Helicopter helps in Mull beach clean with a twist

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Three-and-a-half huge bags of washed-up marine litter has been cleaned off a remote beach on the Isle of Mull – with the help of a helicopter.

Skyhook Helicopters, part of Craignure-based TSL Contractors Ltd, kindly agreed to uplift the ‘dumpy bags’ full of plastics and fly them to the nearest roadside after they proved to difficult to shift from the remote location.

Somerset Charrington, of Treshnish Farm near Calgary, started beach cleaning along a large inaccessible shore in 2019 while keeping an eye on his lambs. He amassed such a large quantity that he placed it in large feed bags to stop it blowing around.

But the location of the rubbish – more than a mile from the nearest vehicular access – meant it proved a headache to shift as there was no way of transporting them back to the farm.

Shepherd Somerset Charrington with the huge bags of marine litter

Carolyne Charrington, who runs Treshnish and Haunn Cottages, said: ‘Our wildest dream was to get a helicopter in to lift it out to a place where we could reach it with a vehicle but we baulked at the potential cost of this.’

However, before Christmas they got word that Skyhook was going to be lifting packs of fencing materials into position on the Isle of Ulva in the New Year, and got in touch to ask if they could help.

On Saturday February 6, a helicopter piloted by operations manager Murray Graham and assisted by ground crew Terry Maughan and Matthew Rowbottom, removed the bags.

Up and away the bags are transported off the remote area

Carolyne said: ‘It took all of five minutes! We both felt quite emotional with tears in our eyes at the sight of the bags disappearing over the hill. We are so very grateful to Skyhook for doing this.’

Murray, who pilots the AS350 B3 Plus – aka ‘the single squirrel’ – said Skyhook had been flying out bundles of fencing from Mull to Ulva, and the job of uplifting the litter was no effort at all with them only too happy to help.

The six-seater helicopter can uplift 1.2 tonnes on an underslung load and TSL owner Andy Knight is from Mull with the company established there.

Photograph: Matthew Rowbottom of Skyhook Helicopters.

Carolyne said plastics washing up continues to be a huge issue. Finds include lobster tags from Newfoundland, Canada, and fishing buoys from Providence, Maine.

A neighbour also found a boat on the shores of Loch Tuath between Mull and Ulva, having fallen off a container ship on its way from Denmark to Greenland, she said.

Carolyne said: ‘Treshnish has four miles of coastline and as much as we would like to, it is just not possible to keep every inch picked clean of the marine plastic and rubbish that washes in with the tides.

‘But we do what we can and usually where there is access with a quad bike or a tractor.’

Guests had often helped by picking up beach plastic, while Mull Otter Group has also organised beach cleans too.

‘All this is a great help, and makes the never-ending task feel less onerous,’ said Carolyne.