-> 2010 -> Islay and the Outdoor Access Code

Diciadain, 31/Mar/2010

Islay and the Outdoor Access Code

With the current weather you might think it's still winter, but it really is almost April now. This means two things in many places in the UK but in particular on Islay: First of all the lambing season is under way. Second with the days getting longer and soon hopefully also the weather many people (and often their dogs) will start going out to enjoy the wonderful nature on Islay. Both together could lead to problems, but this doesn't have to be if people know about and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and behave responsibly.

Picture of a sheep with two lambs

People behaving irresponsibly and for example taking dogs into fields with lambing sheep or not closing gates properly has caused problems for farmers, leaving them disgruntled and frustrated as it affects their livelihood. Which is why I'd like to point out the Scottish Outdoor Access Code again, reminding both land users and land owners of the responsibilities which come with their rights. It includes an overview on the Responsibilities of Recreation Users as well as a Practical A-Z guide for recreation users.

With that in mind and bringing it closer to home to Islay I'd like to quote an article Lindy wrote for the Islay Community Access Group a while ago, unfortunately the website has gone offline since. In ‘Dog Days’ she wrote something still as current as then:

Everyone loves to see their dog letting off steam outdoors, especially now that better weather has arrived (or it had last Tuesday). For me, one of the great joys of life is seeing my dog hurtling towards me at full speed, without a care in the world. There are times and places where it is perfectly appropriate for your dog to run free, but now that Islay's sheep are all lambing and the birds are beginning to nest, it's time to take stock of where and when your dog might cause a problem.

Everyone likes to think that their dog is well-behaved – "He would never chase a sheep" is a common remark. But simply taking your dog in amongst lambing sheep will cause serious distress. Ewes in labour may become frightened and injure themselves; new born lambs may become separated from their mothers. A sheep cannot count. If she has just given birth to twins and one is strong enough to follow her when she is frightened, she will very probably be content with that. She will not go back to look for the other, which if not found will quickly die of cold and hunger.

Similarly, many shore-nesting birds are very prone to desert their eggs if disturbed repeatedly – and believe me, it is not pleasant to realise that your dog has just wiped out a nest of young birds, even if it was just 'curiosity'. It's very easy to avoid this kind of harm. Over the next couple of months, keep a few simple rules in mind.

Do not take your dog into any field where there are sheep. If they do not have lambs yet, they are probably about to lamb. On more open ground, think about whether there may be sheep just out of sight. Keep your dog very close if you are not sure. If you have to cross an open area where sheep are grazing, keep your dog close at heel or on a short lead. Stay as far away from the sheep as possible and do not split them. Be aware of areas where there may be ground nesting birds. Shingle beaches are particularly sensitive – if you are being dive bombed by a tern or oystercatcher, it is because you are too close to a nest, and you should call your dog in immediately and move away. Walking with your dog should be a pleasure. Dog walkers are healthier, thinner and happier than the rest of the population (apparently!), and just how many dead bodies would lie undiscovered were it not for the proverbial "man walking his dog?" But it needs to be done responsibly, with the needs of others in mind. A well-trained dog is obviously more fun to be with, which is why Islay Community Access Group fully supports the work of the Islay & Jura Dog Management team.

Of course the same applies to walkers without dogs as well. Not disturbing animals as much as possible by just taking a short detour, being careful with fences and walls and generally being responsible helps everyone enjoying the beautiful outdoors on Islay while allowing the farmers to run their businesses undisturbed.

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