~Litter chucked into the Lymington River~
‘Are you winning?’ my friend Alastair asked on the phone. I think so. The challenge to clean up Britain seems endless but once litter is collected it is less likely to re-accumulate. I’m certainly seeing a reduction of waste washed up on Solent shores.
This evening, I make my way into the muddiest location of all: the tidal estuary. Will I ever be able to clean it? Although tidal, it was been used as a sewer for years.
I walk past dinghies moored below the pavement only to come across a sodden bedspread, green with algae and seaweed. It stinks. I scoop it into my bucket, adding other rubbish – plastic bags, wrappers and stacked Costa coffee cups – before spending twenty minutes collecting broken glass. 30 minutes work. No wonder nobody walks here at low tide. It’s lethal.
The dog is so longing for a walk, I take the Solent Way up to our local monument. A stream runs from this point down into the estuary. Could it be carrying rubbish with it.
I reach the monument to find it has been renovated beautifully. The stream is running clear but why would anyone leave a can of anti-antiperspirant here? Is it being inhaled? I once found a brand new micro-wave oven, in its box, hidden under the bushes below the obelisk. It was clearly stolen. Then the dog found a large catfish. It must have been dropped by an osprey – not that I have seen one nesting here. I spend 30 minutes gathering predictable pieces of litter and walk home along the river.
~ The Burrard Neale Monument ~
I need to tackle the estuary again. After sliding down the embankment, I cautiously make my way onto the mud at low tide. Broken bottles sit in black ouse. I find a police cone encrusted with barnacles, bladderwrack and even a couple of muscles. It has become a mini-ecosystem.
I extract a number of plastic bottles, tins, a fishing float and one triangular Men at Work notice. At least two rusty road-sign stands lurk in the gunge. I go after another traffic cone but find myself being sucked into the mud and retreat clutching a wheel hub and my bucket. The heavier items are left on display for passing motorists to admire.
A multi-million pound Redrow development has risen up recently on the western shore beyond the sluice gates, offering sought after views. Did they not think about removing the rubbish that has accumulated over the decades? No wonder the flats were slow to sell. You’d think the value of the real estate would warrant a little bit of a tidy-up. It takes me 30 minutes.
‘I’ll ring if I get stuck in the mud. Please come and extract me!’ I tell my husband.
‘Don’t joke about serious issues,’ he calls back, sure that I will come to grief. ‘Are you taking the dog?’
‘I can’t. There’s too much broken glass.’
Some of the pieces of china I find are clearly Victorian, although none are of value. The shards of glass prove ancient and yet are razor sharp. There is no wave action here, only waders and seabirds searching for food, significant species such as little egrets. How many have been cut by this rubbish over the years?
I slide over seaweed and make my way around the shoreline, filling my purple bucket with litter caught under bushes or embedded in the mud. I end up finding a pristine and very modern bottle of wine. Two men mooring their boat stare as I drag a weathered traffic cone from the black mud and stagger home. If this foreshore was made up of golden sand, it would be a well known beach attracting hordes. How long will it take to recover from being a historic sewer?
I post this photo on Facebook, sharing thoughts with the local community. The men who were disembarking from their dinghy see this shot and apologise for not coming to my aid, which I appreciate. They kindly offer to help haul out anything I can’t manage, using their boat to reach the otherwise inaccessible items. Hopefully we can retrieve the bollard that defeated me earlier in the week. 40 minutes
~How long has this police cone been in the river?~
I put out rubbish for the refuse collectors – four large bags of mixed litter that can’t possibly be re-cycled. I’ll spare you the photos. My husband takes the bottles and broken glass with him to the supper-market where he has a long relationship with the re-cycling containers. He insists that I try to rescue the bedspread found in the estuary. I drag it out of the washing machine after two cycles but it still stinks. Noisome is the word. There is no chance it can possibly be of use. I make plans for the pile of vehicle parts I’ve found on verges to be taken to the town dump where useful items are sold cheaply. The only piece of litter added today is a steel cable but all this sorting absorbs 20 minutes of my time.
I log my findings with Keep Britain Tidy, since it is the last day of the Great British Spring Clean. There are no categories for the number of glass bottles, stolen items, road signs or vehicle parts found. I’ll publish the results in my next post.
4 thoughts on “Diary of a lone litter picker: week 5 of the Great British Spring Clean focused on the Lymington River Estaury”
Thanks, Sophie. I’ve been walking in Epping Forest once a week with a friend for some years, and we often commented on the rubbish that we had seen. He and I have now formally registered with the Forest Conservancy as litter pickers and picked our first batch this morning (over ten pounds weight, mainly glass bottles and jars).
What an incredible five weeks. I am in awe of you and all your fellow litter-pickers on the Great British Spring Clean. Let’s hope it stirs the national conscience into changing our lazy, litter-dropping, ‘it’s someone else’s problem’ ways. I think you’ve done a brilliant job, thank you Sophie.
Thank you for your encouragement and support! We have another Great British Spring Clean coming up later this month.
Good luck with this year’s Spring Clean, Sophie. I look forward to reading about it in your blog, and I must see that I do my bit for it round here.