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Murlough is cared for as Ireland's first nature reserve since 1967, the fragile 6000 year old sand dune system offers some lovely walks. Due to the reserves wild nature you can discover birds, flowers, butterflies and more, all overlooked by the rounded peaks of the Mourne Mountains to the south.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Litter-Picking Paradise

Litter-Picking Paradise
It is hot.  “What do volunteers do when the weather is so unrelentingly clement” you might ask?

 “Ah ha! I shall tell you” (without a shred of cynicism or ridiculously fanciful description... )
We have been out enhancing visitor experience through the subtle and artful re-imagining of their physical surroundings.  This is more than the mere removal of unwanted detritus (from man and dog alike) but is an exciting work in progress, evolving as the ebb and flow of visitors washes over the reserve.  The trick is to blend, to meld almost, with the hot flustery crowds, weaving amongst them like discrete eels, casting our magic; our perpetual disappearing act.
 A Chewit paper drops...whoosh!..we catch it on the wing.  A wet-wipe flutters brown and smeared from the marram grass...gasp!...we spirit it away.  Barbequed chicken glistens oily and sluggish in the sand...expelliarmus!..we whip it out from under the innocent noses of the sunbathers and sightseers.  As they lie back, contented, demure and sober, we dart about making the dunes and sands look as untouched by human hand as if they were a newly discovered paradise; an Eden of the modern age.  There are no hidden improvised toilets in paradise, no small blackened burn-sites and singed sticky sausages, no clue to suspected nappy-origami contests under gorse bushes ...no, it’s all pristine.  Thus do we work, around the clock, around the gloriously tanned limbs of supine spectators, to remove every trace of humanity’s decadence and reliance on plastics.
On a more serious note, we attempt, and in most cases succeed, in hiding the tragic fact that most of our rabbits here are smokers and alcoholics (the evidence is there).  From the ‘tuts’ and ‘tsks’ you can tell that the  some of the more mature visitors are shocked at this state of affairs, for certainly a human would never leave the evidence of their substance use so blatantly lying around.  I personally find it strange that few youngsters seem to notice or care about this; are they not saddened, nay moved, by the flagrant littering caused by our furry friends, or has TV and video-games hardened them to such things?  Take a late night dander along the snaking paths of the reserve and the extent of the addiction is laid bare; for wherever there are cans of lager, fag ends and bottles of WkD, there are rabbit droppings. 
This is even more shocking when you consider how many young impressionable rabbits there are at this time of year.  Tsk.
Back to the details of the task.  We use state of the art tools for this job: telescopic hand-operated grabbing-extensions, equipped with a jaunty plastic handy-hook (to catch in Satsuma-netting and flayed tissue paper) and a daring futuristic alloy shaft to catch the sunlight.  We place our finds into voluminous mixed-matter flexi-sacks, crafted from spaceage unbreakable nanosheets (able to withstand BBQ wire, broken glass and disposable forks) and seal these with knots that only a Jedi could understand.  These ‘refuse sacks’ (if you will) are placed in the hover-trailer and the mechanised pilot is ordered to convey them back to the reclamation zone. 
To be part of such a slick and seamless study in the de-soiling of the sand and scrub is an honour, and I do not speak of it lightly.  It is a compulsive activity once begun, and many a volunteer has wandered off merrily litter-picking, never to be seen again (ok, that’s not really true).  Much as the lopping of bramble tendrils can utterly consume one in a peculiar blend of frustration and joy, litter-picking can dissolve the hours and days like a beautiful and memorable bath -bomb in the bathtub of life.

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