Diary of a Litter Picker: The final legs of the Race for Reading

Finishing the #Race4Reading 2022

Thanks to my kind donors, I have raised £630 in sponsorship for Schoolreaders, which has been matched by my company.

The charity have also been promised matched funding, so hopefully my grand total will be £2,520.

If you are able to add a little, it would be hugely appreciated. You £5 would be magnified into £20. The link to my Justgiving page can be found here.

The last weeks of SchoolReaders’ Race for Reading have been tough for me. Back from holiday and the fresh winds of west Wales, I came into contact with numerous people testing Covid + and went down with fatigue, possibly fending off the virus. I was persuaded to take things slowly and do a little at a time but I have walked a total of 92 miles, collecting sea plastic and litter.

It’s an honour to be an author supporter of Schoolreaders who have organised this fantastic marathon. So many have taken part in it that the total number of miles covered is impressive.

Collecting litter along the Solent Way

Here is my progress since my last post:

Day 27 – May 14th 2022 – 1.8km – I collect Easter bunnies encased in plastic lying discarded along the Solent Way.

Day 28 – May 15th – 2.22km – I extract a cheerful orange case from the mudflats. It once held sunglasses.

Day 30 – May 16th – 1 km – cleaning up after a tramp who had been sniffing air freshner in the bluebell woods.

Day 31 – May 20th – I km – finding MacDonald’s packaging on Tanner’s Lane Beach.

Collecting broken glass from a beach where children paddle and dogs play

Day 32 – May 24th – 2.2km – finding builder’s gloves chucked into the ditch running alongside the river

Day 33 – May 26th – 1 km – no litter! as I take the footpath up the hill to the pub

Day 34 – May 27th – 0.8km – but spend ages excavating elderly bottles from newly dug drain that flows into the river

Found on the Foreshore

Day 35 – May 28th – 3km – along the coast with a friend collecting broken glass and plastic, a clothes peg and a slip-on shoe.

Day 36 – June 7th – 2km – along a lane by the river collecting driver’s litter.

Day 37 – June 12th – 1km – along country lanes and into a village.

Sophie Neville collecting litter from Solent Shores

A lovely email from SchoolReaders arrived saying: “You really have been a Race for Reading superstar.”

Day 38 – June 15th – 1.6km – along the Solent Way collecting a bucketful of fast food containers and empty packets of cigarettes.

Day 39 – June 16th – 2.2km walking along the Solent foreshore collecting old PVC rope and muddy plastic bags. I find a pot shard in a dyke that could be rubbish from long ago.

Day 40 – June 18th – 3.km found a huge PVC rope whilst walking along the Solent and lugged it home with a bucket of flotsam.

THANK YOU to the sponsors of Race for Reading; Maths Circle and Kindred who sponsored the campaign.

Schoolreaders now have the final total for this year’s Race for Reading! Collectively, we travelled 27,941.17 miles and raised more than £17,000!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped to achieve this! Your support means that Schoolreaders volunteers will be able to listen to many more children read, and make the world of difference to their lives!

As you can see, I use an old feed bucket to collect litter but these bags made out of old sails can take broken glass and cope well in the wind. I was kindly given one by Litter Pickers of the New Forest to keep me going.

Rubbish - A camera no one will want
A camera washed up on the Solent

We all need to keep collecting litter and sea plastic. You can hear news for the oceans here:

Collecting coastal litter on the Race for Reading

Sophie Neville on the Solent

The Race for Reading is going well and my litter picking is bearing results.

Schoolreaders is such a great charity. I’m one of their author supporters along with Joanna Trollop and Sophie Kinsella. They have been incredibly supportive, tweeting:

@Sophie_Neville has been an absolute star of #RacefoReading this year! Not only has she collected a massive amount of #litter from our coastlines she’s raised over £550 to support children’s #literacy via #Schoolreaders, which she hopes to get match funded!

An improvement can be seen as I walk the coast collecting plastic pollution, but change is slow. In the last few decades, micro plastics have got everywhere. I list some of the weirdest things I’ve found in the past here.

Orange and green that should not be seen

Day 21 – of my personal challenge

U is for Unbelievable how much litter there is in Britain

Unless each one of us do something useful, we’ll be burrowing through unbearable rubbish. I embark on an uplifting walk of about 12.5kms, up and down the river, collecting useless plastic before it is washed into the unforgiving sea.

It’s not unusual for litter to last for decades. You can see some of the elderly items I’ve found by the coast here.

