Diary of a litter picker: 20 unusual finds

Unicorn sunglasses found on the beach

As a child, I longed to see a unicorn. Nowadays they seem to be popping up everywhere, along with Disney princesses and discarded clothing.

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

You get used to spotting things

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

Save the date!

And contact Keep Britain Tidy about The Great British Spring Clean

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.

Diary of a Litter Picker: The ten most beautiful or useful things I have found

The very first things I ever found when litter picking in the New Forest National Park were these cut-glass jam pots found in a box that had been left in a rural car park. If they belong to you, and you’d like them back, please let me know.

These days, it is quite common to find discarded camping equipment in wilderness areas. Most items are brand new. I washed these green equipment bags (below) and sent them to an appropriate charity.

All litter pickers report back on finding glasses, usually abandoned near pubs. I must have rescued six or seven. Children’s toys are often left on the beach, but I leave them somewhere where the owners can pick them up or other children can enjoy them.

This silver broach lying in a stollen jewelry box was collected by the police. I also found a lost silver bracelet that I took to our local Police Station.

I have been making a collection of fishing equipment, which presumably could be re-used. Although this lure had lost its hooks, I have four or five like it. Our children were most thrilled when I found a plastic shark.

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I am yet to wear them, but these sunglasses were perfectly serviceable after being put through the dish-washer. I have added them to local Lost and Found post on Facebook but have had no takers. Other lost items have been gratefully re-claimed, from a lens caps to expensive trailer parts, and temporary road signs abandoned by contractors.

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I found this open penknife on the verge of a road where nobody walks, which was strange. I still wonder if it was flung out of a car window. It’s in my toolbox with a serviceable paintbrush and an expensive project torch I came across later.

Rubbish penknife

While not exactly beautiful this tow-hitch guard was just what a friend of mine needed and made an amusing hostess gift. I found it walking along the pavement on my way to Book Club.

For a list of weird things I’ve found, please click here

Think of joining the charity Keep Britain Tidy today. You can find more about how they can help here.

Having posted this blog on their site, members replied saying the most beautiful thing they had found litter picking was friendship – new friendships made, old friends litter picking together and fulfillment in forming groups.

Washed up on the beach – now translocated to my bathroom

Diary of a Litter Picker: Lockdown Reflections

A rainbow of discarded cigarette lighters

For some odd reason we have seen a rise in litter since Covid-19 broke out. Why is this? Does it reflect national frustrations or just an increase in takeaway meals and outdoor parties?

Green bottles found in ditches and beaches during Lockdown, sorted for recycling

It is strange that people continue to discard PPE despite obvious health risks. Have we ceased to care about endangering wildlife and polluting the environment? Ben Deutsch described it as, ‘an act of libertarian defiance.’ Jill Crouch decided, ‘we are coming out of a me me me time – a superficial needing of more and wondering why we are not fulfilled when we get it.’

There will always be lost things but have we lost pride in Britain?

This rubber shoe was found washed up on the shore with a mask, but there has been gradually less sea plastic found on my stretch of the Solent, presumably due to fewer ferries and less shipping.

A mask and other plastics washed up on the Solent along with an elderly bottle and scaffolding parts

I have been reporting finds in the local newspaper in an effort to inspire others to begin collecting flotsam.

SophieNeville, beach-hedge-and river-saviour,” one reader commented. “It’s frightening just how much litter she removes. I’m inspired to try to emulate her.”

Articles in The Herald by Sophie Neville

Meanwhile, there have been lots of vehicle part to retrieve on dry land.

Vehicle parts dumped in a Hampshire bluebell wood

Lockdown certainly bought an increase in fly-tipping as people used time off work to clear out their sheds and attics or redecorate. At the same time, Council dumps closed during the first Lockdown and then introduced various restrictions, which proved disastrous. The New Forest National Park was hit particularly hard with bed mattresses and junk being dumped in precious wilderness areas.

