Diary of a litter picker: 20 unusual finds

Sophie Neville searching for marine plastic on the Solent

As a child, I longed to find a unicorn. Nowadays they litter the New Forest.

Unicorns seem to be popping up everywhere, along with Disney princesses.

A stranded mermaid illustration how helpless most of us feel about sea plastic

And underpants. We find a lot.

Men’s underpants caught in the brambles
Frilly knickers found in a church car park within the New Forest National Park
Anti-perspirant and after shave is often discarded by a sniffers in the New Forest
A garden rake, the second I’ve found of this type, possibly from a cannabis farm
An elf’s shoe – the pencil is just for scale, although I sometimes find them
I often find fenders and floats washed up on the Solent
Did the peak drift across the English Channel by itself?
A pin from a sailing pontoon that has been washed down the coast
Small pieces of asbestos roofing washed up on the Solent
It is not unusual to rubber lining the coast. Helium ballons are washed up almost every day
Intact fluorescent light bulbs found washed up on the Solent
Fluorescent tubing found washed up intact on the Solent foreshore

Shockingly, I have been told, ‘we get ORDERED to throw them overboard as sending them back ashore is expensive due to them been classified as hazardous waste. Happens everyday in some way or another. 200 old fire extinguishers once but there’s a lot worse.’

Plastic pollution collected from Solent shores Dec 2022 - photo Sophie Neville
plastic effecting wildlife

These look like regurgitated owl pellets comprised of plastic, found in woodland on the Solent Way footpath. I often find PVC rope in the dung of New Forest ponies.

It looks like a broken branch but it’s the remains of a ‘hangman’s noose’ or swing found on the coast with polystyrene, PPE masks and a discarded picnic mug

Here is a tree bearing three, although you can only just see the remains of a blue rope. It’s killed the branch.

Ropes hung from trees on private land within the New Forest National Park

‘Why do people litter?’

  • Annie Soulsby says, “It’s about caring. If someone doesn’t care about themselves they tend to not care much about anything else, including the environment. “
  • “The crux of the problem is that all sorts of people litter all sorts of items for all sorts of reasons” says Samantha Harding, the director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s litter campaign. “Men aged 18-25 often see it as cool to drop litter, but hauliers, smokers, users of fast food outlets and drive-through takeaways and commuters are all groups of society who litter”.
Litter on a stick

The animals seem to resent rubbish left in their pristine environment. The rabbits excavated these cans.

Unwanted lager cans excavated by rabbits?

May be its because people use holes as litter bins.

A plastic bottle repulsed from a rabbit hole

Litter pickers often encounter wildlife – especially lizards or wood mice, snails and insects, which use the litter or become trapped inside it. I found this healthy slow worm under a water trough when I was cleaning a field.

A slow worm found whilst collecting plastic from a field

Our most exciting and treasured find was a brand new basket ball with plenty of bounce, washed up on a remote Solent shore.

A fine find – a new basket ball, washed up on a remote sandbank

Litter is pollution. It’s vital that we remove it. Dave Regos has asked to show you an award-winning documentary entitled ‘A Fist Full of Rubbish’:

Meanwhile, I continue to patrol the strand.

Here are some odd things I found earlier

Showing a teacher shoes found on a beach clean
Litter Pickers of the New Forest Beach Picker of the Year 2020

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

9 thoughts on “Diary of a litter picker: 20 unusual finds”

  1. Dear Sophie, Swallows and Amazons was the most immense fulfillment of my childhood. What did you think about Cumbria? Where did you grow up, and how did it differ?  Stuart MacbethJump Steady Jazz

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment on my website. I am so glad to hear you like ‘Swallows and Amazons’. Have you thought about becoming a member of The Arthur Ransome Society? They are planning a literary weekend in Oxford soon and a summer camp in Norfolk.

      I grew up in Gloucestershire and have written about my impressions of Cumbria in the paperback ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ and in ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons’, which is available on Amazon Kindle for £2.99. You can read the first section for free here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Secrets-Filming-Swallows-Amazons-ebook/dp/B00GNFYZJS?tag=sophienevi-21

  2. Men’s underpants and frilly knickers! Just what goes on in the New Forest and on the beaches, he asks naively! More seriously, the story about fluorescent tubes being cast overboard is an absolute disgrace.

    1. I’m afraid the man’s underpants are evidence of smoking dope. We see this quite a bit on the coast. It’s amazing how much clothing is discarded. Collecting it can be heavy work as it is often wet.

      1. On a flippant level, that’s disappointing! On a serious level that’s very sad and disturbing.

          1. I know, and I apologise for an inappropriate lapse into flippancy on what is a very serious subject. Litter is one of the major curses of our era and I greatly appreciate and support the work that you and your colleagues do in trying to keep our beaches, countryside and villages clean and safe. You are all owed a huge and sincere ‘thank you’ from all the rest of us.

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