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.
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.
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.
Great conditions for carefully noting the items of litter on the beach .
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.
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.
The print workshop today (Saturday) was a great success with 16 people adults and children bringing along handfuls of beach litter (man made) and contrasting natural materials with which to make prints from.
Within a few hours we had produced a wall full of fascinating prints from both sources of materials, half of which will be displayed together at the art centre for the duration of the open show.
The relief prints of the man made materials echoed the microscope photos taken with the high school children. Both very strong imagery with which to work with and from.
The opening of the An Talla Solais members open exhibition on Friday gave me the opportunity to open my studio and invite visitors in to see my growing collation of information and emerging ideas of possible responses to the beach litter I am examining with the High School pupils.
I am asking for comments to be added to my working notes on the walls as people walk around the studio. The number of different of beach litter materials displayed are growing.
Isolating them into specific groups enables discussion into specific related problems. Something that I am keen to do.
to an open studio, printing workshop & beach survey
Two weeks into being artist in residence in Ullapool at An Talla Solais where I am based to research my project into beach litter, I have met many wonderful helpful people keen to help me learn more about the patterns of litter along the beaches in the Wester-Ross area.
I have been working with High School students and next week I will be heading into Aciltibuie and Lochinver primary schools and onto their local beaches with them.
As a member of An Talla Solais I will be showing relief prints in the members show opening on Friday 27th 7-9pm and I would like to invite anyone attending to call into the community room to see the information I am collecting and to discuss the ideas I have for making work in response to it. On Saturday 28th between 2-4 pm I will be running a printing workshop in the Community Art Space at An Talla Solais, everyone is welcome.
As part of my investigation I am looking for volunteers to carry out a beach survey and clean in Ullapool on Monday the 30th, the information collected will feed into the Marine Conservation Society’s national data to record what’s happening around our coast. We will be meeting on the beach below Pollen Park at 12 noon, the survey usually takes about an hour after which we will be cleaning the beach if you have an extra half hour to spare. Please wear or bring waterproof warm clothing and strong footwear. It would be useful to know if you can make it please ring Julia on 07977997605 or e mail email@example.com or just turn up.
More event and project details can be found on the blog at littoralartproject.com
I look forward to meeting you all over the next few weeks. Julia
Over the lunchtime breaks at the High School interested pupils from years 1 & 2 have been joining me to catalogue the evidence that the year 3 pupils collected with me on the beaches around Ullapool. The survey information has been summarised on the evidence sheets for each 10m section along the 100m Morefield Beach survey transect and samples have been photographed.
More detailed quadrat information collected along the West Shore beach provides a very different picture as to what has been found and who might be responsible.
Passersby to the Incident board in the foyer of the school are now offering up suggestions as to the origins of the litter.
On a day when thousands of people around the UK are recording the litter dropped, washed up, dumped on the beaches as part of the MCS Big Beach Watch, I set off on my 100m walk along the strandline of Achnahaird Bay a beach which is so clean and beautiful that I thought I had walked into a Natural Scotland advertisement, white sand blue water . Walking a hundred metres of the along the western edge of the high tide line thick with a fabulous cocktail of seaweed, I only find one piece of litter an aluminium can! I begin to punch the air and marvel at how clean the beach is. Thinking of all the rubbish I have collected since arriving in Wester-Ross.
Walking back across the beach and upwards through the rocks forming the strandline I notice the westerly high tide line of thick matted seaweed and notice three plastic bottles , a tennis, ball , a rubber boat defender …..I reach for my notebook to jot down another 100m of strandline. Perhaps Achnahaird is not quite spotless but it is the cleanest beach I have seen in over a year. Which fills me with hope and a great sense of if only feelings!
Checking out the MCS feedback on the Big Beach Watch weekend I see that more countries have now joined in on this world wide monitoring that takes place on the 3rd weekend every year. It’s unfortunate that that weekend is a festival weekend here in Ullapool hence difficult organise volunteers for a beach cleaning event. Recording what’s happening on our beaches is so important that I am planning to set up a beach survey and clean on the North East Beach just past Ullapool sailing club next week. Posters will be going up on lamp posts and here. Everyone will be welcome.
