Monday 18 January 2021

Hefted to Aberdeen

Have you come across the term 'hefted'? 

That's hefted as in relation, usually, to sheep in the uplands of Northern England.

My friend, writer Robert Macfarlane, described it thus in his 'word of the day' Tweet a while back: 

Or, to quote from The English Lake District World Heritage Site webpage: 

Hefted sheep have a tendency to stay together in the same group and on the same local area of fell (the heft or heaf) throughout their lives. These traits are passed down from the ewe to her lambs. The sheep are acclimatised to a particular terrain, weather conditions and diseases that prevail in the area. They are familiar with the ways to find shelter and, at gathering (bringing sheep down from the fells) times, the way to the farmstead and back to their grazing ground.

Why bring this up? I hear you ask.

Well, after nearly a year, on and off (mostly on), of being locked down in Aberdeen, I am beginning to feel 'hefted' to the local terrain.

It is true that I live with Gail in the heart of Scotland's third biggest city, I do not roam free on a Lake District fell, but the principal of being attached to one's territory, through knowing it intimately, still applies.

Within a three mile radius of our home, I doubt there is now a street, alleyway, track or footpath, a park, public garden, beach or wood, which I have not walked/trotted/bounced along, or sniffed or marked, at some point in the last few months. 

For example:

I know exactly which side of Duthie Park is most subject to chilly winds, and where the ice still lies in wait for the unwary on an otherwise frost-free day. 

I can tell at first sniff when a strange pup has marked one of the trees in our street. 

If a gale is blowing, I know better than to venture down to the seashore, as the waves can be scary and the sand gets in your eyes. 

There is a gently sloping river beach just along from the park, and this water-averse terrier has learned it is the safe place to go for a paddle on a warm day. (We don't do 'hot' here in Aberdeen.)

If the river is high, experience has taught me that the route under the Bridge of Dee archway on the northern side will not be passable.

We have 'winter paths', where the trees stripped of leaves afford fine views over the city, and 'summer paths' where wild flowers flourish and there is shade a-plenty. 

Certain trails are wonderfully muddy after rain, and if my luck is in, Gail forgets to avoid these.

I can tell you where, in the harbour area, you are at greatest danger of being splattered with seagull droppings...

I choose to stay away from those roads I know are particularly busy - my puppyhood fear of noisy lorries thundering past has abated over the years, but deep down persists. 

I could map the distribution of dog breeds throughout the city - Westies and 'Doodle' types here, Retrievers and Spaniels there, Staffies and Rottweilers elsewhere. 

Finally, I can find my way home, from each and every direction, and once inside the house, I will detect the sound of my food bowl being filled even if I'm two flights of stairs up from the kitchen...

Oh and by the way, I am much smarter than a sheep!


  1. Hari OM
    You are indeed, Bertie lad - and that was a wonderfurs spin on the concept of hefting! Hugs and wags, YAM-aunty xxx

  2. we hear you... there is not one tree, trashcan,lamp post what's not marked by us during the 1 kilometer lockdown... that's hefty somehow...

  3. thanks for the smiles and laughs. I will start with i have never heard hefted but i have heard helfted when called, she's a helfty lass... as in FAT... I am thinking that all your knowlede of your area should be posted on websites advertising Aberdeen, so when visitors come they will have all this to understand where to go and where not to. example of not to, where the gulls drop stuff... Beau said to tell you he is fully hefted here also. and he too is smarter than a sheep

  4. Bertie and Gail...finally now I have a word to describe our life 'hefted' to the local terrain. Oh the places we have visited right in our back yards that have been here longer than we have but we just didn't go. We took such a trek last Friday. We recently as we had a trek thru our own neighborhood we were about to turn off Bayberry onto Bramblewood..we both said oh it is gonna be windy and cold when we turn. It was like a wind tunnel just making a right turn. BOL BOL just read the Weimies comment.
    What a lovely photo there at the end of my favorite WFT carefully traipsing just on the edge of the water thru the archway.
    Happy Monday my friend
    Hugs Cecilia

  5. We lived for 4 years in a southern USA town that was 5 square miles. My beloved Bella and I walked every street and path, before moving on. When I walked through the center of town, without Bella, I would hear folks say, "That's the woman who walks the dog."

  6. I understand about that too! Although you are hefted to more interesting terrain than I am! And the photo of you under the bridge looks like a beautiful painting! Lovely!

    Your friend Rosie

  7. Thanks for teaching us a new word, Bertie. We are definitely hefted to the land around us too.

  8. Hadn't heard that term before in that context. Only in comparing weights informally. We know you are MUCH cleverer than a sheep. It is interesting about knowing so much about your area. Thanks for another informative post!!

  9. We now feel very educated about the meaning of hefted. With all that knowledge you have about your three mile territory there, you could write a great guide book with all those interesting details.

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  10. My human says that she's heard the word hefty - which means big, often applied to people or things. So it's interesting to hear hefted describing sheep. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a sheep, Bertie, so I wouldn't be able to tell if they were hefted or not!
    I'm sure you are much smarter than a sheep - and I hope I am too, and I can certainly hear my food bowl being filled from the bottom of the garden!

    Inca xx

  11. We have a much smaller world then you do Bertie but we always find lots to smell. All our wildlife helps.