Day 22 –

V is for Victory

I walk vigilantly along the tideline, through the sand dunes, along the verdant estuary where flotsam gathers, and into town finding very small pieces as I cover 6.5kms.

Day 23 –

W is for Why Worry?

Why use a dog poo bag if you are going to leave it in the countryside? It is worrying. They do not decompose and have been known to kill animals attracted to grain in the dog poo. Foals have died. A vet found 20 dog poo bags in the stomach of a deer.

I wander through tide wrack finding a number of dog poo bags washed up by the sea. How many kill dolphins? I return via the windswept sand dunes crossing an ancient midden or rubbish dump. 4 km + 9km = 13km walked today.

W is for Waterhaul – I use this old feed bucket for collecting litter but it is better to take a bag when it’s windy. You need a strong one that can take broken glass. Waterhaul are making beach clean bags out of old sails and are up-cyling amazing things out of discarded fishing net. You can find their website here.

Day 24

X is for sea Xs – I find a huge number along the coast – the result of torn fishing net being shredded and discarded at sea. It is too costly to mend or dispose of them on land. Theses strands of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) are known as sea-kisses when an X is formed by the knot. Please collect any and report your findings to Marine Management.

PVC fishing net purposely shredded and discarded at sea

I stop for a rest to look back on what’s been achieved, appreciating all the encouragement I’ve been given.

Rebecca Holmes left a message saying: “only 3.5km” only this only that. NO, it’s not only. It’s brilliant, every single step counts.

Liz Downs Wow. This is the first I’ve heard of this. What an achievement 👏💖

Stephen Green Such a worthwhile cause, I commend you Sophie well done, I don’t know where you get the energy from.

Sophie Neville collecting marine plastic on the r4r2022

Day 25

Y is for Yucky

Are young people to blame or drivers? If you take a lane running alongside your local river, you soon notice that most roadside litter is made up of the bright packaging of things that are bad for people: tobacco, sweets, over flavoured snacks, drugs, sugary carbonated drinks and alcohol. Somehow the caffeine fails to give people the energy to take their rubbish to a bin.

I took part in Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean when we counted cans collected and found twice as many alcohol containers as soft drinks. The highways of Britain are lined with tins and bottles that have been in people’s mouths. What are the consequences?

I walk 1.3km along our tidal river within the National Park, collecting a couple of large bottles that would have been hazardous if flung from a vehicle. These are added to my glass recycling bin, which has become embarrassingly full. I have a container of old oil I do not know how to dispose of. There are two 25 litre drums of chemicals, a car bumper and a metal table lurking in the estuary. I’ve reported them to the Council twice but nothing has been done.

I feel discouraged but am delighted to announce that a colleague from Litter Pickers of The New Forest, renown for covering a huge distance, has signed up for the Race for Reading 2022 and will be picking up the baton. Another volunteer promises to help me extract the fly-tipping and take it to the dump.

Day 26

Z is for Zonked. I’m getting tired but zoom along the shore zealously collecting muddy rubbish and tiny pieces of litter covering 4.1km.

Z is for Zero plastic waste. I sign up for The Big Plastic Count. We have to stop producing so much single use plastic. I’m told that a truckload of rubbish enters the sea every second of everyday. I will continue to pick pieces up from the coast but we have to stop it getting into the sea.

I log my fitness to find I have covered over 78 miles on the Race for Reading 2022. I’ve only collected one wheely bin of litter, a tub of glass bottles and another of tin cans but the coast is clear.

Sophie Neville - an author supporter of Schoolreaders

Thanks to my generous sponsors, I’ve raised £445 for School Readers so far. My company will double any money I can raise in sponsorship, so any donations given to School Readers via my Justgiving page will be doubled.

Schoolreaders is a children’s literacy charity which provides volunteers to partner primary schools nationwide to listen to children read. Even before Covid 19, 1 in 4 children left primary school unable to read properly1. Currently, our dedicated volunteers support over 7,000 children every week with one-to-one reading support, boosting their reading ability, fluency, comprehension and enjoyment.

Why Schoolreaders is needed:

  1. Inequalities in literacy levels have widened since the pandemic. 5-7 year old disadvantaged pupils are 7 months behind non-disadvantaged peers2
  2. One in seven adults (7 million people) have poor literacy and are unable to fill in a job application form, read a medicine label or understand written instructions. This can affect their mental health, contribute to unemployment, homelessness and crime – 48% of UK prisoners have reading ages of 11 or under.3
  3. Illiteracy costs the UK economy nearly £40 billion every year.4
  4. More than 10% of primary schools in England have registered with Schoolreaders to help their pupils catch up on vital reading skills.

