HELPING TO CLEAN UP OUR COAST AND COUNTRYSIDE
On May Bank Holiday Monday, I returned to Stolford Beach (left photo) as I've not been for a few weeks. About a mile up the coast from Hinkley Point, there was plenty of rubbish washed up on the tide line of which nearly 100% was plastic waste. Mostly plastic bottles, other plastic included food containers, hair and beauty packaging including remains of two combs, a three metre length of upvc trim, part of an oar and a cement bag which I filled with fishing line I collected. The other item I find more of here than at any other site is cable ties. With such a huge construction site close by, this is a concern to how many there could be out in the channel. I spent 90 minutes here having collected plenty to take back to the car.
After I left, I returned home via Lilstock Beach (right photo) which is a couple of miles down the coast from Hinkley Point. Again, nearly everything I collected was plastic including the remains of a garden chair. At the top of the beach below the footpath is a WW2 Pill Box which, when I looked down inside, is being used as a huge litter bin for mainly food and drink litter. The doorway is on the inland side but not accessible due to brambles etc. The only way in is to climb down inside but not alone in case of accident. This is something I shall attempt when I can get some help to clean up soon (I hope!).
As always, everything I collected was sorted and recycled where possible.
Having lived in Belsize Park, North London for a short time during the 1980's, I've recently read with interest how the local businesses have helped themselves to rejuvenate their local area and opened London's first 'Streatery'. I recently paid a visit to see for myself what they've been up to.
It was a lovely sunny morning when I caught the bus to Archway and walked a route I used to do almost daily passing the famous Highgate Cemetery to Holly Village with it's beautiful gothic style buildings. From here, it was a walk past the tennis courts at Parliament Hill Fields, where I played tennis during the summer evenings, and across Hampstead Heath to Well Walk and Flask Walk then down the High Street to Belsize Park. I walked along Glenloch Road (opposite the tube station), where I used to live, and around the corner to Belsize Village where I spotted a gentleman in a suit and camel coat with a bucket and picking up some litter. I guessed right away that this was Bob Stephenson-Padron who I had been in touch with and he asked me to visit when in the area.
We sat in Roni's Bakery/Deli and had a coffee while Bob told me how the local businesses had worked together to encourage more people to visit this quiet spot away from the main footfall area. One problem to deal with was flytipping and litter from people's rubbish outside of their properties which instantly made a difference. Camden Council were initially hesitant to allow tables and chairs to be allowed on the open paved area but with traffic banned and new planters in place, it has transformed this small square, which was rather scruffy on my last visit, into a place that people want to visit and relax whether it's someone on business grabbing a coffee while having a conversation or reading emails on their phone or friends and families enjoying the atmosphere of a peaceful square which is hard to believe is a stone's throw from London's West End. Belsize Village's shops now include Roni's Bakery/Deli, a greengrocers, newsagents, Indian restaurant, hair and beauty shop plus others with just one remaining premises vacant which is in the process of being occupied. There are still more plans in the pipeline to improve the site even further of which much of the hard work is done by Bob who is the co-head of Belsize Village Business Association (BVBA). There are also a group of people who volunteer as litter pickers around the area which is a huge benefit to the businesses as anywhere can look more inviting if there is no litter in sight.
During my visit, I was also welcomed by local Councillor Oliver Cooper who is proud of what has been achieved here. After a photo of the three of us (above), I had some lunch before heading off back to Archway for the bus.
I really enjoyed visiting this hidden jewel in North London today and hope it won't be long before I return, complete with my Belsize Village hi-vis vest and litter picker, to enjoy a bit more time there.
You can keep up to date with daily life here on twitter @BelsizeVillage
Today, I attended the Plastic Free Porlock Vale Spring Beach Clean where lots of members of the local community turned out to join the annual event. Meeting at the National Trust car park in Bossington, there was a bonus of tea, coffee and cake!
After a chest injury last week, I've been having a fairly restful few days and so I was out to look for lightweight litter which I found plenty of in the way of plastic bottle tops and fishing line. Anything heavier, I left for others to collect although I'm pleased to say there wasn't a lot in the area I concentrated on.
Tomorrow, I shall be supporting the beach clean from Blue Anchor to Dunster. I did walk along there a couple of times during the week but my injury prevented me picking anything up which was so difficult so had to make sure I didn't have a bag on me to put anything in! Hopefully, I think I'm on the mend now but have to limit what I do so that I recover quickly.
On this bright and sunny but very blustery morning, I walked up the lane to a favourite viewpoint above the village of Old Cleeve. From here, there are stunning views of the local countryside including North Hill, Dunkery, the Brendon Hills, the Quantocks and across the Bristol Channel as far down as the Gower Peninsula. There are many evenings when I sit on the bench here and enjoy a stunning sunset over Exmoor.
I feel very fortunate to live somewhere with such beautiful views with quiet country lanes where there are few vehicles passing by.
However, not everyone shares my thoughts and won't think twice about throwing their food or drink packaging from the vehilcle as they drive along. This morning was one of those days. On my walk home, I had to keep into the hedge to let a delivery pass as he rushed from one address to another. A little further on, I spotted a McDonalds drink cup and straw in the hedge which I didn't notice earlier on my walk up. I had not seen any other vehicles go past and when I retrieved it, my suspicions were confirmed as there were still plenty of ice cubes in it.
