High Tides and Pony Rides

It’s safe to say that the rather abysmal weather conditions over the last wee while have made the reserve rather quiet. Though the same can’t be said about last Sunday, as we were lucky to have a day of marvellous weather, and everyone must’ve been thinking the same thing, wanting to get outside and make the most of it as the number of people I chatted to at Waterside exceeded 200! Following the days of high winds I was almost surprised when I went for a patrol to the beach and the way marker beside the tern monolith had nearly disappeared under all the sand, each time I walk over you can see less of the way marker. I know the dunes are always changing but I have never personally seen such a drastic change in the landscape in my time working here, with the big dune and surrounding area looking like a completely different place.

Top of the big dune looking like the Sahara
Spot the way marker… with so many days of high winds you can see less and less of it

As mentioned on our Facebook, the other week I had the pleasure of meeting Kate and Simon from Inclusive Countryside Access as they had planned to meet us with Obama, the lovely pony to take people out along Newburgh beach on Friday and Saturday a couple of weeks ago. As someone who really loves animals (who isn’t in this line of work?) I was already excited at the thought of getting to hang out with a pony at work, which is something we don’t often see here at Forvie. Many of you that frequently chat to me at Waterside will know that I love fussing over animals, and I often say ‘any time spent petting a dog is time well spent’, the same applies to meeting a pony. However, learning about the project and meeting the masterminds behind it, was what I was the most excited for.

Working with care homes, special needs schools and other various organisations Inclusive Countryside Access provide all terrain wheelchair access with the help of Obama and the chariot which has its own unique safety system to protect the person on board and the pony. The idea is that everyone should be able to go out into the countryside and our wild spaces to experience nature first hand, and this project allows people who in many circumstances would struggle or never get to go out and explore outdoor spaces like our nature reserves. Thanks to this, the outdoors becomes accessible for all.

With a combination of an amber warning for rain, 80-odd-km/h winds and a tide so high that the beach could barely be seen on the Friday morning, we all decided that the sensible decision would be to call it off for the day. The conditions were too harsh to be out in, for us and Obama, as well as nearly losing a wheelchair!

The wind or a ghost? Obama didn’t seem bothered either way
Low tide wasn’t looking very low at all…

Thankfully, the weather on the Saturday was nowhere near as wild as the previous day, although it certainly wasn’t a calm day. Upon regrouping, with the addition of Richard one of our volunteers, it was decided that it was still too cold and windy to take those who were scheduled to come out onto the beach. I was then asked if I wanted to go for a test ride along the beach, sitting in the wheelchair to take pictures and videos from the point of view of the rider – what can be experienced, for those who in many cases, wouldn’t get the chance to visit a place like Newburgh beach at all.

Getting a good view of the seals
The seals getting a good look at us!
Taking a running approach back to the carrots

It’s safe to say that I had a fantastic time, and a comfortable journey. The beach is my favourite place to de-stress and it makes me realise how I have taken for granted being able to go for a wander along the beach whenever I feel like it. They say that nature heals and nature is good for you but that isn’t just some myth! Spending time outside, connecting with nature has been shown to reduce stress and improve your mental and physical health, so with the way things are nowadays, especially throughout the pandemic people have had to spend a lot more time indoors, looking at screens. For many people, that have restricted or no access at all to natural spaces, work like this could make a huge difference to their lives and having sat in the seat myself, you certainly get the full experience or being outdoors and seeing the nature all around you! On top of this, many people find animals to be great mood boosters, and for some people who struggle to communicate, animals can be a fantastic aid, and help in boosting mood and confidence.

You can find more information about this organisation and contact details on their websites:

https://www.icaccess.org/

A good view of the estuary, you can see the back of the wheelchair which is pulled on and secured with a winch
Obama having a whale of a time

Finally, I want to give a huge thanks to Richard, one of our volunteers who stayed out in the cold and wind for the whole day and didn’t complain once. I first met Richard when I came into the job earlier this year, joining him on one of his butterfly surveys and since the departure of our beloved Patrick, Richard has come out to help me patrol the reserve and undertake surveys nearly every weekend, rain, wind or shine. We really value the work that all of our volunteers put in to help, so, thank you!

Enjoying a hard earned cup of tea and the rainbow after our last beach clean

Speaking of volunteers and hard work… On Thursday, our dedicated team of staff, volunteers and Lauren from EGCP – Turning the Plastic Tide, braved the elements and spent the day doing a (rather soggy) beach clean in an effort to remove more of the plastics and rubbish that the recent floods and stormy weather have washed onto Forvie shores. One of our main aims for the day was to remove as much of the plastic bio-media that has been washing up in extremely high numbers both along the riverbanks of the Ythan, onto the estuary and along the beach. In just one 60m stretch of riverbank, over 2300 of these tiny little filters were collected. Scottish water and their environmental team are also continuing their efforts to remove as much of these from the environment as possible.

A bucket of biomedia… just a fraction of what is to be collected.
Bits and bobs and other bags of rubbish also collected

I think it’s fair to say that it was not an ideal day for working outdoors on Thursday, with wind and never-ending showers, the weather was pretty miserable. However, every one of us persevered in an effort to collect as much rubbish as we could, making the day a success! Again a huge thanks to Lauren and all of our wonderful volunteers for helping out (and Georgie, of course)!

A bit of rain can’t stop Elaine and Georgie!