Friday, 20 April 2012

Fitzroy: Sheep Show, Beagle and Sheep Chill Factor!

Another pleasant weekend was forecast (thanks partly to a certain Captain Fitzroy) and a Sheep Show was planned at the settlement named after him.  Back in the UK,  I'd never been much of a Sheep Show aficianado  (Sheep Dog Trial?  Guilty! -   the lot of them!), but when in Rome....

Fitzroy home, with quad bikes parked outside.  Not sure if the phone box works.

Fitzroy was named after the Captain of the famous Beagle, which called in on the Falklands in 1833.  To combat loneliness on the long voyage, Fitzroy had asked the Admiralty to find a gentleman companion with whom he could share scientific discussions.  A young Charles Darwin volunteered to sail with him.

Boot Hill

Fitzroy went on to become Governor of New Zealand, helping to start the First New Zealand War with the Maoris, and also developed the first weather forecasts.  He would have been kept busy in the Falklands.  "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes....".  He also features in the UK Shipping Forecast, as a sea area is named after him.

Fitzroy settlement
To reach Fitzroy, we drove about 20 miles towards Mount Pleasant airport, and took a left turn onto a single-track road for about 6 miles.  The settlement of about 20 houses was nestling in the low hills, with the sea on 3 sides.  Beside the shore was a large sheep shed.

Sheep shed by the sea-shore. Say 3 times, quickly!

When driving around, I'd noticed the sheep behaved very differently from their cousins in remote parts of Scotland.   In the Scottish Highlands, the sheep can be exasperating - leaping out of the heather in front of your car without warning, or more infuriatingly, standing in the middle of a narrow country road, oblivious to your pleading or banging of the horn; only moving when gently nudged with the front bumper.
Here's looking at ewe!
Here in the Falklands, people and cars are much less numerous, so sheep seem to be very wary and the few I have seen on the road have galloped off as soon as I came into sight.
Ever felt penned in?
So, apart from the scores of carcasses I'd manhandled onto ships in February, my only close encounters with the majority of inhabitants of the islands had been as mutton chops or lamb shanks!  ( The dead sheep were supplies to the Asian jiggers which were stocking up for the fishing season.  See  )
Maiden Bitter from Falklands Beerworks
But it was not only the thought of some pretty sheep that attracted me...there was also the promise of some craft stalls, and rumours of draught beer!

They all looked good to me.....
As well as the embryonic Falklands Beerworks (how historic was that? - the first ever tasting!), with the delicious product, there were artists, designers, weavers, knitters, soapmakers, etc, etc.  Many of the craft people were multi-talented, so didn't actually take up much room, which was just as well, as the sheep were meant to be the stars of the show...

Spinning Wheels

Woven by hand

These sites are showcases for a couple of superb artists and designers living in the Falklands -

 Homeward bound......
The bump on the horizon is Mount Pleasant airport
After the prize-giving ceremony (there seemed to be eighteen categories of prizes -  best sheep... by breed, age, sex, whether for wool or mutton, etc) people met up with old friends, exchanged news, sampled the home-baking or brewing, or bought  some craftwork.  Farmers and visitors had come for miles..

Stanley - that way! (Typical Falklands-flagged transport)

Too soon, it was time to go home.  But we will return shortly, as I want to see the memorial to those killed on Sir Galahad during the Falklands War.  The disaster actually happened at Fitzroy and not Bluff Cove, which is a few miles further.  It was a complex situation and I will hopefully explain the background in more detail later.

The pot-holed road to Stanley
The road to Stanley winds past the mountains of Challenger, Harriet, William and Tumbledown - all fought over 30 years ago.  To the south lay rolling, peat moor, dotted with sheep and a few Belted Galloway cattle, originally from south-west Scotland, as I am.
Going off-road can be dangerous.
The weather held and we had another of those amazing, and unpredictable, sunsets.  The camera really does have to be to hand at all times here.  A minute or two delay can mean a missed opportunity.
Stanley sunset 
This weekend (21st April) is a Bank Holiday in the Falklands, celebrating the Queen's Birthday!  The wind is turning cold and sleet is forecast.  Captain Fitzroy would have been pleased his idea of weather predictions has been so universally adopted!

Every day here, the local radio station gives the weather forecast, the shipping forecast, and the Sheep Chill Factor - warning of the cold felt by newly-shorn sheep.
Have a good Queen's Birthday, and wrap up warm!



  1. FYI: The spinning wheel on the left is an Ashford Joy, in the centre is an Ashford Traditional, both made in New Zealand.

  2. Isn't this blogging educational? Thanks for that, Ruth.

  3. I have my very own traddy here at home - now that I know how to use it it is relaxing to use.

    1. This morning we were invited into one of the cottages on the front for coffee/defrosting after the Queens Birthday parade, and the hostess had that spinning wheel! More later.

  4. Glad to hear that you have the ability to scare the sheep away just by appearing on the horizon!

    The Stanley sunset photo is superb. I notice a tree in the pic but have seen almost none in your bleak landscape photos - why the lack of trees in general?

    Also have no idea of size (mileage) of the whole island or the population size - can you elaborate?

    The pot-holed road is so like the local ones here in T.D.!

  5. Ah, yes, but if you hit a pothole and slide off the road in Thames Ditton, you don't roll into a minefield! Helps with concentration...

    I've not seen any trees outside gardens but I understand there is a wood on West Falkland. The wind is too strong for the trees, and any that do manage to grow are probably eaten by the sheep!

    I think I mentioned we drove about 70 miles from Darwin/Goose Green - that's about the east/west distance on East Falklands. North/south is about double that, but not really driveable.
    West Falklands is similar, but smaller, and more rugged, with lots of bays/fiords.
    The coastline is 15,000 miles, I learned yesterday. Am reading a book by the guy, Ewen Southby-Taylour, who surveyed all the beaches and coastline and was 'consultant' for Task Force landings 30 years ago.

    Snowing this morning on the Queens Birthday parade. Off to get some photos/frostbite! :-)