I visited the Flagstaff viewpoint last weekend and experienced the amazing scenery that it boasts both North and South of the Irish Border. To my right was the iconic view over Warrenpoint and Carlingford Lough, to my left a view over Newry City and Newry Canal, behind me was beautiful mountains and farmland but slap bang in front of me was the perfect view into a huge quarry.
I wrote a post about Bigwood Forest just a few weeks ago as I had visited the site and was pleasantly surprised by the diverse vegetation and insects that I experienced. The site is a working quarry and has been in action for a long time, but it is very well hidden from the main road. You see the occasional lorry pulling into or out of the site, but it is mostly a mystery to how big the quarry is. I really hadn’t thought about this place very much as I couldn’t see it, so I didn’t see it as an environmental problem.
But from the Flagstaff viewpoint I could finally see just how large the quarry is. It was disheartening to see the vast hole in the beautiful landscape that lay before me. I even felt disappointed in myself for not knowing the scale of disruption to the local environment. Sadly, Mourne is known for its granite and so this is a common sight around this area. What makes me sad is that this is a site that will only continue to get bigger as they dig further into the rock, eventually depleting the chances of ecological balance in the area. I have drove along the dual-carriage between Warrenpoint and Newry and always envy the people who live in the houses on the other side of the water because they are so isolated, elevated and I imagine that they have an incredible view of the landscape. But now I realise that whilst they do get to see the beauty of the area, they also must look at the ugliness of the natural resource exploitation that has occurred here.
I even titled the area as a Hidden Gem and I guess this was correct, but it was the quarry that was hiding, not the beautiful natural surroundings.
As ever World Environment Day works to raise awareness for protection of the environment with this year focusing on plastic pollution. Single-use plastic products has been raised as a serious concern within society with campaigners spreading their message across social media and news platforms in recent months. These single-plastics are usually straws, cutlery, bottles and cups.
I live in a small village in County Down, Northern Ireland and plastic pollution has a minimal effect on me. I notice the odd bit of rubbish along the hedgerows that people have discarded from their cars, but this does not happen very often, and me and my neighbours tend to clear rubbish from our area rather quickly. My closest town is Warrenpoint and I frequently walk along the promenade, looking down to the shore. It is a beautiful shingle beach looking onto Carlingford Lough. Never have I once thought that this was a littered beach, so I was shocked that when Warrenpoint Port held a beach clean last week that they gathered numerous bags of rubbish. There is even a Board with information, bin bags and rubbish pickers for the public to use along the beach, all provided as part of the 2-minute beach clean project which has been implemented across Ireland and the United Kingdom.
I recently attended a beach clean at Kilkeel which is another local harbour town and is home to the largest fishing fleet within Northern Ireland. Sadly, this beach was very littered. Before I reached the sand, my bin bag had quite a lot of rubbish in it and one of the first things I found was car parts that had been dumped illegally. The issue of illegal dumping seemed to be a very big concern here as we found burnt out car parts and even burnt out mattresses. This was all in the back-beach area, away from the high-water mark. So as we moved closer to the water, it was evident that the rubbish here was litter from beach users including bottles both plastic and glass and food packaging and wrappers. What was shocking was the amount of rubbish that had been washed in by the high tide and this rubbish was specifically from the boats that are around the harbour. We found lots of rope, netting, buoys, buckets, empty petrol containers and a magnitude of rubber gloves. By the end of the beach clean we had over 30 bags ready for the local amenity centre (most of which could be recycled) a fridge, a child’s bike (in perfect condition) and three rubber tyres, one of which was too large for the amenity centre to accept. When talking to other volunteers about what we found, a woman who had been on a previous beach clean in this location told me that there was far more fishing boat equipment found the last time. This is very shocking that the fishermen think it is acceptable to dump this rubbish from their boats even when it will affect the ecosystem and organisms that their business relies upon.
However, with campaigning and increased awareness little steps have been taken to tackle the worlds plastic problems. And so It is encouraging when entering a coffee shop there are biodegradable cups offered and they will even give you money off your purchase if you bring in your own renewable cups. Some bars and nightclubs will no longer give out straws with drinks unless asked for. When in shops you can see that increasing numbers of products are attempting to use less plastic packaging, however plastic is still used and in great demand so there is still a long way to go to reduce plastic pollution.
I am glad that the United Nations chose plastic pollution as the theme for this years World Environment Day as this issue needs to remain a talking point until real action can be achieved internationally.