The ponies and sheep which graze the various sites - and very effectively - all need constant monitoring. It can take anything from 45 minutes to a couple of hours to check, depending on how leisurely you do it and also how keen the animals are to hide from you. Questions? - get in touch
The ponies themselves. The checks you will need to carry out are very simple and straightforward. They basically involve counting to make sure all the ponies are present and checking that they appear to be in good health. In practice this means are all the ponies walking ok. Getting them to stand up if they are all asleep, however, could be a challenge! A limp where a pony can put some weight on the affected limb is not usually a problem. If however the leg is not being used at all, this is a sign that help is required.
The site infrastructure. There are some things to keep an look out for when you are out on the Law. In particular, check that the ponies have a ready access to water. If the trough freezes over, you will need to break the surface (I shall try and put a tool under the trough to help you do this). Otherwise the trough should refill as the ponies drink out of it, if it does not, let me know.
If you can also check that the fencing / drystane dykes all look ok – no vandalism, nor nudging by curious ponies – that is part of the job, too. The last thing anyone wants is to have to round up escaped ponies! As for gates, most will either be left locked or left tied open to make it clear whether there is a need to close them or not.
Ragwort. What's the problem? It's toxic to ponies! See this BHS leaflet. Most of you can identify ragwort and know we have been undertaking to clear it form the hill. If you're not sure how to recognise it, or might confuse it with similar plants, search for Biology in this government paper. Fortunately the ponies are not thick and the real risk is only in winter when they could inadvertently consume dried shoots mixed in with the dried up grasses. So we (or should I say you!) are by your removal efforts doing an invaluable job. If, however, you notice a large clump of the plant and think it may have been missed – or just needs removing, you can let me know and I’ll double-check to see whether it is programmed in for clearance. See fuller info on the
Site information. The rangers will regularly check and update the notice board in the car park, so you should not have to worry about checking that. However, posters get battered by the weather quickly or ripped off by ne’er do wells, so if you come across any needing replaced it is something else to report.
The Public. You are not expected to get involved with members of the public in the course of the checking – though please feel free to let them know if they are interested, it is after all a great story. If, however, you see people either feeding the ponies or not controlling their dogs appropriately then log this and let me know (if you can describe the dog that would be useful). It is entirely up to you whether you speak to people in these circumstances, (it is really the ranger’s job), but so long as you are polite and not accusatory, you should be ok.
Checking up on the sheep is known as lookering so if you’re keen to help look after our winter woollies and, when it comes to sheep, you’ve always seen yourself as a bit of a looker, then do get in touch.
There are a few basic things to check when you are out lookering, which can be divided between things to do with the sheep directly and things to do with the site infrastructure itself. See full details here.
The checks you will need to carry out are very simple and straightforward. They basically involve counting to make sure all the sheep are present and checking that they appear to be in good health. The best way to check the sheep is from a distance using binoculars. This is so that they can behave naturally without being disturbed and you can observe whether any are acting funny indicating that they are unwell. Also, when you get close to them, their instinct is to bunch up together making counting them very difficult. A good way to count them is as they are moving in a line, but anything goes so long as you can count up the correct number.
- Kissing gates – are they all secure / working properly?
- Fence – is it secure, has it been cut / tampered with?
- Stiles – are they all working ok?
In addition, a cursory glance at the water troughs should let you know if they are working ok. They should re-fill automatically, so if empty, this would indicate there’s some sort of problem to resolve.
The only other thing to check when out lookering is to do with other people – specifically dog walkers. Hopefully people will all respond positively to the signs (always worth checking the signs are in place) and behave as requested. If you do, however, come across a dog owner who is letting their dog disturb the flock, please inform them politely, but firmly, or their responsibility to control their dog. If you have no joy getting through to them, leave it there and give one of us a call.