Home » Uncategorized » Not quite the walk I intended . . .

Not quite the walk I intended . . .

Friends, family and casual readers . . . . I normally try to keep my blog posts in chronological order. This, I have decided, is a huge mistake. I still have walks and events from over a month ago that I haven’t written about yet, and this is preventing me from writing about more recent events. No more! From now on I will write to you about whatever is most salient at the time that I am inspired (and available) to write.

Starting from now!

I went for a walk on the hills behind my house this afternoon to look for open sundew flowers (I’ve seen lots of closed ones, but haven’t see any open yet and they are quite pretty) and bog orchids (also quite pretty, but mainly looking for them because I’d been told they were hard to find).

I meandered along through all the boggy sections, finding lots of sundews, but none open, and no bog orchids. I didn’t really think I’d find bog orchids as this area regularly has sheep grazing on it so is not quite a pristine environment.

Oval leafed sundew with closed flower.

Oval leafed sundew with closed flower.

This photo is actually from another day, but is the first sundew flowers I saw (and a much better photo)

This photo is actually from another day, but is the first sundew flowers I saw (and a much better photo)

I also found loads of my current favourite flower, bog asphodel.

sml_DSC04814_BogAsphodel

Close up of bog asphodel

Two bog asphodel in a typical lovely boggy situation, with sundew (incl closed flowers)

Two bog asphodel in a typical lovely boggy situation, with sundew (incl closed flowers)

Unfortunately it was reasonably warm (in Scotland this summer that means that it was probably above 12 degrees!). I would’ve been happy about this, except that it also meant Merlin was warm. And we were walking through bogs. Which meant pretty soon Merlin was laying in a black, muddy bog.

I decided to walk down to the loch I’d found last week to wash him off a little bit so continued following the bogs downhill and south, until I reached a burn (stream) which I assumed would take me to the loch.

This is where my walk took a turn (figuratively – literally it had already taken many turns).

I found a plastic bottle. Then a thick plastic bag. Then another plastic container.

I hate seeing rubbish, and particularly plastic, lying around like this. There have been quite a few times I’ve returned from walks on the beach with an armful of bottles and other debris.

Luckily the bag was mostly intact so I could put the bottles in and carry them out. I followed the burn down, picking up more bits of plastic along the way. It’s not that someone had dropped them here – they wash up or blow in during storms.

By the time I got to the bottom of the burn, my plastic bag was full. Luckily I’d found a decent sized plastic tray to put everything in. Unfortunately the bottom of the burn was not the loch, but the sea. The rocky shore line was beautiful, but covered in rubbish washed up from sea. Rope, fishing nets, cans, timber and, far outnumbering everything else, my nemesis: the plastic bottle. I started picking them up, but couldn’t carry them all. I found a laundry basket (shaped thing), and filled that . . . . but there were still more! Then I found a large plastic tub (probably from a fishing boat) and half filled that as well.

I looked around and couldn’t see any more plastic bottles. I didn’t look too hard or far, because I already had way more than I could carry back. There was still a lot of other rubbish out there, but it would have to wait for another time. I couldn’t leave any plastic bottles behind though.

I wanted to take the fishing net too but didn't have the space for it. I weighted it down with rocks and will go back for it sometime.

The cove, now free of plastic bottles. I wanted to take the fishing net too but didn’t have the space for it. I weighted it down with rocks and will go back for it sometime.

The way home. Oh dear.

The way home. Oh dear.

I carried my large plastic tub up to where I’d left my other, smaller, plastic tray. I could carry one (and that was difficult enough), but how was I going to carry both?

I rearranged everything, tied the tubs together (I’d picked up one decent piece of rope on the shore because I had a feeling I’d need one) and created a sled. Now I just had to get home, . . . . over quite a big, rocky, nobbly hill. Or maybe several hills. I didn’t know. I had no map, no watch and no raincoat, which meant I didn’t know the best way home, how long I’d been out, . . . and it was raining!

I set off home, heading up the hill.

Up the first bit of hill. Foinaven, Arkle and Ben Stack lined up on the horizon (L-R) and the Kinlochbervie harbour buildings just visible in the gap between the rocks direcly below Arkle

Up the first bit of hill. Foinaven, Arkle and Ben Stack lined up on the horizon (L-R) and the Kinlochbervie harbour buildings just visible in the gap between the rocks direcly below Arkle

At the top of that hill (difficult enough), I was greeted with more hills.

Where am I supposed to go from here?? Merlin is being no help at all, but having a wonderful time.

Where am I supposed to go from here?? Merlin is being no help at all, but having a wonderful time. (Can you see him?)

And then an impossible slope (at least with a sled) down to the loch I’d missed before. I would’ve been better going back around the low lying bogs the way I’d come in, and ended up doing so from this point on.

Dragging the sled up hill was hard work, but reasonably straight forward. Going along the sides of slopes, or across rocky ground was quite difficult. I had 3 complete capsizes (with rubbish spilling everywhere) and several near misses before I did some re-engineering of my sled (including side barricades and buffers to stop my small tub swinging from side to side). I also learnt to pick a much flatter, albeit longer, path and to “feel” the sled better to quickly turn around and grab it before it tipped. I started having some appreciation for how difficult it must’ve been for dog-sledders in the Yukon (yes, it’s funny what I think about while stubbornly persevering with a difficult task).

