My daughter Shaien is 17 years old and lives with profound Autistic difficulties. Ever since coming to Tiree she seems to have been able to distinguish between what should be on the beach and what should not – always bending down upon our walks to pick up a plastic bottle or some wrapping tape/fishing line/bottle top left at high tide by the sea, depositing man’s rubbish back into the environment lover’s path.
At Easter this year I decided that we should put Shaien’s skills to good use, so we headed for The Maze, a beach I have been in awe off, for thirty years now since high wind wave sailing days, Shaien being well used to this walk.
We approached from below Benn Hough, followed the track and entered the dunes onto the beach – already we had a bag full.I was amazed at Shaien’s ability to either hold the bag open or to pick up the rubbish and put it in with little or no help from me, her willingness to keep searching, clearing the area of throw away plastic, we found very little else!
Onto the beach through the twisting ravine of dune, then headed for the far right hand corner, for a long time this area had become swamped with the non-degradable ‘stuff’. It took us four days, several hours each day, to clear this 20 square feet space-a friend helping us on the last day. 16 pink recycling bags later it once again became sand, marram and machair.
Over the Summer we collected odd bags of rubbish from wherever we were walking and by chance a friend bumped into Michael Czernuk from surfhelp. He too spent his days walking and collecting rubbish from our coastline, I believe he began his two month trip on the East Coast of Fife, travelled north and then west – through the outer isles onto Tiree. I contacted him to ask if he wanted to join Shaien and I along the Ceann a Mhara stretch of beach, which like the Maze had progressively becoming swamped in plastic waste. He was delighted to and told stories of various people joining forces with him, locals to the area he was clearing along his journey and the disbelief of the volume found on our island.
That afternoon we collected another 5 large bags – only half the beach cleared, but from the furthest point along, looking back it was lovely to see the crystal shell sands, without the bright blots and spots of man’s rubbish behind. The only shame being what approaches on the next tide.
I am so proud of Shaien with her deep Autistic difficulties for being able and willing to work to improve our environment for everyone to see, which goes to show there is a place for everyone on this Earth.
A note to visitors and islanders alike, following the recent suffering of Balevullin and Balinoe beaches, historically there have been many fire pits left within high tide full of rusty nails, I suspect folk would think differently about their actions if their offspring played amongst the surf, a tender foot waiting to be pierced!
Organised beach clean ups have been happening for years on Tiree, this year saw an increase in both the need and effort shown by various groups and individuals on the island to keep our shores beautiful and I would like to recognise these efforts.
The sea is purely a dispersal vessel for what we have laid aside. Please be mindful and take your litter home, if at sea try not to lose it overboard or delight in watching it float away – take a stick out/small piece of paper with you instead. On a picnic – you carried your snacks and drinks there, it is lighter on the way back, if you leave it, be it on hill or sand the wind will scatter it somewhere. Sea life dies by it, birds, seals, whales, even the pull tag from a can or a bright bottle top can be swallowed. From below or above to bird or beast it looks enticing the colouring of a fish, a meal never to be digested.
Think, drink, put it in your bag. A little effort by many creates a tide of change.
Thank you. Sith agus Gaol, Catriona Spink