Matt Rudd, writing in the Sunday Times Magazine was horrified by the increase in rubbish strewn about during Lockdown. He wrote, “There are two schools of thought on why people litter. The first is that they hate themselves for cramming all that junk food into their faces. Chucking wrappers out of the car window is just self-hatred by proxy.” Certainly, most of the litter I find has once wrapped over-sugared, over-salted, over-caffeinated food and drink of some kind. I would add tobacco and harmful drugs to his list. It’s as if people want to distance themselves from guilt and shame.

“The second,” Matt Rudd claims, “is that the further you are from home, the less you care about the environment.” And yet, he witnesses that, even in strict Lockdown, our local parks and car parks are strewn with newly dumped masks. Does the fear of contracting a virus make people more selfish?

However, the response has been amazing. Despite restrictions, individuals have used their daily exercise allowance to clean the beaches and verges of Britain. Litter-Pickers of the New Forest have gained over 1,300 volunteers in the last year, with an active Facebook Page and Justgiving site. They encourage members with sponsors delivering rewards for volunteer achievements.

A gift of encouragement from Litter-Pickers of the New Forest

If you happen upon a litter-picker, do give them encouragement, and if possible, lend them a hand. We are all fighting the same battle.

To find out about Waste Less, Live More, please click here

A pillow washed up on Solent shores

Diary of a Litter-Picker: Roadside survey for ITV’s ‘Tonight’ programme

Surely this is ‘medical waste’ and should be disposed as such?

I was asked to take photos of pieces of litter for ITV’s ‘Tonight’ progamme who were conducting a survey. This took me twenty-five minutes and left me fuming.

A second recently discarded ‘disposable’ face mask greeting visitors

Forgive my rant, but cars never stop while driving out of town around this bend. These items were thrown from moving vehicles, into a Nature Reserve within the New Forest National Park, in the space of a few weeks while Lockdown measures were in place.

Those intelligent enough to pass the Highway Code, obviously think plastic bottles and tin drinks cans are bio-degradable, that there is no need to take responsibility for items that have been in their mouths during a pandemic.

This is not the first time I have found Lynx Africa in the New Forest. I am assured it is sniffed as a recreational drug. This canister was undoubtedly chucked out of a vehicle. Are drivers sniffing it as well as consuming alcohol?

You get three points deducted from your driving licence if something accidentally falls off your roof rack. How many points do lorry drivers get for losing a load – nine? Surely, litterers and fly-tippers should have points deducted inline with this policy? Fly tipping and throwing litter from movie vehicles is hazardous. Being abandoned, the repercussions are endless.

What hope is there for the planet when people can’t be bothered to recycle their own drinks cans?

This McDonalds carton probably came from the Southampton takeaway 19.9 miles away. There is a nearer outlet 12 miles away but it would still have been carried for twenty minutes in a vehicle.

Everyone knows that plastic rings can choke wildlife. There is a sign on this bridge saying ‘Otters Crossing’ but I see cars speeding across at 50mph.

So much of the litter I find could be fatal to wildlife. We all know plastic rings can be lethal:

This rope was found the other side of river, looking north. You can see the wildfowl near the reedbeds.

Litter-picker kindly supplied by Litter Pickers of the New Forest

It goes on and on. This is litter collected in an area frequently cleaned by volunteers. I ended up dragging this traffic cone out of the estuary and adding another face mask to my haul.

Items removed from the Lymington river Estuary – May 2021

To see photos of items retrieved from this estuary two years ago, please click here

Diary of a Litter Picker collecting sea plastic from Crown Estates on the Solent

I’ve been getting involved in Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean – making an attempt to spring clean the section of the South Coast where we live, only to be shocked by our own findings. Some of the plastic washed up on the Solent has been around for so long the vegetation has grown over or through it. This is not a rock:

This bucketful of flotsam was brought in by one storm, although some items must have been floating around for a while.

Sophie Neville collecting flotsam from the Solent foreshore and saltmarsh

A week later I found this washed up on the same 600yard stretch of Solent foreshore:

I collected these tins, plastics and polystyrene from a tidal riverbank.

Our waterways are full of drink cans.

The sheer amount of bottles that must have been thrown out of moving vehicles, is staggering. All this needs to be sorted and recycled.

I have found a number of discarded tools including carpenter’s saws. My husband wanted to resurrect these pliers, but they were beyond hope.

