It’s taken a while to warm up here on Lismore. The summer hasn’t arrived according to the calendar and in the past two weeks we’ve had freezing gales, hail stones and snow on the hills around us. Then the sun came out for a few days, and we got out to explore.
The stony beach at the pier is a favourite place to play, and while the girls splashed in the shallows and climbed the rocks I sat and watched people going on and off the ferry, in search of their own adventures. The island has been a busier place these past few days as things open up, and we’ve been welcoming tourists back with a mix of pleasure and trepidation. So far, instead of Covid related concerns, the main issue with visitors to the island has been with how they manage their dogs.
It seems that protecting the environment and caring for animals (I’m assuming that people who choose to visit a rural island for outdoor pursuits are interested in the environment and animal welfare) does not extend to protecting farm animals, nor respecting the nature of their own animals. Because dogs – no matter how well behaved or precious – will worry sheep if left to run in fields unchecked. Lismore is a working island, and as most parts are farmed there are sheep and cows all over the place.
Exactly this is what makes Lismore such a joy to visit: the bucolic nature of the landscape and everyone’s right to meander through it. Inherent in the right to roam is the responsibility to leave no mark behind you; if you would think twice about leaving litter on a mountain trail, you should think twice about leaving a frightened sheep, cow, lamb or calf to hurl themselves off a cliff or on to the road, to be separated from their mothers or mauled, injured and left for dead.
The pastoral beauty of our island is precious, but we have many natural resources. When I’d stopped being cross about people I thought again about the possibility of making more of our island location, especially our access to seaweed and the health benefits it provides. The seaweed soap I make has kelp powder and bladderwrack in it, and I get many comments on how soothing it is to use. The bladderwrack gives the soap a small amount of exfoliation, and the kelp powder adds colour; together they contribute a variety of minerals and vitamins which are said to deeply nourish the skin.
There is a long history of the use of seaweed in industry along the West Coast of Scotland, collected by local people and sold to make things as varied as medicines and glass. Here on Lismore we have a lovely local expert (you can find her at www.sacred-seed.co.uk) who runs seaweed foraging courses – what more could I need to learn more about this as an ingredient in soaps, creams and, maybe, masks and bath teas? The possibilities seem endless as the days warm and the sun shines, as endless as the reach of the sea to the horizon.
Using seaweed in skincare products is something I would like to explore further, if you have used seaweed or are interested in seaweed products, let me know!