I have sent an email to the delivery company explaining that littering is unacceptable anywhere but that drivers should repect the local environment of their customers and I request they speak with drivers about it. I await their response!
This weekend saw an organised litter pick in and around the small seaside town of Watchet. A small group of volunteers turned out on a sunny afternoon to help and and make the streets litter free with plenty of cigarette butts to collect which many don't see as litter but with the filter containing plastic and toxins, would be harmful to our sea life as they make their short journey down a land drain and into the Bristol Channel. Flower beds and other vegetation can hide other litter including bottles, cans and other general waste including a crisp packet we found dating b ack 30 years to 1992. After a couple of hours spent collecting the litter and sorting it for recycling, the town looked a lot tidier than it did before we arrived!
With the Great British Spring Clean now underway, my weekend, which began with a sunrise beach clean, continued with litter picks along the country lanes around the parish of Old Cleeve and ending the weekend with a litter pick at sunset on North Hill. It was the usual find of bottles, cans and fast food litter along the roadside and parking areas with very little on footpaths. The photo below shows what I collected including an old tyre. All the litter was sorted and recycled where possible.
A couple of days later, I returned to the same area for a walk not planning to do a litter pick (although I always carry a bag with me for any litter I find) and was sad to find more cans and bottles plus a roll of used chain link fencing and a rusty metal stake. All was removed and taken to the local recycling centre.
This morning, my alarm was set for 5:00 for an early morning beach clean. I arrived at Minehead Warren Road Car Park where all was quiet and just a couple of camper vans parked up overnight. I headed east along the shoreline and soon found the first plastic bottle washed up on the tide and more items as I went along and within 20 minutes, I had already had the first bag filled. A bit further and there was the remains of somebody's barbecue with cans, bags and items of clothing. A little after 6am, the morning sun rose over the Bristol Channel promising another glorious day ahead. With plenty to carry, I headed back to the car where I met a worker of idVerde emptying the litter bins and said he would take it away for me and thanked me for doing it. It was a lovely way to begin the day and made my 7am start at work so much easier! I'll be doing plenty more litter picks over the coming weeks with beach cleans planned as follows: Saturday 2nd April at Watchet 2pm - 4pm; Sunday 3rd April at Minehead 2pm - 4pm; Saturday 9th April 10am - 11am; Sunday 10th April 10am - Noon. I'm hoping to visit other sites across West Somerset and Exmoor and with the Easter holiday coming up and a few days off work, I shall be heading further afield with litter picks planned in Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath.
Firstly, may I take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy new year. It would be lovely to think it will be a good year for our environment but I'm not holding my breath! As long as we try and 'do our bit', it does make a difference.
I spent my New Year on Lundy Island which was wonderful and I made the most of my time there exploring the island in it's winter state and enjoying some stormy seas. Staying at 'Tibbetts' cottage (the most remote cottage on the island) meant we gave up the luxury of electricity and mains water. Along with this, the lack of mobile phone signal, it really is like going back in time. Water is pumped from a well which shouldn't be drunk without being boiled first. Bottled water is supplied if needed which we avoided doing. Bottled gas supplies the cooker, fridge and hot water boiler although the pilot light kept being blown out by the windy weather so had to rely on boiling a kettle. There is a coal fire, blankets and hot water bottles to keep warm. Contact with the outside world was by a little transistor radio I took with me. There are plenty of board games and jigsaw puzzles for the evenings. It was wonderful!
I'm pleased to say litter was something I could forget about while I was there although I did rescue a crisp packet and couple of sweet wrappers which I'm hoping was accidental litter which perhaps blew out of someone's pocket. Best to put these things into a zipped pocket which you don't need to access until back inside somewhere sheltered.
Fast forward to this weekend, I was pleased to be involved in two beach clean events. The first was from Minehead to Dunster Beach where around 100 people were involved in picking up litter along the coastline. The weather was perfect which encouraged people to get out and help. The second event was further up the coast at Watchet where a further 50+ people turned up to help tidy up the coastline and through the town as well. All the litter collected over the weekend is being recycled where possible with a small percentage having to go to landfill. All of the hard plastics including plastic bottles will go towards the Ocean Recovery Project which I hope to have news on next month when I know what it will be made into.
Over the next week, I'm hoping to get down to Bossington and Porlock Weir then up the coast near Hinkley Point to see what the winter weather has washed up on the coastline there.
This weekend, I was out litter picking again spending a couple of hours on North Hill where there was plenty of food and drink litter along with spent fireworks in various locations but all in parking areas. I also found various empty firework selection boxes and plastic rocket launchers. All this must have been terrifying for the resident Exmoor Ponies and other wildlife on the hill. On Sunday, after a morning in the garden, I went down to Blue Anchor and walked along to Dunster Beach where I started my beach clean on the walk back. Not a large quantity but what I did collect was mostly small pieces of plastic, especially shards of plastic cups which I found every few steps. This is so time consuming to collect so I for one will be pleased when plastic cups and cutlery are banned which was announced a couple of days ago.