Film on sheep flock’s 100 kilometer journey

This is a video about a sheep flock in Groningen city in the Netherlands.

Now, about the Dutch film Bedevaart voor de natuur (Pilgrimage for nature).

This video is the trailer of the film.

I saw this film today. Its subject is the journey, during three weeks in the autumn of 2007, of a flock of fifty sheep with the border collie dog Flo and shepherds Johan and Mirjam. The distance was 100 kilometer, all the way from the Rhine river in the south-east, to the Gooimeer (part of the former Zuider Zee) in the north-west. It covered the total length of the Utrecht hills. These hills were formed during the Pleistocene ice age. They cover much of the center of Utrecht province and the south-east of Noord-Holland province. There used to be much forest there. Medieval agriculture led to heath type environment spreading. During the twentieth century, much heath disappeared, for new forests for the wood industry, for mansions and other buildings, for railways and roads, etc.

Still, much natural beauty can be found in the Utrecht hills. The problem is lack of connections between nature reserves, isolating plants and animals, thus making them more vulnerable. Centuries ago, it was easy for animals to go all the way from the Zuider Zee to the Rhine, or even further east to the Veluwe. Also, shepherds with their flocks then often travelled these long distances.

The aim of the 2007 journey of the flock, and of the film about the journey, was to show how important connections between natural areas are, not only for shepherds and sheep, but primarily for wildlife.

The shepherds faced big problems. At a railroad, a train passes every three minutes. So, the only way for the sheep to cross the railroad was to put them into a cattle van, and get them out of the van again after the passing of the railway crossing. Some private estates are surrounded by barbed wire, dangerous for animals. The shepherds did not get permission from the Ministry of Defence to pass through the lands of Soesterberg military airbase. The United States Air Force used to be there. The base is being closed down. But still, the sheep had to make a hazardous detour along roads with much traffic, around the base.

Still, the sheep had the good luck that at most points where they had to cross roads, police stopped the traffic to let them pass. Deer and other wildlife are not so lucky. That is why, to be able to cross roads, there should be more nature bridges like the one at Crailo. Which would make it possible not just for this flock, but for wildlife, to go once more all the way from Rhenen in the south-east to Huizen in the north-west.

The film has footage of interesting plants, animals, etc. which the flock passed. Including fallow deer, roe deer, and a slow worm. Also fly agaric and other mushrooms.

The flock passed the lakes Pluismeer and Wasmeer, where sheep used to be washed centuries ago.

It is to be hoped that the message of this film, for ecological integration, will have practical results in the Utrecht hills and elsewhere.

Soay sheep on Vlieland: here. On Ameland: here.

12 thoughts on “Film on sheep flock’s 100 kilometer journey

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