May 08 2019

Glen Finglas Woodland Working Group – changing landuse

Over the last couple of months a team of volunteers from Glen Finglas’ Woodland Working Group and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park have turned out to tidy up an area through which the long-distance Great Trossachs Path passes. Originally the land had been a part of the biggest sheep farm in Europe but since it has been acquired by the Woodland Trust Scotland it is being returned to the environment that nature intended it to be. The glaring eyesore, an abandoned sheep fank, had previously been an important enclosure but was no-longer required because of the land’s “change of use.”

An abandoned sheep fank at Glen Finglas

Question: What is a sheep Fank, and what was its purpose?

The popular picture that the public has of sheep is that they can survive on the remote open hill-sides with a minimum of looking after, thanks to their thick woolen fleece, but this is not the case.

Shepherds are busy people who have to look after their flock to ensure that they avoid catching coccidiosis, scrapie, maggots and hoof rot etc.

Since these diseases cannot easily be diagnosed and treated on the open hillside there was, will always be, a need for some form of enclosure big enough to accommodate all the sheep on a hill. These enclosures are called ‘Fanks’.

Originally ‘fanks’ were rudely constructed made from what-ever materials were readily to hand and so the availability of easily obtained materials played an important part in the selection of the location of the fank, as did access for bringing in fodder and a suitable water supply.

As times moved on the need for number of fanks reduced, resulting in abandoned fanks becoming unsightly eyesores due to being constructed with wooden posts and railings, corrugated iron, stone dykes topped with wire on metal posts, etc. Not all of them were roofed but some did have corrugated iron roofs.

Before/After WWG Glen Finglas

The volunteer’s job is nearly finished, as the structure has now been reduced to two stacks of old wood to discard and a pile of scrap metal destined for the scrap merchant.

 

Written by Jim Christie, a Woodland Working Group volunteer at Glen Finglas.

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