Nearly every morning, I take the dog for a walk across a 200 acre open parkland called The Stray in my home-town of Harrogate. The Stray carves a big arc around the town centre. It’s kind of an inner green belt. It’s a fairly featureless space – beautiful in places, and not short of character in others, but on the whole, it’s just a big grass space. It’s normally the only time of the day when I’m off the grid and it gives me a precious 30 window for reflection and thought process. Occasionally though, things step into my introverted morning bubble.
This morning, I saw the above. A pile of raspberries. Around 1 – 2kg of them. They were on the ground a good 30m from any path or road. Why? Why there? (I guess) Someone would have had to walk 30m from the path, then back again. Given their ‘out of season’ status, these would have cost between £5 – £10 from a supermarket. Looking at them though, some look unripe – suggesting they may have been picked then placed in a freezer. That doesn’t make it any clearer. Good for the birds though, as someone commented on my instagram.
My finding stuff on The Stray career stretches to a several tennis balls, a mobile phone, a bangle, a box of beer (18 tins), a brand new (apparently expensive) bit of make up, a few lighters and a person (alive, but not very happy) – oh, and a punnet of raspberries. Finding stuff ‘washed up’ on The Stray reminds me a bit of beach combing. For proper beach-combing; I’ve been a big fan of this guys work for a few years, a fella called DJ BASS. He finds a lot of stuff on the Isle of Thanet, Kent. Some of the stuff he’s found is quite remarkable, and he as a knack of making the mundane look often fantastic through his photography. His ‘Abandoned‘ Set is a delightful and amazing collection.
As well as the beautiful, but typically worthless flotsam and jetsam, occasionally stuff of real value washes up on our beaches. Of course there’s the fabled 24,000 case Whiskey Galore story, then, there’s the more recent manna from heaven (well, Belgium actually) story where container ship MSC Napoli spilled her load all over a beach in Cornwall. As well as cases of wine, perfumes and car parts, several BMW R1200RT motorbikes were amongst the list it items scavenged.
Perhaps though, there’s another item that out-ranks all of the above, for it’s value, it’s beauty and it’s mystique. Ambergris. This substance, currently (gram for gram) about the same in value as solid gold, is occasionally found washed up on a beach, after spending years floating around the high seas. It’s a unique, waxy substance used, for making high end perfumes. It’s actually a bi product of the Sperm Whale digestive system. Sperm Whales that have a special perchance for squid – this is the indigestible part – the squid’s beak.
People often tell you to look up, when walking. Sound advice in towns and cities, where often the finest, unsullied architectural beauty lies above the shop line, but I say – when out and about, look down from time to time. You never know what you’ll find. You may even find one of the 28,000 rubber duckies, that are still turning up the world over, 21 years after they were lost at sea.