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.
Why do we come across so many short pieces of PVC rope and fishing net?
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.
Any throw-away plastic rings should be regarded as ‘wildlife crime’ – they strangle to many birds.
One of my biggest hates are the plastic things used to sell six-pack drink cans as they easily get stuck around creatures’ necks. The four-pack plastic was washed up near a seabird breeding colony. I won’t even re-cycle one without cutting it apart.
The ear-loops on masks also need to be cut, along with PPE gloves. They are washed up on the shore every day.
And there are always gloves –
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.’
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.
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.”
Meanwhile, there have been lots of vehicle part to retrieve on dry land.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Every day we collect aging plastic pollution, cans and glass bottles from Solent shores.
This old glass bottle seems representative of our time of Corona. How long has it been floating around the Solent? Fifty years? The Litter Pickers of the New Forest found me this 1960s advert for the original bottles with the same cream metal cap.
The Deposit Return Scheme running at the time ensured that most were returned to the manufacturers but I’ve found a couple on the shore. One that held ‘Limeade’ with a 3d deposit return label is selling for £23 on Ebay where it is described as ‘a lovely piece of nostalgia.’
How old would this re-useable Unigate milk bottle be? 1980s? Forty years? They have also become collectors’ items. One like this is valued at £15 on eBay. It was found in these willow trees just above the high tide mark. It might have come over from the Isle of Wight where ‘Milk and More’ ran deliveries.
You can just see a brand new mask in this photo (above) but the bottles and plastic containers were hauled out of bramble bushes a few feet from the sea where they have languished for years.
Here is a photo of the same footpath with more plastic bottles that have blown in, together with old glass bottles the earth seems to be spitting out. The message inside them is clear: this has to stop.
I found a Wellington boot, washed up or discarded, which must have been around for some time. It had a field-mouse living inside so, I left it for now, but there is plenty more like it.
This Walker’s Crips packet, found recently, is 24 years old. I have quite a collection.
Plastic is amazing stuff. My father manufactured products made from PVC. He said that back in the 1970s, his company never considered what would happen when the items they made reached the end of their useful lives.
What date did the squarish plastic milk bottles come in? How many are disposed of daily in the UK alone? How many are recycled? How long does it take for them to decompose? They tend to flake.
How long does it take for a Tescos ‘bag for life’ to deteriorate? I often find them in the Solent.
Fishing line undoubtedly lasts a long time. It can be difficult to spot.
I often find individual plastic pegs. Why is this? Do they fall off boats?
The year 2020 began for me in Portugal. I was recovering from a broken arm and disappointed to have to cancel my annual charity ride through southern Africa. However, a lovely girl flew over from the Waterberg in South Africa to work for me and we had fun designing gifts, using the illustrations from ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’.
When news of the Coronavirus broke out, we launched an appeal to help families in rural South Africa, which proved a huge success.
Carefully monitored by a qualified nursing sister, and with the help of volunteers from St John’s Church, food packages are still being distributed to needy families, feeding about 150 people a month. Read the latest news here.
Tests were unavailable in March, but I might have had a light version of Covid-19 whist we were working on this fund-raising campaign. I certainly lost my sense of smell and developed a weird blister/rash on one hand and foot after spending ten days in bed with fatigue.
My talks, planned for the summer, were cancelled but I read a story for Lockdown Tales, produced by Wildbeast for BBC Radio Suffolk and made available on BBC Sounds. I took part in an online reading of ‘The Picts and the Martyrs’ by Arthur Ransome, recording a chapter at home.
As literary conferences went online, I led a workshop on photographing books for instagram, when we were joined by the award-winning author Claire Wade.
While devising exotic recipes for my next book, I began baking cakes successfully, for the first time in my life, adding cardamon and cloves.
We rolled up a circle in the lawn to make a Lockdown vegetable garden so the children could see how different plants developed. Our dancing carrots became a hit on Instagram.
I photographed one of my husband’s artichokes, winning the Create! competition, organised by the literacy charity SchoolReaders and judged anonymously by Harry Cory Wright.
I was Highly Commended for a collage made out of sea plastic I’d collected when beach cleaning, which was awarded by Emma Bridgewater. The winning entries were exhibited at the Wilson Stephens and Jones Gallery in Notting Hill. I also won a prize for taking part in a socially distanced archery match, but otherwise had a year off on the sports front.
SchoolReaders invited me to become an author supporter of their work instilling a love for books in the next generation, along with other authors including Joanna Trollop and Sophie Kinsella. We are encouraging people to make a gift in their will.
Hailed as ‘the feel-good film of lockdown’,’Swallows and Amazons'(1974) was broadcast on BBC 2 in both April and August. It was screened in Australia in January 2021. The Radio Times used this shot of me rowing Swallow with Sten Grendon who played the Boy Roger.
I was invited to talk about the movie memorabilia in a socially isolated edition of BBC Antiques Roadshow at Windermere Jetty, which hopefully will be broadcast in March 2021.
It was wonderful to be able to spend a few days in the Lake District, where Arthur Ransome’s first draft of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ is on display.
In the autumn, a signed First Edition hardback copy of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons (1974)’ was auctioned online, raising an astonishing £201 for BBC Children in Need, exceeding bids for signed copies of books by bestselling authors such as Bernard Cornwall, Jeffery Archer and Adam Kay.
Lakeland Arts organised an online event to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the publication of ‘Swallows and Amazons’, selling tickets for an evening ‘In Conversation with Sophie Neville, which you can listen to here.
Kett’s Books invited me to speak on Zoom for their ‘Books at Lunchtime’
The greatest days of this unusual year were spent on the Solent, litter picking with my extended family, who came to live with us through lockdown. Although some dreams were grounded, we had time to go for long walks and were able to explore the South Coast where we live.
Reviews and photos from readers are always appreciated, especially on Goodreads and Amazon.
After Christmas, I heard that a historical novel I am currently working on was awarded a prize in the Association of Christian Writers’ novel competition and was shortlisted for the Eyeland’s Book Awards, who have offered me a writer’s residency in Crete.
As we entered Tier 3, I was recognised as ‘Beach Picker of the Year’ by Litter Pickers of the New Forest, a high accolade that marked the end of a quiet but busy year.
I’ve gained 3 pounds and haven’t been to the hairdressers for eighteen months, but we kept safe in our little bubble and are looking forward to a better future when there is no need to wear face-masks. You can find my post on finding elderly litter here