For a full list of items I’ve found on beach cleans, please click here.

Diary of a Litter Picker: the Race for Reading continues

I’m walking along the coast on a sponsored beach-clean, using the alphabet as my theme.

The aim is to raise funds for the charity Schoolreaders who aim to ensure every child in the UK can read fluently by the age of eleven. Shockingly, 25% fall behind. It jeopardizes their future.

Could you take part in the Race for Reading too?

Day 7 – H is Hard work – I head out along hedgerows just above the high tide’s reach to harvest horrific litter that could wash into the sea. I cover 2.1km and only collect 35 pieces but haul three discarded containers of chemicals that were chucked into the river.

One of three chemical containers chucked into the nature reserve

Day 8 – I is for I have to do something. Imagine our coastlines covered in rubbish. It’s impossible to ignore wanton trash. I’ve found three intact fluorescent light bulbs washed up before now.

Ice cream left for the fairies

We go down to the foreshore to see what recent storms have brought in. When I first moved to the Solent eighteen years ago it was multi-coloured with bottle tops. Volunteers have slowly cleared it but the sea coughs up unwanted plastic on every tide. As we collect flotsam, a £20 note floats up to us!

Day 9 – J is for Just pick it up

We need to keep picking up litter before it is blown into the sea and this nature reserve

I cross a causeway over a tidal river where drivers obviously chuck rubbish while waiting for the level-crossing to open on the far side. Having a litter-picker makes the job easier and safer. I collect a bagful and continue into town, putting litter straight into council bins. Despite plenty of these, I find a significant amount of cellophane on the quay about to be blown into the harbour. I cover 3.5km collecting litter over 90 minutes.

The Co-op carrier bag is compostable, the plastic pollution is not

Day 10 – K is for keep fit – and keep going. We arrive in Pembrokeshire for a family holiday. I’m tired after the journey but walk about two miles in 90 minutes, collecting a carrier bag full of coastal litter.

Day 11 – L is for Litter – loitering in the tide wrack of Wales, but I’m joined by friends from The Dog House which is fun. We walk 5 kms along a sandy beach where the smallest dog is rather good at finding litter.

Joined in my quest by The Dog House

Day 12 – M is for mission to rid the cost of plastic pollution. I walk up an estuary for only 2kms but collect a bucketful of PVC rope and plastic wrappers. I repeat the same distance at low tide when the landscape looks quite different.

Would you like to join the challenge? It’s not too late.

The charity SchoolReaders are still looking for runners, swimmers, riders and walkers keen to take part in their Race for Reading.

Run, walk, cycle, swim, ride, wheel, litter-pick

Every pound raised in sponsorship makes a difference and provides more children with vital reading help. They send out T shirts to those who reach £100 in donations along with a R4R 2022 medal to everyone who has raised over £15 and a gold medal to those who have raised over £1,000.

My company will match any sponsorship I personally raise, so any money given via my Justgiving page will be doubled.

Thanks to my very kind supporters I’ve raised £355 so far, which will be doubled to make £710! This will be enough to ensure twenty volunteers are able to listen to children read and give them a love of books, improving their life chances.

Sophie Neville cleaning the mudflats of PVC rope and old fishing line.

And, I’ve stopped litter from threatening wildlife and polluting our seas. For a full list of things I’ve found washed up on the Solent over the years, please click here

Thanks go to Schoolreaders who change the life stories of so many children.

A is for Action – All set for the Race for Reading 2022

Sophie Neville taking part in Race for Reading run by the charity SchoolReaders

A – is for Action and The Race for Reading has officially begun!

We’re asking you to step up for children’s literacy!

Over the next 80 days, supporters around the world will run, cycle, swim, row and walk to raise funds for the national charity Schoolreaders. They are encouraging litter-pickers to join their virtual race.

Spring Clean the coastline with Keep Britain Tidy

As an ambassador for Keep Britian Tidy, I have been litter-picking as I walk along the coast, cleaning beaches and shorelines of the United Kingdom on the Great British Spring Clean from 25th March to 10th April. I’m happy to extend this until 19th June 2022 when Schoolreaders virtual race ends.

