WE recently spent two days helping our good friends at Race Point gather their ewes in for shearing.
I had my Honda 230 motorbike, Arthur his quad bike and our host John also had a motorbike. The land at Race Point where the ewes graze can only be described as 'not for the faint hearted'; when trying to negotiate it on a motorbike. It has huge grass, fern and bolsom bogs and incredibly steep valleys.
For the record this story should begin with the statement that I loathe the hair curling wheelies that result from driving a quad over giant bogs, not to mention not being overly fond of creeping up and down steep hills on the horrible contraption, so I was really happy to be on my motorbike.
Image: the grumpy herd
Day one we gathered two camps, Rookery Sands and the North Coast. We were just about to gather all the sheep together at the far end of Rookery Sands when the six ewes I was chasing took a detour down the hill and ran along the cliff. By this time I had driven over what felt like every huge bog, and up and down every steep valley in the north camp. I parked my bike up, and walked down to make sure they had carried on around the cliff and weren't trying to pull an SAS move, hiding under the bank.
When I got back to where my bike should have been I found the quad neatly parked up and no motorbike. I was fuming! Arthur thinking he was being helpful, had taken my bike around the cliffs (on a smooth rotavated track I might add) and had left me with the blasted quad to go back up through all the bogs to get to the fore-end of the sheep.
I eventually bumped in to John on the quad who asked cheerily, " the quads really are the best to gather on aren't they?" My reply was pretty much unprintable. But happily I was able to repeat the colourful mes age when I caught up with Arthur later, whose, "well I was only trying to help dear," really didn't help his cause.
To distract from our aching bones John and I spent the trip home having a 'who fell off the most' competition. By then I had come off five times and John four times, so I was quite pleased with that. At the end of the second gather when we again tallied up I had fallen off eight times and John seven. Driving home John took a short cut and within 300 yards he had got his tally up to equal mine at eight – all very satisfying really.
Day two was also fairly successful and I managed to remain on my bike seat for so many hours without falling off that it went to my head a little.
Approaching the steepest hill I've ever seen, hubby offered to drive my bike up the nasty looking obstacle. I refused proudly but half way up the whole centre of gravity thing kicked in and myself and my bike flew over backwards. Determined (as one is deciding on priorities while flying through the air) not to smash the plastics on said bike I held on tightly rather than abandoning it. Probably not the most sensible split-second decision I've ever made but I survived, more from accident than good judgement admittedly.
Clearly impressed with my commitment to the two-wheeler, the following day Arthur suggested we tootle down the north coast. I agreed, happy to spend a gentle day checking fences and picking up the odd stray ox.
Unfortunately having reached the end of the camp husband announced the aim was to in fact round up the whole herd of not-particularly-tame cattle.
We got as far as Pass Arenas, and in truth I can't claim any credit for our progress as I was doing my usual turkey vulture impression, circling from a distance.
Having reached the beach two of the ever helpful bovines shot into the sea and stood chest deep. I was given the job 'of keeping an eye on them' while he persuaded the other seven to come back in order to tempt the two back to the shore. I sensibly decided the best place to view the proceedings would be on the cliff 25 feet above the beach.
Predictably one of the horrible animals splashed on to the beach, glanced in my general direction and snorted. Terrified I turned tail on the bike and drove as fast as I could away from the scene. Of course by the time it struck me there wasn't a chance in hell the ox could get at me Arthur had of course noticed my, erhem, brave retreat. He didn't seem convinced by my protests that I had just fancied a little 'spin'.
But anyway ultimately we got the seven cattle home, and I endured a few days of comments from Arthur along the lines of "Falklands Conservation won't have to worry about one species becoming extinct... After all I've just spent a day with a complete Turkey."