Remote Scottish Island Is Hiring a Warden to Protect Its Seaweed-Loving Sheep
Save the sheep! A 19th-century dike serving as a vital location for a rare, seaweed-munching breed of sheep is looking for a warden.
Located in North Ronaldsay, the northernmost island in Scotland's Orkney archipelago, the official job posting describes the three-year role as a "unique" one, where the chosen candidate will be tasked with "overseeing care and repair work on a historic stone dike that plays a vital part in the management of a unique local breed of ancient seaweed eating sheep."
Historic Environment Scotland, an organization that promotes the country’s history, describes the structure as "probably the largest drystone construction conceived of as a single entity in the world." Yet disrepair was reported as early as 2008, prompting widespread concern for the dike's future.
As for the sheep? According to the BBC, this rare breed gravitated toward an algae-based diet due to the abundance of the plant, with the stone dike preserving both the animals' pasture and providing them with an endless supply of food. Local farmers depend on these sheep for their livelihood, as their distinct flavor is popularly viewed as a delicacy. Should the dike fall into ruin, both North Ronaldsay residents and the livestock they rely on could be in trouble.
"The warden role was always something we’ve wanted on the island, as the amount of dike that needs [rebuilding] is beyond what local people can do,” John Scott, chair of the North Ronaldsay Trust, said in the job posting. "We’ve had a lot of success with the three years of volunteering ... but it does need more than that. If we have a person who’s full-time we can get more dike built and [a] more critical 'strategic' dike ... too."
Scott explained that the chosen candidate wouldn’t necessarily need a lot of prior building experience. "It could just be someone who is able to pick up the necessary skills fairly quickly," he said, "while showing a willingness to roll up their sleeves and contribute to all other aspects of daily island life." Applicants should, however, be physically capable, resourceful, and "fairly resilient."
For those interested in the warden job, applications can be filled out on the North Ronaldsay website or sent via email.