Please click her for my Schoolreaders Just Giving page if you would like to sponsor me.

Last year, a total of over 34,000 miles was covered by the registered participants. I kept a tally of miles walked while litter picking, clocking up 32 miles. My distance covered was not very impressive – but collecting flotsam takes time and my bucket can get heavy.

Litter collected whilst walking along the Solent shore

Somewhere I have a tally of the amount of rubbish collected. I certainly took a lot of photos. I’m hoping friends will join me this year as I’m aiming to walk a lot further.

I’m not sure if I will find anything that relates to books or reading but it is possible.

I quite often find reading glasses when I’m litter picking

If you would like to support children’s reading in the UK there are many ways you can do so:

Litter being collected on a coastal path

Funds raised will provide weekly one-to-one reading support sessions from Schoolreaders volunteers across the country. We are hoping to be able to help over 2,500 children who may have fallen behind with their reading during Lockdown.

Diary of a Litter Picker: Braving the sea

One brief storm and a significant amount of rubbish is washed up on the south coast of England.

I joined two other Litter Pickers of the New Forest to clear litter on the gravel spit to Hurst Castle in Hampshire. Rubbish gets caught in the artificial sea wall.

You have to take care not to slip on the rocks, or lose your phone between the boulders as one of us did. I ventured too near the waves and got soaking wet.

Along with wrappers, ropes and tin cans, Jill found a plastic funnel that had been in the sea for sometime.

At first glance, the beach looked clean but we found part of a long fishing rod holder and numerous small items.

While Jill picked up a golf ball, I found used lighters, a small green monster and a child’s rake.

Some of the plastic and tins defeated us. They were too deeply buried or trapped between the rocks.

It is amazing how much there is on the footpath given that the Council provides huge waste bins where we deposited our findings.

I returned on another day to collect more,

And yet more. This is a typical cashe: a plastic bottle, a pen, old polystyrene and hard, blue plastic. I often find a shoe washed up on the shore. It’s important to keep going.

Rubbish - a shoe washed up on the beach

Another member of our group spent an hour collecting rubbish from Hurst Castle beach on Christmas Eve. “Quite depressing that there is so much litter: mainly plastic and polystyrene. A few interesting finds like a Santa hat, mask, Lego brick, toy soldier, tennis ball….but why so many plastic coffee cups?” he asked.

Richard Brook-Hart’s haul of plastic pollution

He returned on 14th January with another haul. “Lots of plastic bottles, coffee cups, the ubiquitous face masks, beer cans, sweet wrappers, poo bags, fishing line, a tube of toothpaste, and much more. I think that this can be partly attributed to littoral drift, particularly on the western shore, but on the eastern shore it is probably local littering.”

Unless we persevere, the rubbish will blow into the nature reserve where a multitude of native birds and migrant waders congregate. We counted 19 swans living there.

Next time you go for a walk, wear plastic gloves and take a litter bag with you. It is surprising what you can find. If you live in the New Forest, think of joining Litter Pickers of the New Forest who can provide High Vis vests and litter pickers. They are on Facebook here

Litter Pickers of the New Forest on an informal beach clean

Litter Pickers of the New Forest say:

‘Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we can now report some of the impact the local litter heroes, volunteers and staff, had in 2021. Our work with our partners including the National Park Authority, Forestry England, the police, and fire and rescue, saw:

10,000 hours of patrols,

a 40% drop in fires in the New Forest

Over 50 retailers stopped selling disposable BBQs

The New Forest Code was shared with over 2.7 million people

1,000 litter picking kits created

Over 700 New Forest Ambassadors signed up

230,000 bags given out to encourage people to take litter home.

An 8% drop in litter at coastal locations despite visitor numbers being up by 60%

New signs and information across all Forest car parks.

400 social media posts

1.6 million plus newsletters to subscribers

Digital signs at key roads.

‘Thank you to everyone who has done so much to support the New Forest this year, working together, right across the community.’

Keep Britain Tidy have more information here.

Looking back in gratitude – Highlights of 2021

Sophie Neville appearing on BBC TV

2021, and we thought we would be coming out of Lockdown but life remained restricted.

Litter Art made from sea plastic I’ve collected

Walking the Solent Way – in search of plastic pollution washed up on the shore

Winter walks along the coast litter-picking

Becoming a Patron of the charity ‘Covid Reflections’

Speaking on BBC Radio Cumbria’s Saturday morning Breakfast Show

Appearing on BBC Antiques Roadshow with ‘Swallows and Amazons’ movie memorabilia including a hazel bow and arrow.