On Thursday I caught up with Dougie MacCrimmond the official beach cleaner in Ullapool, who has been cleaning the beaches for the last six years, we walked and talked while picking up pieces of litter along the western stretch of the beach.
Dougie is employed by the Harbour Trust like his predecessor before him. As we walked I made my usual list of litter objects found each day while walking approximately 100m of the strand line along the beaches in and around Ullapool. I hope this catalogue of lists will help me map the distribution of different types of litter and its sources, some being more obvious than others .
As Dougie cleans the beach between three and four times a week. This explains why the amount of litter seen on the beaches is relatively low compared to other coast towns and you only see the odd bottle, can or lump of polystyrene. He tells me how the amount of rubbish depends on the wind & tides and when there has been a big storm he will come and do an extra days cleaning. I must ask him next week whether the amount he collects is also influenced by the number of tourists in the town.
We discussed how the smaller particles get caught and lodged between the rocks. We talk about how overwhelming the amount of plastic on the beaches has become in the last 20 years and Dougie adds ‘That Stuff never vanishes’.
We mused on the how to counter responses from people when we approach them about leaving litter. Responses we have heard include’ The most usual response being ‘I am keeping you in a job’ or ‘I’m keeping the council workers in a job ! Neither of us could come up with what words could persuade them to take their rubbish away and put it in a bin. Any ideas?
As we walked off the beach talking about the issue of the day following a very wet and wild week i.e the outlook for the afternoon Dougie told me ‘We say sometimes the rain never forgets to go here’ , but as I walked away the rain did stop but unfortunately I could see another piece of plastic I had missed. By the end of our short walk he reckoned he had collected about 56lbs of rubbish in his bag , several hundred pieces of rubbish.
Yesterday September 18th, I spent the day with 14 year 3 pupils from Ullapool High School who are studying art, biology and environmental sciences. A perfect group for a truly cross curricular project as littoral . After a brief introduction to the project we spent the morning reflecting on how clean they considered the beaches near to where they live are and what they commonly find washed up on. We went on to share thoughts about what the dangers and consequences are for wildlife and ourselves and the economy. A huge amount to grapple with in a short time.
Having a brief overview we headed out to examine three beaches around Ullapool . Morefield beach just below the golf course west of the Ullapool River , the harbour beach west of the pier and West Shore beach near to the sailing club.
I selected to use the MCS ‘s beach watch survey methods on Morefield, this involves dividing 100m of beach into 10m sections to be surveyed in detail cataloging all the man-made materials you find walking from the high tide line to the strand line. This was no easy feat as the weather suddenly changed from bright and blustery to gale force driving rain not easy to stand up in or to hold clip boards and take details down. A challenge for everyone! I am now in the process of deciphering what we noted down . What is easy to say is that there was plenty of litter to fill our sample bags several times over.
Thankfully the task became much easier when we got into the protection of the harbour, the shelter of the pier reducing the wind chill factor markedly. So we were able to focus the scale of our survey down using quadrats approximately 50cm square, the observations revealed litter levels were still high though with an increase in the amount food of packaging .
While looking more closely we had the opportunity to discuss the dangers that each type of object presents. I intend to find ways of sharing looking even more closely into the issue with the pupils over the next few weeks at the high School and at the primary schools.
Arrived in Ullapool to a wild shoreline . This week sees some of the highest tides of the year which is very exciting and means a bigger area to scour between the tide lines. Good news for the surveying with Ullapool High School pupils on Wednesday.
I had my first meeting with people who are involved with existing beach cleaning in the area. Debbie the local SYHA manager has undertaken many along the shoreline of the harbour, she also told me about many initiatives they undertake in the hostel to encourage backpackers to recycle and bin used materials and how Ullapool has signed up to the Keep Scotland Beautiful campaign ‘Cottoned On’ which aims to reduce plastic bag usage.
Surprisingly my first walk on the harbour strand line presented me with a bunch of flowers! Sadly on my next foray onto the beach approximately 2 km north close to the mouth of the Ullapool River, the first few metres of seaweed held a pair of sun glasses, rope and a section of a corrugated box all made from plastic…..as was most of the objects noted along my 100m walk. The first of many to be recorded.
I leave my studio tonight happy, feeling well supported by everyone at An Talla Solais. It is a fantastic resource for a community to have and gives a warm welcome to both visitor and artist.