Sunday Sea-bathing.

Sunday morning was a strange one, as I looked out my window and was greeted with a blanket of mist across the countryside. I had arranged to meet a friend to go for a dip in the sea and I was starting to regret my decision. Luckily, as I drove closer to the sea, the mist was clearing to reveal blue skies and sunshine. The steps down to the water was bustling with sea swimmers, young and old. This was my first time in the sea since August and I was really excited but also not looking forward to the coldness of the water. I walked in slow to start and then jumped in…..it was a shock to the system to say the least!

It was thrilling and freezing. It was exhilarating and freezing. It was cleansing and freezing. And then finally the cold went away, my thoughts washed away with the waves and I was left with calmness. This moment made it all worth it, even though my feet were still tingling. With the sunshine on my face, the view of the misty Carlingford Lough, the Mourne and Cooley Mountains, the waves and the other swimmers, it was all pretty special. It was amazing to appreciate the sea like this when I am so lucky to live so close. Afterwards, my mind was clear and motivated and my body was relaxed and all aches and pains were gone. Nature really can be a healer, mentally and physically. Needless to say, I want to make this a regular part of my life!

I’ll be honest… I lasted less than 10 minutes but it’s a good start.

Want some Jelly with your Ice-cream?

There is nothing more typical of my Northern Irish culture than to head to the beach on my day off work to enjoy an ice-cream, most likely a 99.

So yesterday I ventured out to two local beaches for a short stroll. Firstly, I visited Greencastle Beach and then I went on to Cranfield Beach, both of which lie on the shores of Carlingford Lough. Both beaches are popular for leisure and Greencastle has a working ferry and lots of smaller boats anchored along the shore.

I am pretty sure that the first time I had every seen a Jellyfish was on Greencastle Beach and yesterdays experience did not disappoint. To my surprise the beach was flocked with small Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita also called Common Jellyfish. True to its name, this species is a very common sight around British and Irish shores and it is this species that I have seen before. They can be identified by their four purple rings that can be seen very clearly within their whitish translucent bodies. Their sting is very weak and should not be too much of a problem for people in the water or on the shore.

Moon Jellyfish/ Common Jellyfish (Aurelia Aurita)

As I walked further along the waterline I found larger jellyfish that I had never seen before and they are the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata). These are very impressive with their bright orange/red colour and are the largest jelly species in the world. Although the Lion’s Mane prefer cooler waters it is becoming more common to find them stranded along British and Irish coastlines. This species comes with a powerful sting in and out of the water so great care must be taken when visiting the beach during the Summer months.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)

As I arrived at Cranfield Beach there was a noticeable difference between the beaches in relation to stranded Jellyfish. Cranfield and Greencastle are only minutes from each other but there are vast differences, Cranfield is a Blue-Flag Beach and Greencastle has a more rocky shore and pebbled beach. Although I did spot some Jellyfish on Cranfield, they were much smaller and it was mainly the Moon Jellyfish present here. I spotted one Blue Jellyfish (Cyanea lamarckii) on the beach and I didn’t see any of the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish. The Blue Jellyfish is small and translucent like the Moon Jelly but has a more vivid Blue colour on it. This species has a mild sting which has been compared to that of a Nettle sting.

blue jellyfish.JPG
Blue Jellyfish (Cyanea lamarckii)

I found it astonishing to see so many Jellyfish but very sad that they had to be stranded for me to see them. Unfortunately, most of the individuals that I seen yesterday will have dehydrated and died before the tide came back for them. Only the larger individuals will have had a fighting chance. As they float along in currents, they are quite defenceless to stranding between tides.

So appreciate the beauty of these Jellyfish but from a distance as even when stranded they can still sting.

What to do if you have been stung by a Jellyfish;

  • If in water, get out immediately
  • If there are any stingers left in your skin, remove them if possible as they will continue to sting you
  • Apply heat to relieve pain
  • Take paracetamol to relieve pain
  • If pain persists, seek medical attention
  • DO NOT URINATE ON THE STING (This is a MYTH and will not help in any way)

For more information follow the link below providing information from the NHS;

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/jellyfish-and-other-sea-creature-stings/

Heatwaves and Gorse fires; Why is Northern Ireland so unprepared?

I am sure that it is now international knowledge that Ireland and the UK have been experiencing a heatwave for the past week or so. Two nations full of complainers and over-exaggerators when it comes to anything involving the weather. A few months ago, we were frozen over, and we had to close schools and businesses and I even had to wear my hiking boots to make it over my road a few times. But now that temperatures have been flying steady above 20 degrees the whole island of Ireland has been put on a hosepipe ban. Oh yes, you heard that right, an island that experiences rain for at least 10 months of the year is worried about water shortages and pollution.

Sadly with this heatwave comes the threat of gorse wildfires across Northern Ireland, in which approximately 600 were reported in the last week. This issue is not only tragic to the environment but deeply threatens livestock, farmland, homeowners and the economy. The thought of any of these fires being purposely set is appalling as brave members of our Fire and Rescue Service continue to put their lives in danger to combat the flames. I was driving along the Mourne Coastal Route during a beautiful sunny evening and suddenly the road in front of me was engulfed in thick smoke as a gorse fire raged along the cliffs. The firefighters were on the scene already trying to stomp out the flames, but it was obviously difficult when they were surrounded by dry grass and gorse which caught fire so quickly. A few days later, I heard that the area around Bloody Bridge in County Down was also experiencing gorse fires, this is only a few miles down the road from Ballymartin where I had seen the last gorse fire. Bloody Bridge is a popular spot for watersports, picnics and sunbathing so the area has been buzzing with people throughout this good weather. On the news, I have seen reports of large gorse fires across the nation, which worries me of how our landscapes are so fragile against the slightest of environmental changes.

Although this heatwave is a weather phenomenon, it is the sort of event that may become more frequent as our climate becomes more unpredictable in the future. Hopefully our governments, in both Ireland and the UK will work harder to implement solutions to the problems climate change and global warming will continue to throw our way.

But for now, there are things you can do to help reduce the risk of gorse fires;

·         Report any fires immediately by calling 999

·         Extinguish all barbeque equipment and cigarettes properly

·         Refrain from setting camp fires

·         Refrain from leaving rubbish in areas that are vulnerable to wildfires, as rubbish like plastic and glass bottles can act as a lens to superheat the ground beneath them resulting in a spark.

For more information on what to do to help prevent wildfires and what to do if you see a wildfire follow the link;

https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/news/daera-urges-public-help-prevent-wildfires