North Ronaldsay, off the northern coast of Scotland, is a magical place with few trees and thousands of birds. It's one of the first stopover places for them as they migrate south from the Arctic. As they land, feed and mate they share the foreshore with some of the most curious animals on the planet; the sheep that eat seaweed!
Turned onto the beach hundreds of years ago, these tough, wirey animals survive some of the worst weather in the UK, happy to stand ankle-deep in the surf to reach the most delicious of the 'tangles' that the waves bring in.
They are kept on the sand by a Grade 1 listed structure: the drystone dyke (wall) that completely enircles the island. This amazing structure is build without mortar- just stone on stone. Originally it took the efforts of all the island folk to maintain it but, as numbers have dwindled and winter storms have increased in ferocity it has reached a critical point. Will the dyke, and the sheep, survive?
This question was asked on BBC1s Countryfile programme, which spurred a small group of us to contact the island to offer our labour in rebuilding the dyke. What started as an informal gathering of well-meaning volunteers back in 2016 has now grown into a more organised Festival (www.nrsheepfestival.com) and I'm very honoured to be on the organising committee, despite living in London.
We apply for grant money where we can. We need a modest amount of money each year to pay for many aspects of the festival. The committee members are all doing their bit to raise money. This is mine. Please help the island, and it's wonderful sheep!