Walkers seeking solitude told to find another way round it

Edward Gully's sign at Dunmor on Seil asking people to keep off the hill.

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Sheep farmer Edward Gully is urging lockdown walkers to be responsible and stay away during lambing.

For the first time in more than three decades, Mr Gully from Dunmor Farm on Seil has put up a sign pleading with the public to keep off the hill where he keeps just some of his 1,000 flock.

The 75-year-old is just one of many farmers experiencing more and more walkers seeking out routes where they are less likely to encounter other people during the coronavirus crisis.

Dunmor Hill, perched high above Ellenabeich and rewarding those who make it to the top with spectacular views across to Easdale, Insh Island and beyond, was just one of those informal paths being trod more frequently during the COVID-19 outbreak – until the sign went up on the gate.

NFU Scotland says it is important for the public to remember that lambing and calving are ongoing and they should not do anything to jeopardise it. That includes not walking across fields or land where there are young lambs or calves, and sticking to social distancing if they come across farmers or farm workers, as well as finding alternative routes when asked to do so.

Mr Gully said: ‘It’s not about stopping people, I just want them to be mindful of the situation we are in. If they can take another route, please do. Keep off the hill.

‘People have the right to roam, I’m not one of these people who does not want people to have access. We will welcome them back, but these are particularly peculiar times we are in, with the risk of coronavirus being left on gates and having had the worst winter for sheep probably in my lifetime.

‘This is worse than when we had the Beast from the East and it was so very, very cold. It’s the constant wet and wind as well as the cold that drags the livestock down.’

Mr Gully has taken in two sets of twin lambs to bottle-feed after their mothers left them.

‘I’m not blaming it all on the public. It just happens sometimes,’ said Mr Gully, who was three months old when he arrived in a carrycot on Shuna, an island to the east of Luing, where he lived and farmed for the first 40 years of his life, moving to Seil 35 years ago.

He still keeps sheep on Shuna, mainly the Beulah breed, and commutes across to check on them. Up on Dunmor Hill he has more Beulah, and in the valley around the farm he has cross-Cheviots.

Self-isolating to steer clear of coronavirus and being full-on with the demands of lambing, Mr Gully hopes walkers will understand why he and others have felt the need to put up notices encouraging responsible exercise when on farmland.

‘Life is especially fragile for farmers right now. We are only here as keepers of the land, but we’d ask people to be responsible and stay away from areas where there are vulnerable animals. We’re probably only talking about another two to three weeks.

‘People tell me it’s alright they know what they’re doing around sheep, but the sheep are not experts in humans. If the sheep see people and get disturbed by them then they will walk away from their lambs. Some of the mothers are so weak they need no excuse just to abandon them.

‘Things can get especially aggravated if there are dogs involved, even those that are on leads,’ said Mr Gully.