Postcards from Achiltibuie

postcards from Achiltibuie 1

The  captured microscope images of plastic objects found on the beach at Badentarbet and the children’s words arrived at the studio in An Talla Solais today, in the form of 14 postcards, to the interest of  everyone who called in at the studio. Their observations and thoughts being read carefully to see what they had gleaned from our morning in the littoral zone.

Achiltibuie postcards 2

Survey results – uploaded

Ullapool North East shore beach –

Survey 30 Sep 2013

Submitted by juliabarton_1 on 07 October 2013  Beach: Ullapool North East shore beach

Survey summary: Ullapool North East shore beach – Survey 30 Sep 2013

About your survey  

Survey type: Beachwatch (year round)

Date of survey:  30/09/2013 – 12:00am – 2:00pm

How many volunteers took part?   7

What is the length of the beach you surveyed?  100m

What is the average width of beach you surveyed? 20m

Did you clean, but not survey, any extra areas? If so, please tell us the length:  30m

How many bags of rubbish did you collect from the survey data? 10

What was the total weight of all the bags of rubbish you collected from the survey area? 35kg

What was the weather like in the week before the survey? Wind direction: Onshore

Wind strength: Light   Sea state: Calm

Traceable items found:  We found a reconstituted plastic fender from the local harbour pier which weigh more than our scales would have .

Did you find any unusual items?  Pier fender 2.5m x 200mm x 50mm

Did you find any stranded, entangled or dead animals?  Yes If so how many? 1

Please describe the animal species if known: 

we think it was a harbour seal but it was badly decomposed

Was the animal alive or dead? Dead

Is the animal entangled in litter? No  Was there any oil or tar? Absent

Were there any plastic pellets? Absent


4/6 pack yokes: 0

Bags (including supermarket): 42

Bottles – drinks: 19

Bottles/containers/drums – Cleaner: 1

Bottle/containers – Food: 5

Bottles/containers/drums – Foreign: 0

Bottles/containers/drums – Oil: 0

Bottles/containers – Toiletries: 0

Caps/lids: 14

Cigarette lighters/tobacco pouches: 1

Combs/hair brushes/sunglasses: 0

Crisp/sweet/lolly/sandwich wrappers: 54

Cutlery/trays/straws/cups: 10

Fish boxes: 1

Fishing line (anglers): 0

Fishing net & net pieces < 50cm: 85

Fishing net & net pieces > 50cm: 4

Floats (fishing buoys/reels): 0

Industrial packaging/crates/sheeting: 2

Lobster/crab pots & tops: 0

Mesh bags: 0

Pens: 0

Rope diameter > 1cm: 61

String & cord diameter < 1cm: 209

Shoes/sandals: 0

Shotgun cartridges: 0

Strapping bands: 24

Toys/party poppers/fireworks/dummies: 0

Traffic cones: 1

Plastic pieces < 2.5cm: 23

Plastic pieces > 2.5cm: 23

Other (specify below): 9

Other description: bubble wrap, tubing, handle, pier fender, tubes,


Buoys: 1

Fast food containers/cups: 6

Fish boxes: 0

Fibreglass: 0

Foam/sponge/insulation: 3

Packaging: 2

Polystyrene pieces < 50cm: 5


Balloons/balloon string: 0

Boots: 0

Gloves (heavy duty): 1

Gloves (lightweight): 0

Rubber pieces < 50cm: 0

Tyres without holes/wheels: 0

Tyres with holes: 0

Other (specify below): 1

Other description: bungee cord


Cloth pieces: 0

Clothing/shoes/beach towels: 1

Furnishings: 0

Sacking: 0

Other (specify below): 0


Aerosol cans: 0

BBQs (disposables): 0

Bottle caps: 0

Car parts/car batteries: 0

Drink cans: 13

Fishing weights/hooks/lures: 0

Foil wrappers: 3

Food cans: 0

Lobster/crab pots & tops: 0

Oil drums: 0

Scrap/metal appliances/paint tins: 0

Household batteries: 0

Wire/wire mesh/metal pieces: 0

Other (specify below):  1

Other description: nail


Inhalers: 0

Plasters: 0

Syringes: 0

Other (specify below): 0

Other description: 0


Condoms: 0

Cotton bud sticks: 0

Nappies: 0

Tampon applicators/tampons: 0

Toilet fresheners: 0

Towels/panty liners/backing strips: 0

Wet wipes: 0

Other (specify below): 0


Animal faeces

In bags: 0

Not in bags: 0



Bags: 0

Cardboard: 1

Carton/purepak: 0

Carton/tetrapak: 0

Cigarette packets: 1

Cigarette stubs: 0

Cups: 0

Newspapers/magazines: 0

Other (specify below): 0



Corks: 0

Lobster/crab pots & tops: 0

Pallets/crates: 0

Ice lolly sticks/chip forks: 0

Paint brushes: 0

Wood pieces (not twigs etc.): 8

Other (specify below): 0


Bottles: 13

Light bulbs/tubes: 0

Glass pieces: 42


Any pottery or ceramic: 41

MCS Beach Watch Survey  

Marine Conservation Society
Unit 3, Wolf Business Park, Alton Road, Ross-on-Wye HR9 5NB Registered charity (England and Wales) 1004005 (Scotland) SC037480   tel. 01989 566017


