Its not only Father Christmas who’s ready for the big night but his reindeer are also limbering up for the big trip around the world. But a long, long way from their cousins at the freezing North Pole, a small herd of reindeer are enjoying rather more temperate climes – on the Isles of Scilly!
Jingles, Belle and their calf, Tula, are the islands’ very own herd of reindeer and they’ve become firm favourites with islanders and visitors alike, bringing a tough of Christmas to Scilly every day. It was animal-enthusiast, Stella Wyburne-Ridsdale, who first brought Jingles and Belle over to Scilly when they were just six months old.
“I love all different types of animals and I’d always loved reindeer. It was after I’d gone to Lapland, though, that I just couldn’t get them out of my head,” says Stella. “I’d actually been saving up to get myself some new furniture but after eighteen months of thinking about these reindeer I ended up thinking, well the furniture will have to wait!”
Having made the long journey across from Sweden and arriving in a horse box on the freight ship, Gry Maritha, the wild reindeer needed time to settle into their new island home. Stella spent many hours a day with them, gaining their trust and forming a unique bond. Very soon their personalities began to emerge – Belle as the ditsy blond, child-like and playful; Jingles as an easy going, big ol’ softy and a bit of a mummy’s boy.
Now they are a completely tame herd of three and every day all year round Stella walks them on their leads across St Mary’s and down onto Porthcressa Beach where they love to nibble at the seaweed and paddle in the sea.
Summer visitors to the island often wonder how the reindeer manage in the heat, but both the Isles of Scilly and Sweden benefit from the warmth of the Gulf Stream so they are more than happy in their island home. Of course they cast quite a sight as they do their daily walk. “oohs and aahs” coming from the breakfast tables of many hotels and B&Bs as they pass by!