There is often a mask amidst the detritus, none of which will rot.

What distresses me most is the ardent fly tipping. These cans of motor oil were nearly full and looked uncontaminated. Why were they discarded? How many litres of river water would they pollute?

These full containers were dumped in a nature reserve within the New Forest National Park. Does someone imagine these things will decompose?

Get involved in Keep Britain Tidy – its fun! You can find more info here

COVID Reflections – an anthology

I am honoured to have become a patron of COVID Reflections, a charitable project inviting writers and artists to contribute to an anthology celebrating the positive aspects of the pandemic. The hope is to make a difference by raising money for worthy causes affected by Lockdown and giving a voice to those that are heard the least.

COVID Reflections was founded by Ash Subramanian, a consultant breast surgeon from Sussex, who has gathered an impressive team of volunteers and trustees, profiled here.

Ash Subramanian on the South Bank

Their aim is to publish a coffee table book and multi-media ebook that can be sold to raise funds for charities that have taken a hammering in the last year. You are invited to submit a poem, diary entry or piece of prose.

Think of sending in 200 words on what Lockdown meant for you. I wrote:

There were no tests available when I contracted COVID-19 early March 2020. I stayed at home, puzzled about being unable to smell. Although the virus wiped days from my life, Lockdown proved a golden time. My step-son brought his tiny twin boys to live with us for nine months. The two-year-olds thrived while we dug up the lawn to plant vegetables, enjoying the birdsong and wonderful weather. I let my hair grow, turned the spare bedroom into an office and devoted my daily exercise to collecting litter – which became horrendous – and coastal plastic – which diminished slightly. I donated clothes to women in need, was interviewed on Zoom and enjoyed church on WhatsApp. We raised funds for those seriously hit by the pandemic and prayed for friends admitted to hospital. Released from the tyranny of my usual diary, I learnt how to say ‘rainbow’ in Portuguese, regained my sense of smell and wrote a novel. We spent Christmas alone and had no holidays, but for me, the ‘Time of Corona’ felt like a year off, enabling me to remain at home with my family, where I was needed and needed to be.

PPE I collected from the coast

You could submit a painting, drawing, photograph or audiovisual contribution be it music or film. Here is Piers Harrison-Reid with his brilliant poetry. He works as a nurse in A&E at Norwich Hospital and has been supporting COVID Reflections by appearing in virtual concerts.

The aims of COVID Reflection’s projects are :

• To give those effected by this pandemic a lasting voice and platform to express themselves.

• To bring communities together, encourage collaborations and to spread positivity.

• To raise significant charitable funds to support organisations on a national and local level .

Dr Kate Grant’s painting or
Jenny Liston, Nurse Practitioner, making a car-side consultation in a pop up tent, Suffolk

Covid Reflections have a Facebook page here

and can be found on Twitter here

I sent in a shot of a home-schooling project that took on a life of its own.

Carrots from our Lockdown garden

The project has the blessing of the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury and will have a Foreword by Captain Sir Tom Moore’s daughter. They are collaborating with The Sussex Constabulary, The Sussex Ambulance & Fire service, a growing representative of MPs, every major religious group, The Royal Society and The Royal College of Surgeons.

National Covid Memorial Wall in London – photo by Roff Smith

Anything submitted will be published either in a printed book or in electronic format.

You can find submission details on COVID Reflection’s website here

‘Hope’ by Kieran Gandhe aged 12, taken at the beginning of the pandemic

COVID Reflections hopes to make a real difference by raising money for worthy causes and providing support to individuals and businesses who have been adversely affected by the pandemic. They will do this by making grants to local, small national and large national charities, to enable them to help those who need it the most, allowing them to continue to do the amazing work that we know is being carried out every day. We hope that, together, we are able to make a difference. If you would like to be involved, please email C19voices@gmail.com or visit their website www.CovidReflections.org

Diary of a Litter Picker: We Will Fight on The Beaches

We are an island nation. Our coastline is precious. It speaks to us of freedom, holidays and relaxation. Those who live near beaches are well aware that they attract visitors who boost the local economy, and yet our shoreline is often covered in rubbish.

