water was warm and we swam in the reflections of the sunset.

Arran is such a natural paradise it is easy to understand why many Arran folk say that they are so strongly attached to the island that they cannot bear to leave it.

This made me think of the term “hefted” which is used in Northern England. It describes the way that sheep and cattle, which come from stock bred in the same area for generations, will stay in that place without fences and return instinctively to it. Maybe people can be hefted too.

The red deer of Lochranza must be hefted to the locality. They head up onto the hilltops at times but they are just keeping an eye on the place from higher up I suspect. Most summer days find them snoozing in some cool marshy spot on the golf course; most summer nights munching grass around the tents.

The hill sheep of Lochranza seem also to be hefted. After lambing, Sandy the farmer takes them off the golf course onto the open hills. One particular ewe though, along with her two lambs, is particularly attached to the golf course. She bleats pitifully when sent off and has many secret strategies to get back in, including sneaking in behind cars when campers arrive. She is instantly recognisable by her exotic set of four curving horns and she has taught us not to underestimate the brains of hill sheep.

Okay, it’s probably the juicy grass that bonds the deer and sheep to Lochranza, but who’s to say that they aren’t aware that, like us, they’re lucky creatures to be alive in a place like this?

An unhappy sheep- separated from the golf course.

Deer photos by Lance Ostler and Les Gibbon