Marc Allum and Sophie Neville on BBC Antiques Roadshow

Taking Part in School Readers ‘Race for Reading’ challenge 2021, collecting litter on a section of the Welsh coastline

Collecting sea plastic whilst walking along the south coast of England

Writing articles for The Herald to encourage people to beach-clean

Representing Litter Pickers of the New Forest

Interviewed by JJ Walsh in Japan for a podcast on beach cleaning and meeting the head of Eco-Bricks UK who took some of my fishing net finds for a talk.

Having my unpublished novels placed in a number of literary awards:

Two historical novels Long-listed by Retreat West, 2021

Semi-Finalist in ACFW Genesis novel writing contest in the USA, 2021

Page Turner Finalist, 2021

Reaching the finals of the 2021 Eyelands Book Awards for an unpublished historical novel

Sophie Neville Eyelands Book Awards 2021

Long-listed by Roadmap’s Write Start Competition in the USA, 2021

Longlisted for Adventures in Fiction New Voices, Flash 500 first page competition and The Eludia Awards in the USA.

Mounting my sketchbook drawings on Instagram – here’s one that got away (the aspect ratio didn’t fit)

My sketchbook paintings

A few sporting achievements:

Worcestershire Archery Society’s prize for Lady’s Most Hits

First Lady’s Gold at the West Berks Archery Society

Best Lady’s Gold at Meriden

Lady’s Championship Trophy for highest score Worcestershire Archery Society

Celebrating the first wedding after Lockdown lifted

Visiting the Yarmouth and the Needles

Sailing to the Isle of Wight while Lockdown was eased

Giving a talk at ‘The Late Summer Festival of Romantic Books and Writing’

Contributing to a handbook for Christian Writers entitled ‘Write Well’ published by Instant Apostle

Riding across the wild areas of Sicily

Riding up Mouth Etna in Sicily

Writing a Foreword to ‘Boats Yet Sailing’ by Trevor Boult

Finding a bid of £251 on a signed first edition paperback of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ in an auction in aid of BBC Children in Need

Bringing out a second edition of ‘Funnily Enough’ with added illustrations

Being able to go to restaurants with my family – if only for one birthday lunch

Raising funds for welfare projects in the Waterberg, South Africa

Fighting period poverty in rural South Africa

And helping to rebuild the church that burnt down

Being interviewed about my dog, Flint

I was honoured to be awarded ‘New Forest Litter Picker of the Year’

You can see photos of flotsam on an earlier post here

Very many thanks to all my readers who have reviewed my books

An online book review on the Waterstone’s site

Reviews have appeared on Amazon for ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ and on Goodreads here.

'The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) by Sophie Neville'
Different editions of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) by Sophie Neville’

Diary of a Litter Picker: My New Year’s Commitment to Keep (the coast of) Britain Tidy

Solent mudflats where wild geese graze

This is the Solent foreshore within the New Forest National Park in Hampshire where wildfowl gather and ponies wander free. Looking ahead to 2022, I have made a commitment to spend a total of 25 hours clearing this area of plastic pollution as part of Keep Britain Tidy’s Million Mile Mission. They reckon I will be walking nearly 75 miles, whilst collecting litter.

This is not difficult as I live near the Solent shore. It is a beautiful area, part of the Crown Estates, but sadly we have to continually clear it of rubbish washing in on the tide.

Danger, in the form of broken bottles, lies in the mud.

I need to take great care when looking for flotsam with my dog. What of the wild animals – geese, swans and egrets? They need their feet.

We always collect a bucket full of plastic pollution, usually removing 2-4Kgs a day, made up of about 160 pieces, many of which are tiny.

Rubbish - plastic pollution washed up on a beach Oct 2021

The short pieces of green PVC rope are known as ‘sea-kisses’, the remains of old fishing nets shredded and discarded at sea.

Can you see the glinting shard of green glass (above)? It could easily be missed. I find a lot of tennis balls used by dog walkers despite the lead content being toxic.

cephalopod and palsticopod

It’s no wonder that seabirds die with stomachs full of plastic. You can see they have been pecking this inner sole looking for calcium normally gained from cephalopods.

There is always heavy plastic and glass, often a cap.

This peak may have floated over from France. There are sometimes larger items.

This canvas deck cover was 6 metres long and too heavy for me to carry home. Custom-made, it must be sorely missed and expensive to replace.

