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Regarding the criticism of the area around St Columba’s Footprints and Keil Caves area in last week’s Courier, may I be permitted to respond.
We, as the private landowners, have endeavoured throughout the years to make this historical area as fully accessible to the general public as possible.
Our use of introducing a few sheep to graze down the grass over certain months of the year is our preferred method but often, when summer visitors appear, we find the animals get frequently disturbed and distressed with human contact (and often unleashed dogs accompanying their owners), and very often remove them in busy months to avoid any upset.
The larger access gate is frequently left wide open, leading to constant rounding up of the livestock and posing a danger to the passing road users, with even the odd complaint about our animals ‘deposits’ around the Footprints area coming into the equation too.
Changing climate conditions have ensured that bracken and other plant species have increased in volume as every year passes and with worry about the decreasing insect population and visiting dogs perhaps being harmed by ingesting sprayed grass, we have never used any chemical solutions to help keep the undergrowth at bay.
Strimming has been used on occasions but this, too, has produced complaints from the public about the unnecessary removal of wild flowers and plants that provide food for the visiting bird and butterfly population.
Sign posts are often needlessly torn down and often used to fuel beach fires and barbecues, with even the old, fragile, stone dyke surrounding the area being constantly clambered over, rather than using the access gate, causing stones to be dislodged and even the wall being deliberately dismantled, in order to use the stones to construct fire pits for outdoor cooking.
In short, we’ve found there are never any easy answers when it comes to trying to keep everyone happy.