Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Coastline of Wester Ross

As with yesterday's blog, there isn't much point in me going in to much detail of where I visited as very few people will have heard of any of the places (I hadn't). It was mainly a local day and a coastal day. This was due to the long drive I'd had the day before, it tired me out a bit. I don't think I strayed more than twenty miles from Gairloch the whole day but still managed to visit some amazing beaches.

First call was Opinon Beach, a sweeping bay of white untouched sand. Not a footmark to be seen, how come no one has discovered these places! Then to Red Point a few miles down the road with it's broad beach of reddish sand backed by dunes. I presume that is how it has got it's name. I then back tracked to Gairloch and followed the coast road North West to a place called Melvaig which had spectacular views across to Skye. The drive was quite airy and hairy at times as most of the journey was along clifftop roads with sheer drops down to the sea below.

A bit more back tracking and then it was Northwards again to the best beach of the day. Mellon Udrigle with its wide white sandy bay. The view from it was just spectacular. Unbeknown to me until I got there, the hills I was going to visit the next day could be seen in the far distance across Gruinard Bay. Warm sunshine, blue skies, no people...I though I was in heaven! It was a time to chill and relax on the beech.

However these quiet moments never seem to last too long as people always arrive either in caravans or motor homes and this proved to be the case. It was time to make a hasty exit and head just a few miles further North to my last port of call for the day, Little Gruinard Bay. Another white sandy beach which is quite popular as it is at the side of the main road to Ullapool. Still it is quiet by Blackpool standards! A bit of interesting info on the area -

"Gruinard was the site of a biological warfare test by British military scientists from Porton Down in 1942, during the Second World War. At that time there was an investigation by the British government into the feasibility of an attack using anthrax: to test the vulnerability of Britain against a German attack and the viability of attacking Germany with a British bio-weapon. Given the nature of the weapon which was being developed, it was recognised that tests would cause widespread and long-lasting contamination of the immediate area by anthrax spores. In order to limit contamination a remote and uninhabited island was required. Gruinard was surveyed, deemed suitable and requisitioned from its owners by the British Government.
The anthrax strain chosen for the Gruinard bioweapons trials was a highly virulent type called "Vollum 14578", named after R. L. Vollum, Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Oxford, who supplied it. Eighty sheep were taken to the island and bombs filled with anthrax spores were exploded close to where selected groups were tethered. The sheep became infected with anthrax and began to die within days of exposure. 
Scientists concluded after the tests were completed that a large release of anthrax spores would thoroughly pollute German cities, rendering them uninhabitable for decades afterwards. These conclusions were supported by the discovery that initial efforts to decontaminate the island after the biological warfare trials had ended failed due to the high durability of anthrax spores.
In 1945 when the owner sought the return of Gruinard Island, the Ministry of Supply recognized that the island was contaminated as a result of the wartime experiments and consequently it could not be derequisitioned until it was deemed safe. In 1946, the Crown agreed to acquire the island and to take on the onus of responsibility. The owner or her heirs and beneficiaries would be able to repurchase the island for the sale price of £500 when it was declared "Fit for habitation by man and beast".  
Starting in 1986 a determined effort was made to decontaminate the island, with 280 tonnes of formaldehyde solution diluted in seawater being sprayed over all 196 hectares of the island and the worst-contaminated topsoil around the dispersal site being removed. A flock of sheep was then placed on the island and remained healthy. On 24 April 1990, after 48 years of quarantine and 4 years after the solution being applied, junior defence minister Michael Neubert visited the island and announced its safety by removing the warning signs. On 1 May 1990, the island was repurchased by the heirs of the original owner for the original sale price of £500."

It made a refreshing change to have the chance to photograph something different. Usually my photography consists of landscapes so the beaches were a bit of a challenge for me.

Then it was back to the Hotel for some food before setting off for a late evening drive back down Torridon. I raved about the place in my last blog so wont bore everyone again. The conditions were brilliant for photos but unfortunately brilliant for midges as well but I suppose you can't have everything. I watched the sun go down behind the hills before heading back up Loch Maree to the hotel for a few beers.




Badachro, Gairloch.

Opinan, Gairloch

Opinan, Gairloch

Opinan, Gairloch

Opinan, Gairloch

Red Point, Gairloch

The Minch

Melvaig, Gairloch

Melvaig, Gairloch

Melvaig, Gairloch

Mellon Uldrigle

Mellon Uldrigle

Mellon Uldrigle

Little Gruinard Bay

Little Gruinard Bay

Little Gruinard Bay

Little Gruinard Bay

Wester Ross Coastal Route

Upper Loch Torridon

Upper Loch Torridon

Laithach, Torridon

Scots Pines, Torridon

A journey of two halves.

It was one of those all too frequent occasions when the weather forecast had a big wad of thick cloud and rain hanging over Cumbria whilst ...