Looking back down out to see after a not too difficult bit (going AROUND the hill and loch to the right of here!)

Looking back down out to sea after a not too difficult bit (going AROUND the hill and loch to the right of here!)

I don’t know how long it took me. Several times I looked at the hills or rocks in front of me and thought that what I was doing was near impossible. At the least, very stupid. What was I going to do though? Leave a big pile of rubbish sitting in the middle of the hillside? If I hadn’t picked it up that would be one thing, . . . but to gather it all into one place and then leave it? No. And to gather it all up, move it up a hill and then leave it? No way!

This was a good reminder of how doggedly stubborn I can be!

Once I was back onto the bog, things got a lot easier. My flat bottomed sled was reasonably good over bogs and the hardest thing was trying to avoid running over every bog asphodel or sundew flower I saw!

Getting back into civilisation, I heard someone yell at me. Huh? “Well done!” he repeated. Ahhh, nice to know he approves and doesn’t just think I’m crazy dragging a plastic tub stacked high with rubbish across the bogs and along the road.

I dragged my sled into the driveway with a sense of immense pride and satisfaction. Time for a dodgy selfy to celebrate the moment.

Home!!

Home!!

Sled modifications - namely the higher sides at the back and plastic bottles around the grey tub to buffer it.

Sled modifications – namely the higher sides at the back and plastic bottles around the grey tub to stop it swinging side to side.

I still hadn’t seen any open sundew flowers, nor a bog orchid. I did see something part way through my sled dragging that I thought may’ve been a bog orchid (nature’s way of rewarding me for helping out??), but it turns out it was just a pale butterwort. Still a nice find though.

pinguicula lusitanica (pale butterwort) - sorry about the photo, I told you it was raining!

pinguicula lusitanica (pale butterwort) – sorry about the photo, I told you it was raining, and I was rather preoccupied with my sled dragging)

The amount of rubbish that washes up on beaches around here is astounding. I wonder if the people on the ships simply throw things overboard, or if this is all stuff that has been washed away by mistake. Some of it has probably come from other lands over the seas. I’ve heard about the eddies of rubbish in the middle of the ocean, so I suppose it should not be so surprising to see so much of it here. It feels like a never-ending task, and somewhat pointless, cleaning up these isolated coves that probably nobody else ever sees, but I just think that now there is 1 (or about 50) more plastic bottles that will never make their way back out to sea again.

I also saw my first juniper berry this year

I also saw my first crowberry (I did get excited thinking it was a juniper berry, but after looking in my book I think it is a crowberry. My “botanist on call” has no internet at the moment so I can’t check!)

and a bunch of ling (heather) coming into flower, set off nicely against some bell heather)

and a bunch of heather coming into flower, set off nicely against some bell heather

And some St John's Wort, probably hypericum pulchrum

And some St John’s Wort, probably Hypericum pulchrum

and a moth of some description (with some lovely boggy background)

and a moth of some description (with some lovely boggy background)

So, . . .  sorry mum – this is why I didn’t get to skype you thisafternoon!

And if you’d like to know what an open sundew flower looks like, have a look here: https://cultivatingcarnivores.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/drosera_flwr_1.jpg

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10 Comments

  1. Ann says:

    I don’t mind not skypeing with you as I would rather see a little less plastic in the environment. Well done. I did spot Merlin in that photo without having to zoom in this time. I must be getting better at spotting red things in the distance.

    • Helen says:

      At least we have finally had that skype now! And I have a new post coming up for you which has HEAPS of “find the Merlin” photos in it. A real test for you.

  2. Jackie says:

    Mad plastic lady with the big red dog 🙂
    Love the flower photos and well done getting all that rubbish home.

  3. anna says:

    The locals might think you are a homeless lady trudging around hills with her plastic bottles to get 5 cents per piece at the recycling depot! Lol. I’m joking! Good on you for doing your bit! A nice walk and doing good along the way! Good stuff! And I Agree – just write whatever you feel like whenever, trying to do chronologicl order is too hard! X

    • Helen says:

      Ha ha! I don’t think I can get money from recyclables around here or I’d definitely be trying to make a living off it! I still have a backlog of posts, but at least it is not so onerous, and I have a chance of catching up. Also a big chance you’ll just completely miss out on some stories!!

  4. Well done! I’ve never been that good I’m afraid, although have wondered about picking stuff up occasionally. Tilly does collect plastic bottles though – she loves to carry them – and we often remark on how sad it is that wherever we go, no matter how isolated, she can always find plastic bottles to carry. 😦

    • Helen says:

      I’ll occasionally pick something up on a “proper” walk but am much more conscious about space and weight when hiking. This was more of a casual wander, where I was not far from home and going back to a bin soon. Merlin is not good at picking up bottles but can find balls almost anywhere – he even found one half way out to Sandwood Bay, in the middle of nowhere, the other day! It is horrible how much rubbish is out there. At least up here in the bogs and hills I don’t find it very often. The rocky coves are particularly bad for it though – it just all blows in from the sea.

  5. Bridget says:

    I just read this post on our long drive home and thank you for the entertainment! I can just picture it! Fabulous story and photos-so Helen!

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