Our next trip to Yell and the Guddon croft we saw many changes and not just to life on the croft due to coronavirus travelling meant ferry bookings were essential plus we had to have a ferry account card. Quite an important factor in helping to contain the spread of the virus, this meant no contact with the ferry crew was necessary as the card was scanned through the window.
We were met at the croft by the usual welcoming party of ‘ caddie’ orphan lambs, now much larger, inquisitive hens and noisy sheep dogs. Out before the house was a huge stack of Haylage bales, I had never seen this type of bales before, I was told by our daughter this was more convenient for them rather than the larger bales of silage, haylage bales weighed approximately 20 kilos and was easier to carry into the byre. Haylage reduces the risk of Listeria a bacteria which can be found in the soil, food sources, and even the faeces of healthy animals and which causes Listeriosis which is one of the main causes of death amongst sheep in the winter.
Close by was a more familiar site ‘ coles ‘, small stacks of hay built wooden tripods in order to allow the wind to help dry the hay. When dry enough the hay was then spread out into rows and baled into convenient bales. I remember building ‘coles’ of hay which was left for a while to dry and then made into a ‘dess’ a larger haystack. I recall carrying hay supported in netting on my back and storing it in the byre or barn, nowadays all that effort is replaced by machine, in my opinion this change although very necessary in this modern fast moving times has taken some of the fun out of the harvest.
Our grandson Aidan took us for a walk up through their fenced in apportionment along the banks of a fast moving burn called the Green burn which winded its way down to the Swarister beach. Some parts of the burn were quite steep and dangerous to animals; fencing was another job that had to be done on this part of the croft. We came across a well- built stone structure which he told us had been a bridge across the burn and a pathway, which had been a right of way. This path went up the hill past the neighbouring croft of Hollygarth, a dairy had operated here until 1981 and supplied milk to the local area.
On both sides of the burn we came across the remains of water mills which had belonged to the Lower Guddon and Hollygarth crofts. When the mills were in operation the crofters would travel far up into the hills to a loch called Clodis Water, here they would build a dam preventing the loch water to escape downhill, after a period of time they would return to the loch release the water. A local crofter told me after releasing the water they could travel down to the crofts and have a cup of tea before the water reached the mills in time for milling of the corn began. This ancient method of milling corn died out in this area in the late 1800s.
One of the most important activities in crofting life is the selling of the livestock in this case the Lower Guddon lambs, the Guddon crofters travelled down to the marts in Lerwick on the 19th of September. Due to strict pandemic restrictions they were unable to attend the auction however they were delighted with the results of the sale and received the top price on the day for their Cheviot ewe lambs.
Our grandson Aidan recently celebrated his 16th birthday at Lower Guddon and for his birthday present Catherine and I gifted him a shearling Katmoget ram Monarch of Cockairney and two Katmogit ewe lambs we purchased these prized stock from F & A Hipwell from Kinross. We are looking forward to the offspring from the Katmoget ewes we purchased last year from a local crofter sired by Monarch.
My next blog on Lower Guddon will be life on the croft in the harsh winter months which at times seems to last forever before the sky lightens once again in the New Year.