Message in bottle campaign sparks date offers '“ and attacks for littering

A widower who sought new love by casting adrift thousands of messages in bottles across Britain has said it has brought him 50 possible dates.

A man who sparked outrage for his efforts to find love by releasing thousands of messages in bottles at beauty spots across the UK has said he now has dozens of potential dates.

However, Craig Sullivan has vowed to come up with another way of trying to find a partner if they are unsuccessful after being accused of littering and polluting the environment.

The 49-year-old London web consultant, who went to school in Bearsden, was reported to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) after releasing 200 bottles in the River Cree in Dumfries and Galloway.

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The bottles, containing pleas for companionship, were among 2,000 launched by Mr Sullivan over the past week.

He hatched the scheme, inspired by The Police song Message in a Bottle, following the death of his wife Julia from breast cancer 18 months ago.

In a blog posted last Friday, he wrote: “I am lonely. I miss the simple acts of companionship and sharing.

“Using any of the normal channels for this sort of thing (dating sites, friends, matchmaking services) seemed clichéd or somehow less elegant, less noble in intentions than my own mind.

“So, armed with maps, tidal tables, a motor home, 4G data, provisions and a week driving around the UK,  I might just be able to send them to beaches across the world.”

However, some of those who found the bottles washed up in Scotland and Wales weren’t touched by their romantic intent.

One resident close to the Cree near Newton Stewart told Mr Sullivan: “Sepa informed of you fly tipping into the River Cree salmon hatchery. Your total disregard for our beautiful clean river is palpable.

“Don’t come back to Newton Stewart you’re not welcome.

“Incidentally, all bottles recovered from the Cree hatchery.”

A Sepa spokesman said: “We did receive a complaint from a member of the public.

“However, we didn’t have much involvement with the incident and our officers are comfortable there is no environmental risk to the River Cree as a result of the bottles being released.

“We understand almost all of the bottles were removed from the river fairly quickly by local residents.

“While we certainly don’t condone the release of these bottles, there is no further action to be taken by Sepa.”

Another woman told Mr Sullivan: “I love how romantic your idea is, but please reconsider putting all of these into the sea – lots of us spend hours picking up beach litter.

“How about joining a big beach clean, you may pick up a hobby and meet someone there too?”

Mr Sullivan later tweeted: “A lot of positive and negative comments. There have been no more bottles since my last post, whilst I rethink and find a better way. I have at least two ideas already from people.”

He said in an interview: “The abuse was not very good. In several instances it got out of hand. It was never my intent to harm the environment.

“It was more accident, naivety as well as stupidity in the execution. There was the fact that they all washed up on the beach in Wales at the same time or got caught in the net at the river in Scotland.”