Badentarbat Bay

Our next shoreline survey was undertaken with 13 pupils of the Coigach primary school at Achiltibuie. All were very familiar with the local Badentarbat beach. It’s a beautiful beach facing west to the summer Isles. Most of the children were already familiar with the types of litter found there.  

surveying on badentarbet beach

The pupils their teachers and I spread out along the beach recording the objects we found on a survey sheet. We subsequently closely examined small areas of the beach and collecting a range of objects in our evidence bags. A sad find was the body of a dead puffin. This was poignant as the day before the children & I had attended an RSPB Marine Day in Ullapool and had heard about how the Puffin population is decreasing due to lack of food.

looking closely polystyrene simplified tally system small unexpected find

The analysis of our survey showed that we had counted 273 pieces of plastic ranging from sweet wrappers, fishing nets, shopping bags, small toys, prawn boxes to a cigarette lighter. Glass and rubber objects were the next highest number of man-made finds. 

our survey results

The evidence we had collected proved a useful starting point to discuss who might be responsible for each of the objects we had found, the washed up/dropped toys being a reminder that we are all responsible!

who might have been responsible

Throughout the afternoon as the teacher and I assisted pupils to write about what they had found. They also were asked to complete a worksheet to estimate the lifespan of different types of litter in the environment. Their answers showed that they hugely underestimated the length of time it takes for the materials we had found took to break down, some thought that leather lasted longer than plastic. Leather lasts for up to 50years whereas plastic bottles may last indefinitely.

From this observation I can now see how important it is for the littoral art project to draw attention to the extreme lifespan of man-made materials. 








White Beach

Looking out of over the beautiful Clachtoll beach in the last light of the day in Sutherland just a few miles from where I have been leading a day’s activities examining beach litter and its dangers. I muse on how the day has gone with 30 children in Lochinver & Stoer Primary Schools working together.heading to the beach

The bright & warm weather helped out with our morning on the beach as we sorted & catalogued the litter we found between the low tide line and the strand line.

The MCS survey sheets proved too detailed for us to classify the objects we found in the time available, so we began to group objects together under the main sections such as plastics e.g. rope became one sub section, rather than 4 according to diameters of rope.

surveying super glue tube caught within the seaweed

We chose to examine the shore line of White Beach as it’s nearest to the school, approximately 50m long facing North. Both the teachers and pupils response upon their initial inspection was that there was very little litter there. For me those are the most useful beaches to look at as I know how misleading that initial scan can be.

White  Beach

By the end of the morning our survey sheets and evidence bags were full, the different objects were identified & recorded on the sheets. Returning to school our found objects were labelled according to material types and displayed. Each group discussed the dangers that the materials pose to wildlife.

 evidence table 2   plastic coated paper evidence  superglue tube small
During the afternoon materials found were counted up and observations about what they were written on postcards to be sent to me back at the studio. Each pupil created their own postcard image by capturing a microscope image from their examination of plastic rope fibre, small pieces of glass, plastic, polystyrene that they had collected.

microscope work copy

The microscope work caught everyone’s interest. Focusing on the tiny fragments of litter became a hugely exciting  activity as the fibres and a variety of materials were illuminated and magnified to new proportions.

 JS yellow fibre  EM green fibres  metal ring pull

After the days work I discussed with the Lochinver teacher Mrs Mason, whether using a microscope is actually a useful way to illustrate the point that small organisms such as sand hoppers, have been found to have microscopic particles of  plastic in them. She thought that the projected internet pictures of the sand hoppers together with the few they could see in the tank on their tables did actually register with the children. She also felt that she would be able to revisit the link in follow-up work which might include writing poetry, an idea which I look forward to reading.

 Please send me copies! Thanks to Romany Garnett from SWT and Andy Summers bio-diversity officer for the Loch Inver and Assynt for helping with the mornings survey.

Out there on the road

Thanks to Michael Surmon and his Outthere Campervans  I have been able to go on the road this week to reach the primary School children of  Lochinver & Stoer schools in Sutherland and the Acultibuie pupils in Coigach to introduce them to the Littoral Art Project and to facilitate pilot workshops on beach litter awareness, surveying  White Beach and Badentarbet Bay.

campervan out there

Many thanks also to friends who donated a  USB microsope to allow me to share the experience of magnifying the evidence in the studio and classrooms and an i phone  with which I am about to start comparing  mapping apps on.

35kg +

After filling in a risk assessment  for exposure to the elements for the Marine Conservation Society’s  (MCS)   Beach Watch team, to undertake the beach survey  on  Monday 30.9.2013 the day dawned with bright sunlight and only  a light south easterly  breeze.

working together along the strandline

Great conditions for carefully noting the items of litter on the beach .

 caught rope     The heavier pieces -pier fender    bagged up

Seven of us made the most of the weather to do an incredibly thorough job on the beach  examining approximately one hundred metres of the beach stretching from  just east of  Am Pollan Park in Ullapool. Working from the low tide mark to the strand line identifying and counting pieces of glass, metal, wood, cloth and the massive category of plastics .  The survey we carried out for MCS in Ullapool has 35 sub-categories of plastics , mostl of which I have seen in the last three weeks.

well earned rest and cup of tea      weighing the bags of litter

At the end of the survey we discussed how even on a beach which looked relatively clean we had collected 35kg of litter plus a fender off the pier which would have been to heavy for the weighing scale.

Thanks to everyone for giving a hand and to the Loch Broom Sailing Club for use of the club house to make tea and coffee.