Baleshare is a white-sand beach on the west side of North Uist. It was here that a number of Surfing enthusiasts (Surfers Against Sewage) arranged a beach clean-up and we were encouraged to take part. To the casual eye the beach is pristine and stretches out for miles. It is a favourite place for surfing and swimming. There are some rocks on the upper part of the foreshore but this is quickly displaced by white sand, home to oyster catchers and gulls and stretching into the aquamarine water. There was a fresh breeze as we moved along the beach putting small pieces of plastic in our Co-op bag-for-life. At first, it seemed that there was just the occasional length of plastic string, probably from a lobster pot or net somewhere.
Mostly green or orange coloured, this tough string was entangled in the rocks, and pulling on it might reveal a considerable length of it, possibly entwined with other rope or trailing off under the rocks where it could not be retrieved. The scale of the problem became clear and we quickly filled our bag with not only string, but used shotgun cartridges and plastic bottles. It was a saddening and shocking experience. The waste was put in a large container to be taken away, hopefully to be recycled. I could not help but reflect upon the fact that on this remote and seemingly untouched beach, there was what seemed like an endless amount of plastic waste. To contemplate the quantities that must exist, even within the U.K. is to know that our attitude to the seas must change, and to understand that however useful small-scale activities such as we had participated in are, it is up to Government to become seriously engaged in leading the clean-up of our environment.
What used to be the tourist office in Lochmaddy is now home to Uist Film. It is a comparatively small space but was given over to a performance ‘Shadowplay’ by U.H.I. student Chris Spears. He used back –lit projections and oiled paper cut out stencils. There were three or four showings at half-hour intervals. These were enthusiastically received by as many people who could be seated and who were able to squeeze into the showing space. It was an excellent piece, in some ways reminiscent of the theatrical films of William Kentridge, it was a real pleasure that so many people attended and enjoyed themselves. Congratulations to everybody involved.
Midweek seemed the perfect time for a walk to the old harbour at Lochmaddy. It is a pleasant enough walk past some small freshwater lochs out to the Hut of Shadows. The day was sunny but very windy and we hunkered down as best we could out of the wind behind the ‘Hut of The Shadows’. This was a moment for our special picnic food – coleslaw and walnut and celery salad accompanied by local free range eggs and home-made oatcakes. The wind whipped around the hut making it difficult to keep the various picnic containers upright and we had to chase some of the lids across the foreshore. We arrived back at the cottage exhausted by the wind but stimulated by our immersive picnic.
N.B. Boiled Eggs need an extra minute (6 min instead of 5) for picnic use as soft-boiled yolks in the wind can decorate clothing in an unwanted fashion.
My fishing trips have evolved although I must confess that fish has not become a significant part of our diet. I’m certain that this must change shortly as the weather improves and the fish begin to move. They are quite deep at present and although I have finally located where they are, even managing to hook one on a (dubious) nymph imitation, before losing attempting to bring it in. I would like to say that it was huge but it wasn’t. Frequently the wind plays a large part in where it is possible to fish from. The towering clouds roll in and the wind swirls unpredictably across the water’s surface making it difficult to cast. The overall experience is truly sublime (in the landscape sense) and catching fish (I tell myself) is not the main point of the exercise. I am not over-enamoured with fishing from boats, particularly when the surface of the loch looks like the Dogger Bank and so will continue to explore the margins of what is becoming my favourite loch.
The view from the back of our cottage is exceptionally beautiful, and it is rare not to see many kinds of birds and, depending on the state of the tides, numbers of grey seals heaving themselves onto the small islands that pepper the sea loch. The spring tides have been exceptionally high this week and the seals have moved inland to search for food. On one particularly sunny morning, I noticed a sea eagle flying close to the loch shore before settling down near to and old black-house on the edge of the loch. I remarked this to Nicola and passed the binoculars to her. She looked towards where I had seen the eagle near to a small island where there was a small colony of seals, when she noticed what looked to be a lamb in distress on the foreshore. It had fallen onto from the grassy bank above, where its mother was grazing.
This is lambing season and a lot of lambs have already been born, this one looked like it was in trouble. We set off swiftly – across the field and across the seaweed covered rocks to find that the lamb had fallen between the rocks on the foreshore whilst the mother was delivering it. There were still signs of the after-birth about its head. In these situations, it is difficult to know what to do for the best, as sheep can reject the lamb if it is unable to recognise its scent. Nicola picked up the lamb, as lightly as possible and set it on the bank next to its concerned and bleating mother. We had hoped that this was the right thing to do and gingerly moved away. As we were concerned we informed our neighbour who informed the owner of the sheep before kindly giving us some home-made pancakes. I met the Crofter (Ron) later and he explained that the lamb was fine and that no bones were broken as they are quite flexible soon after birth but that it was fortunate not to have been taken by the sea eagle. These are magnificent creatures with a six-foot plus wingspan that look like a flying barn door.
Angelo (white cat) has taken the the ‘Mars bar’ slogan on to a whole new level… ‘a rat a day – helps you work rest and play’.