On Being Aware – When By The Loch Of Ayre

By Bernie Bell

Readers of The Orkney News may have read a recent piece about St. Marys’ Walk, Holm, South Ronaldsay https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/09/27/st-marys-walk/ .  At the beginning of this walk, I mentioned seeing an enticing path and bridge over the river, to our right, which we ‘tagged’ as a walk for another day.

Not long after writing that, I saw this on the Orkney Wildlife Facebook page https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/133013273445588/,

“Dear Walkers,

Please help us protect the wildlife and environment around the loch. You humans have been given access to this land on the understanding that you preserve the natural flora and fauna. Unfortunately, we are aware of some dog owners letting their dogs paddle in the loch and trample some of the reed beds on the edge of the water. Please stop. This is special area for us local otters so we would be grateful if you could keep you dog on the lead or on the path.

Thank you for your attention.

Kind regards,

Mr and Mrs Otter

Loch of Ayre,


I don’t know who wrote this, but I hope they don’t mind my including it here, in the hope of making folk aware of the otters and other wildlife, who need to be respected when you step into their territory.

There has been some controversy about whether this walk should have been established at all, with many comments on the  Orkney Wildlife Facebook page – mostly very much not in favour of this new ‘amenity’.  I always baulk at the use of that word in relation to the wild places – to me, ‘amenity’ immediately smacks of  – being for humans, just for humans – only with humans in mind.

I was wondering whether we should go on that walk, write about it, and point out to folk that much care needs to be taken.  Or – not go at all – two less footfalls around the loch.

I’d say that the question is – is it better to open up places like this for people to walk and maybe take their children, so that children can get used to wild places and wild life, and learn to have a considerate attitude to both?  

Or – is it better to keep humans and other animals apart from each other as much as possible – possibly resulting in a lack of understanding and appreciation of other forms of life?

That’s a question which I’m not going to attempt to answer here.

Meanwhile, it might be a good idea to place an information board right at the beginning of the walk, mentioning the various forms of wildlife which can be encountered, and reminding folk that this is a relatively ‘new’ walk, so the inhabitants might not have got used to people being there.

Not much to do with wildlife, but, in relation to the general points of interest by the Loch of Ayre, and also because  – it is Brochtober.

When finding out about the Loch of Ayre, I’d seen an entry on Canmore, which gives quite a lot of information about a broch which is on the far side of the loch from the main track, and also includes a good aerial photograph of the broch in its location……..   https://canmore.org.uk/site/2387/st-marys-loch-of-ayre.  There isn’t much left of it, but it has left its mark on the land and, once upon a time, will have been busy with people, living their lives.  A good place to live – by the sea for sea-fishing and travel,  with good land nearby and a river and loch for fresh water and freshwater fishing. 

The position of the broch by the loch, can be seen from the road, without disturbing any one or thing.  Not much to see – but you know that it’s there!

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1 reply »

  1. Hello Ida Alexander – I’m not on Facebook, so I’ll respond to your comment, here. I don’t know why I typed that – I know full well that St. Mary’s and Holm aren’t South Ronaldsay – no-one’s perfect.
    I don’t even try to be.

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