I find hundreds of small pieces of fishing net, plastic wrappers and cellophane, washed up on the Solent, along with glass bottles and rope. It’s been going on for years, threatening the environment and wildlife, if not our sanity.

This is historic litter found lodged in bushes along the Solent shore. Much of this is more than ten years old.

After a while it melds with the landscape, remaining a risk to animals. Below, you can see what is typically brought in on the tide.

There is often the remains of one shoe. Have we come to accept the phenomenon of an errant flip-flop? The lettering on this one amused me.

We have begun to accept society’s cast-offs, but why so many plastic pegs?

Metal fish, their hooks elsewhere.

There is often a lot of blue. Perhaps it’s the recent prevalence of masks.

This mask was worn over the eyes, rather than mouth, but she’s wearing protective gloves.

This is a battle we all need to fight. The bottom line is that we can’t even use beaches if there is too much broken glass.

Be a litter hero and turn the tide on plastic pollution. Day by day, we’ll get there.

My helpers on a Solent litter-pick

To see a collection of the weirdest this found on a Solent beach clean, please click here.

The charity Keep Britain Tidy is asking everyone to join their million mile litter picking mission #GBSpringclean – Please click here for details

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

Diary of a litter picker on Solent shores where I’m told, ‘There is no rubbish.’

‘I didn’t see any rubbish on the beach,’ I was told by a walker as I extracted plastic bottles and tins from the ditch leading down to it. I was glad. I’d cleaned it just before New Year.

Once by the sea I found a Christmas tree and collected half a bucketful of small pieces of PVC rope and elderly plastic that had been washed up on the shore.

Since this is an isolated beach, it shows how much plastic is floating around the Solent. Someone might like their plumb line returned.

While a few things are clearly dropped by mistake,

the amount of litter and ageing plastic on public beaches remains unacceptable. I cannot walk by without collecting it.

It takes a good hour to fill each of these buckets, which contain bags of dog poo and dangerous broken glass. They can end up weighing 4Kgs each.

What are helium balloons doing to the environment? I find one a day.

‘There’s no rubbish on the beach,’ I’m assured by walkers, the next week. I agree that it looks okay. It should be fine. I’ve cleared it a hundred times.

But, almost immediately, I find bottle ring and other items dangerous to wildlife. Then I come across fishing line, the fish hooks bound up in weed.

By the time I reach the end of the beach, I have filled my bucket, finding evidence of nitrous oxide canisters chucked into fires. The ghost rope alone could have caused havoc to shipping.

About this much plastic and glass washes up on a half-mile stretch of the Solent every twenty-four hours. It is not always easy to see it, but it’s there.

‘There is no litter,’ I’m told on approaching the foreshore with my dog-walking neighbour. We keep looking anyway. My friend spots this:

Before long, I had a filled my bucket. Again. Perhaps it’s only when you begin litter picking yourself that you appreciate how bad the problem is. Do join us!

And yet, we didn’t retrieve everything. Can you see what I see?

To see more photos of the odd things we find, please click here

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

Diary of a Litter picker – on Solent Shores

This winter we took it upon ourselves as a family to dig these abandoned buoy anchors out of the mud.

We extracted four, all of which were so heavy it was near impossible to carry them away. There has been less litter but the storms bring in all sorts of things.

Plastic pollution has been unremitting but it is good to be making a contribution. It is such a beautiful area, so important to wildlife.

Some of the items are dangerous.

Others have travelled a long way, possibly dropped off ships.

Most pieces are small, some tiny, others revolting. It is satisfying to go out after a storm.

It is then that a lot of PVC rope comes in. It can do a great deal of damage.

I use a bucket as bags flap in the wind and there are often sharp pieces of glass.

Plastic pollution collected from Solent shores Dec 2020 - photo Sophie Neville

They can weigh 4kgs when full. This one contained a lot of old fishing line.

I often find unopened drinks or packets of food.

Almost every day there is a helium ballon and a mask to pick up or extract.

It’s as if the sea is spitting them out.

We sometimes come across amusing pieces, often toys or balls of some kind.

The best thing about collecting plastic pollution is that it gets us out there.

For a full list of things we’ve found washed up on the Solent – click here

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