I must report this enormous marker buoy. It’s the third I’ve found.

People are naughty. Someone shoved a large metal baking tray smelling of fish under one of these bushes. It was heavy – too big for my bucket.

Odd things like forks are often left on the beach.

I have no idea what distance this crate has floated but Box Pool Solutions are based in Peterhead, north of Aberdeen, about 650 miles from the beach where this ended up.

How far has this bottle floated? It was made in South Korea.

Some of the litter is quite elderly.

Rubbish - A drinks can from the 1980s?

This polystyrene beam had been languishing on private land bordering the shore for years.

I reported this to the estate manager but it was not collected and broke into pieces, which are time consuming to collect.

Some of the rubbish has grown into the landscape and is not easy to extract.

Why people keep leaving litter on beaches astounds me. Someone was obviously having a Funki cocktail party on the beach. One of the bottles was half full. The Council bin can’t be missed.

Far more worrying are the florescent light bulbs I keep finding washed up on the shore. Over the years I have come across these four, washed up on the Solent – intact! If broken the toxins within are said to pollute 30,000 litres of water. It’s illegal to throw anything off a ship but I’m told that men are ordered to chuck these off rigs, despite the fact they contain mercury.

Intact fluorescent light bulbs found washed up on the Solent

How long will it be before we are unable to consume fish from the sea? I’m also finding blobs of sewer fat and palm oil, dangerous to dogs.

White blobs of palm oil and micro plastics found on one beach clean

The important thing is to keep going. Our wildness areas will turn into rubbish dumps if we don’t. If you would like to take action and join Keep Britain Tidy’s Million Mile Mission, please click here.

You can read about the Million Mile Mission here

I have more photos of flotsam on an earlier post here

New Forest Litter Picker of the Year 2021

and

Litter Pickers of the New Forest Beach Picker of the Year 2020

Diary of a Litter Picker: Flotsam on New Forest Shores

Collecting plastic pollution along the Solent

It took two adults and two small children more than an hour to collect this flotsam washed up along the Solent within the New Forest National Park.

Expert at spotting micro-plastics

The collection ended up weighing about 3 Kgs, despite cellophane and a large number of light, fly-away wrappers. The contents included hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic found in the shingle or blown inland.

A pencil, a washer and a tab from a life jacket

Sorting the colours brought attention to objects that the Marine Conservation Society would classify under ‘sewage’, ‘fishing’ and ‘litter’, thankfully well washed in seawater.

Solent flotsam – including evidence of sewage

Plastic straws and cotton bud stalks have thankfully been banned but plastic pollution remains a huge problem. We need to do what we can to turn the tide.

A plastic straw, a shotgun cartridge, the tip of a boathook and the handle of a brush

What most distresses me are signs that birds are confusing styrofoam with the natural remains of cephalopods that they peck at in search of calcium.

Insulation material and single use styrofoam

I sort out the marine rope and fishing tackle, which is stored for a future project.

Fishing line and shellfish traps

All this, and broken glass, was collected from a beach where children play. There are serviced, wildlife-proof litter bins, and since it is remote, requiring a parking permit, it is never crowded.

For photos of a previous Solent Beach Clean – please click here. You can see which items turn up month after month, such as green ‘sea kisses’ and tampon applicators.

Sophie Neville happy beach cleaning

Diary of a Litter Picker: Finding Stolen items

A stolen holdall containing shoes and a jewellery box handed in to the police

You know something is wrong when you find a high quality holdall chucked in the reedbeds – with a lap top and empty jewellery box inside. I called the police, explaining that I was an Ambassador for Keep Britain Tidy who had be registered as a litter picker.

A jewellery box handed in to the police

I apologise if you find this distressing. It is distressing. Heartbreaking. I only hope the thief was eventually caught and can appreciate his wrong doing.

A detailed shot of the abandoned items handed into the police

This iphone was found further down the river, as part of a separate haul.

An iphone found near a lap top in the National Park

Having been chucked in the reedbeds there was no DNA for the police to find.

A lap top chucked in the nature reserve

The stolen laptops and phones were obviously password protected and of no use to the burglar. They could have been left somewhere dry for their owner to reclaim – such as a bus shelter but, no. Instead this jewelry box was chucked in a ditch, easily seen from from the tar road but soon ruined by falling rain.

An empty earring case chucked in a ditch

Why was this open penknife chucked out of a vehicle on a bend coming out of town?

