Storm Ellen has wrought a mighty change on the beach below the cottage. The storm, which lasted two days, created massive turbulence in the sea and the accompanying high winds pushed the waves onto the beach. The result is a massive deposit of ‘brown gold’ along the length of the whole beach. The majority of the weed is kelp, although there are smaller quantities of sea lettuce, carrageen, dulse and various wracks in the mixture.
Although not pretty, kelp was at the heart of a very important industry on the island two centuries ago. During the Napoleonic Wars, when other supplies from Spain dried up, the price of kelp ash rose from £2 to £12 per ton.
West coast landowners were quick to capitalise on this bonanza and between 1803 and 1837 kelp was gathered, dried and burned on the island to recover soda and potash. These compounds were essential to the soap and glass industries.
Kelp was also collected from 1863 to 1901 to extract iodine and sodium alginate. In recent years dried kelp from the island has been used to produce alginate food thickenings used in ice cream, beer and medical dressings.
It looks like there may be a small fortune on the beach!