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.

Successful printing workshop

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.

afternoons prints

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.

demonstration - Copy happy printer press - Copy man made print

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.

Open Studio

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.

OS 27 OS evid bags OS 28.9

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.

 OS ideas board    OS window dishes

Isolating them into specific groups enables discussion into specific  related problems. Something that I am keen to do.

Ullapool News: littoral invitaion

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 littoralartprject@btinternet.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

Follow up reports

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.

checking the bags    cigarette lighter  crime scene board  6 morefield   making notes on the crime scene board  quadrat evidence  IMG_0502

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.

Sunday 22nd Sept: If only

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.

‘That stuff never vanishes’

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 1 Dougie 2 Dougie3

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’.

Dougie portrait Dougie 4 litter in bag

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.

Collecting evidence

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 .

HARBUR BEACH SURVEY - Copy         harbur beach QUADRAT - Copy         SAMPLE BAG - Copy

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.

Project base

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.

Ullapool harbour

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.

flowers on the HTL   corrugated box section   sun glasses   an talla solais  sign

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.

Heading north

Crossed the firth of Forth in high winds and low visibility , thankfully the car is packed with so many materials and boxes of equipment that the cross winds had little effect , reached the shore of Faskally loch in sunlight and was lucky to see a kingfisher dart along the bank.

heading north

Reached my new temporary home on the banks of the River Broom  listening to the Fishing News ‘warning gales in all areas’. Looking forward to seeing the Loch Broom  beaches tomorrow.