NB: This story was published in 2018, and some details have changed
For many people, a home-life nuisance might involve noisy neighbours, questionable parking, perhaps an errant bin man. At Channerwick, a beautiful little bay on the road to Shetland’s southern tip, the local disturbance comes in the form of two orphaned new-born “caddy” lambs called Rosemary and Mint.
“Yes, they’re adorable,” concedes Emma Perring, who lives in a beautiful new house overlooking the water with her violin-maker partner, Ewen Thomson. “But, when they’re hungry, they follow you everywhere, and they seem to be able to escape from anywhere you put them. And it’s a problem when they get near my cabbages.”
Given Ewen’s profession, it might be tempting to reach for the tiny violins here. Because life at Channerwick, in the only house on the bay, can seem more like a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall reverie than an actual existence. When Ewen isn’t upstairs, hand-making his beautiful creations for local and worldwide export, he and Emma manage the family croft, which includes 36 breeding ewes, kept in a nearby field and fed mainly feed grown at Channerwick. Like their sheep, the family are almost entirely self-sustained: their meat comes from their own livestock, and they grow all their own vegetables, mostly in Emma’s greenhouse up from the bay.
When there’s “weather”, in local parlance, the family will head out fishing in their newly-painted yoal, a traditional Shetland rowing boat. At weekends, that includes Martha Thomson, recently qualified in zoology from Glasgow University, who spends her weekdays as an RSPB warden on the remote northern isle of Fetlar, where she spends many of her days monitoring the island’s small but important colony of rare red-necked phalaropes.