A penknife found on a roadside verge

We may have had just one thief who repetitively used the local river as a dump for unwanted stolen items. I would have reported a weapon to the police but by the time I found this, I had spent too much of my life waiting on the 911 line.

A stolen handbag reported to the owner who had business cards inside

This handbag had been stolen some time ago from the owner’s car parked about ten minutes’ drive away. A family of mice had made a warm dry nest in the interior. There were three pairs of spectacles inside but not the necklace that she valued.

Spectacles inside the handbag

I’m always finding abandoned pub glasses, which technically have been stolen from local pubs. I returned this and a few others but glasses can turn up in the middle of nowhere.

A glass stolen from the local pub – now returned. How much do these cost?

I’m told that unopened chocolate bars, cans of larger and half consumed bottles of vodka will probably have been stolen. They lack value to the person who abandoned them – who obviously didn’t want to be caught red-handed.

Ordinary customers have to bear the cost of stolen cans of larger

I once found a brand new – and boxed – microwave oven tucked into the bushes at this location, a quiet spot where you can park:

The items in this bucket aren’t known to be stolen but the strawberry punnets could have been returned.

I once found a single, leather, horse riding chap on a bridge, deciding that it must have fallen off a trailer. It turned out to be part of a haul of riding equipment worth thousands that had been stolen the night before. I contacted the owner but she was distraught and couldn’t use one, single legging.

Sophie Neville in the Masai Mara, Kenya
My own riding chaps.

To see other unexpected items I find litter picking, please click here

Stolen by friends?

Diary of a Litter Picker: Sea plastic and pick it up

A sample of sea plastic washed up on Solent shores, 2021

Plastic straws and cotton bud stalks, along with plastic tampon applicators and shot gun cartridges, have become a sad portrait of society: what the sea sees of us. Why do we come across so many short pieces of PVC rope and fishing net?

‘Sea kisses’ found washed up on the Solent 2021

I am told these ‘sea kisses’ are the result of trawlers shredding torn nets at sea and dumping this ‘waste’ overboard as it is cheaper and more convenient than bringing it ashore to be buried.

Will this ultimately poison fish and make them inedible?

All these micro-plastics have washed up on the shores of the New Forest National Park. I’ve been trying to make ‘beautiful pictures of horrible things’, as the broadcaster JJ Walsh describes my photographs and framed collages.

Cotton bud stalks indicate sewage is entering the Solent

Any throw-away plastic rings should be regarded as ‘wildlife crime’ – they strangle too many birds.

Do you know how much lead there is in a tennis ball? Despite the fact they they are not recommended as toys for dogs, huge numbers are washed up on our beaches. I find them all the time.

Tennis balls found on Solent beaches, 2021

One of my biggest hates are the plastic things used to sell six-pack drink cans as they easily get stuck around creatures’ necks. This four-pack plastic was washed up near a seabird breeding colony. I won’t even re-cycle one without cutting it apart.

Washed up near a major seabird breeding colony

The ear-loops on masks also need to be cut, along with PPE gloves. They are washed up on the shore every day.

PPE washing up on Solent shores daily

Children tend to be good at finding micro-plastics on beaches once they catch the vision. We have begun classifying them by colour or type. This black party-popper was a favourite.

I’m assured that some councils need to check beaches for ‘sharps’ before volunteer litter-pickers are allowed to begin collecting in earnest. Can you spot the needle and syringe here?

Collecting all these tiny pieces takes time and one has to watch out for hazards – but if it is not collected children will no longer be able to play on our beaches. Some parts of the coast have so much broken glass that you can’t pick it up with a dog in tow. It remains sharp for decades where there is no wave action.

Broken glass collected on a beach where children play barefoot.

The Marine Conservation Society likes to classify sea plastic into Litter, Fishing by-products, and sewage-related finds such as cotton-bud stalks and plastic tampon applicators.

We counted 21 cotton-bud stalks collected with this haul

After collecting flotsam, it takes a different mind-set to do the sorting, but it’s important to analyse and report back on what the tide is bringing in.

Sea plastic littering the New Forest National Park

I began to collect fishing tackle in a crate that was washed up on the Solent. Let me know, in the comments below, if you ever need some of this for a talk on conservation or plastic pollution. I’m giving it away freely.

For a list of weird and elderly things found washed up on the Solent, please click here

Plastic detritus washed up on Solent shores where wild geese and New Forest ponies graze
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