Day 15 Dunnottar - Don't Flush it!
Sunday 30th April 2017
Finally, Dunnottar Castle! We were both looking forward to visiting this dramatic castle and its unique beaches. However, the start of the day did not promise much, as the sky was blanked in low gray clouds with high winds buffeting our vehicle on our way there.
Shortly after arriving we met Jim Wands, the Castle Custodian (one of the coolest job titles in Pete’s world), halfway through his own litter picking duties around the car park. We were very impressed with how seriously Dunnottar Castle staff take the environment in and around the castle. Indeed this devotion has seen Dunnottar Castle awarded the Green Tourism Gold Standard, one of only two castles to hold this prestigious award In Scotland. C & L Catering, who offer gorgeous fresh hot meals on site, also take their environmental footprint very seriously. The staff there telling us how they found introducing illustrations of recyclable items on their bins saw recycling rates significantly increase. Lastly, but by far not least, Jim and his colleague's support of The Plastic Tide have been nothing short of amazing, huge thanks to him and his team!
The castle sits atop a 400 million-year-old rock table that looks so defensible it seems it was purpose build for the Dunnottar. The castle is almost as ancient as the rock it sits on, tracing its beginnings first being established as a place of worship in the 3rd Century AD. In the 1,700 years since it has played a key role in Scottish history, hosting the likes of William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots - read more here.
Our clean is to take place on north beach overlooked by the formidable fortress, a beach imprisoned by sheer gray cliffs standing behind and marching out into the angry foaming seas at either end of the bay. It can only be accessed by a precarious path that sits at the foot of Dunnottar Castle, this is cut off by frothing seas at high tide. We pitied any attacker that was foolhardy enough to take on this fortress!
Our concerns about the winds were not unfounded, Jim measured gusts of 50-65mph using his anemometer on the cliff tops around the castle. So it did not look good for the drone survey, however, we made our way down to the north beach and found barely a breath, it being sheltered by a 400 million yield on wind break. Fortunate as the beach had its fair share of litter!
Whilst we were setting up when Ross McDonald, a committed mapper and environmentalist from Angus Council joined us with son Daniel for the beach clean. Ross and Pete both worked together at The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea many moons ago in digital mapping. We were so grateful to Ross for his passion and time he and Daniel spared on their Sunday to help us on our beach clean.
Just the day before, in a beach clean a few miles south on Lunan Sands, Ross and Daniel had found 5 bags of dog feces and a collection of plastic fragments in just 5mins. We wondered how Dunnottar would compare...
The volume of beach litter was above average in comparison to other beaches, but the contents were what shocked us. We found nearly 30 tampon applicators and medical waste in the form of a catheter all within a 100metres of beach!
These items are consistent to a raw sewage outlet somewhere nearby, the most likley source being the nearby Stonehaven just around the headland to the north.
This underlines the importance of awareness campaigns on not using the toilet as a rubbish bin, basically, if you flush it you’ll eventually eat it! For example the Marine Conservation Society’s campaign for a petition to make wet wipe labeling clearer in ‘Wet Wipes Turn Nasty‘. This wet wipe we found on Kirksanton beach, it is a horrific mess of plastic fibers which fray which can easily prove lethal to any marine life that eats it.
Thanks to Ross and Daniel, two Ocean Guardians, we managed to clear 11.1 kg from Dunnottar in a couple of hours. A figure we could not have reached without Daniel’s ninja litter picking skills, combining no less than two litter pickers simultaneous, resulting in a 50% increase in efficiency! We’ve much to learn from Ocean Guardian Daniel!
Total Weight: 11.1kg