Kayak & Creel

The summer months bring jellyfish, which I have been spotting around the coast. I find them mesmerising to watch, I could watch them for hours underwater, their gelatinous bodies pulsating and their tentacles flowing through the water. A bit like watching a living lava lamp, therapeutic in its motion. Cyanea lamarckii are my favourite, they are such a gorgeous shade of blue. Marvellously simple creatures, they have no brain. Instead they have a loose network of nerves and receptors which can detect stimuli such as touch and light – so they know which way is up and down using the light of the sun, or whether they have caught prey which they engulf with their tentacles and pass into their mouth. They have a simple digestive system, but don’t need lungs: oxygen can just diffuse through their thin skin.

Since Isabella’s sponsored walk around the island Olly and I have been doing a beach clean each Sunday. The marine litter is a lot worse in the winter but we aren’t stuck for things to collect. I was really impressed with the Ocean Recovery Project in the South West when I was in Devon last year. The project recovers and recycle litter collected by volunteers on beach cleans. This empowers volunteers, reassuring them that the litter they collect can be recycled and given a new life, rather than heading to landfill or incineration, a problem we face here. The Ocean Recovery Project has recycled over 20 tonnes of material and has achieved an 80% recycling rate. One of the issues of marine litter is the amount of low value plastic it includes. Exeter City Council has an excellent Materials Recycling Facility, which does a good job of spearating its plastics (milk bottles, clear plastic bottles, coloured plastic bottles, pots/tubs/trays, film/bags and oversized items (drums, marine crates, etc.), making the plastics more valuable. The project also works with Odyssey Innovation. They process fishing nets (which we find a lot of here) into recovered plastic pellets, which can be used to create kayaks.

This leads me nicely onto our first kayaking trip on North Ronaldsay. Olly and I bought an inflatable kayak a couple of years ago, it’s great in that it packs down into a bag which we can fit in the car (at the time I had a Fiat 500!). Olly, Elizabeth and I set off into Linklet Bay armed with a couple of creels, which we put out. A couple of days later we headed back out to see if we had caught anything and we were very excited to see 3 velvet crabs! We’ve been back out a couple of times to check the creels (more edible and velvet crabs were waiting) and bring them in. Now to try out luck off the West Coast, which will be a little easier logistically as we can just throw them off the rocks.

Fang has been a bit under the weather this week. She wasn’t her usual bouncy self, following Norbert around and or staying for cuddles, she wasn’t eating much and was spending more time just lying down. So we rang June at Howar to see if she had any ideas. Thankfully she did and sent us away with some glucose powder, which Fang lapped up from her familiar milk bottle (which Norbert seemed quite jeaous of!). They spent the night in the shed out of the wet and cold weather. The next morning she was already looking brighter, which was a huge relief.

On Friday we were invited to The Bird Observatory to help with punding their sheep and shearing. Olly, Elizabeth and I hid in the bird hide at Gretchen Loch with the others while Gavin and George walked the sheep down from Treb (near the airport). When the sheep came past us we all walked together in a line from the dyke to the shore behind them, driving them into the pund. All very straight forward apart from one sheep who thought about a swim to avoid the pund! Thankfully he thought better of it.

Elizabeth and I got our first go at shearing (Olly had flown to work by this point) which was very enjoyable. On North Ronaldsay traditional hand shears are still used - the electric ones just get clogged up with the sand and grime from the shore which is embedded in the wool. It was a lovely clackety rhymical sound as the group sheared away in the pund. Bag after bag was filled with beautiful soft wool, fluffy as a cloud, separated into the many colours of this unique breed. Shades of greys, browns, whites and black. North Ronaldsay wool is high in lanolin, which also makes your hands very soft. The sun shone, and after all the sheep were sheared we were treated to cheese toasties from the Bird Obs cafe.

View from the Bird Obs

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