Monday, 30 October 2017

Autumn Beach Clean

There's barely a week gone by this year where we we haven't visited a beach. We are spoilt for choice with beaches such as Southerdown, Ogmore, Newton, Llantwit Major and even Barry Island and Porthcawl less than twenty minutes from our door. In the summer it's long lazy days with a picnic but more often than not it's a Sunday afternoon walk.

It is not unusual to find ourselves the only ones on there, braving all weathers come rain or shine. It sounds idyllic, and it often is, but it's very rare that we don't spot a piece rubbish of some description or other. Even in the most remote places  it's hard to escape, beaches that may not have seen another human for days or even weeks are invariably littered with rubbish.

As we are all becoming increasingly aware plastic, and particularly single use plastic, have become a real issue for the environment. Items such as plastic bags and bottles are hugely damaging for marine life either being mistaken for food or getting tangled around the animal. The chances are that it probably wasn't even left on that beach, a huge amount of rubbish washes in with every tide. Litter dropped in any town or city can easily make its way to the shore. With the expected lifespan of most plastic bottles estimated at 500 years it's going to be around for a very long time.

The good news is that looking into the problem very quickly gives you the chance to do something about it. Led by a charity called Surfers Against Sewage beach cleans are now happening all of the time. Volunteers all over the country are getting together and fighting back. The best thing is that if there isn't a beach clean happening near you Surfers Against Sewage will give you all of the resources to organise your own.

Surfers Against Sewage originally came about when a group of surfers in Cornwall had become increasingly frustrated by the levels of pollution in Britain's waters. Initially campaigning about sewage they are now one of the UK's most active and successful environmental charities and focus on all areas of marine conservation.

By chance this week was the 2017 Autumn Beach Clean; a big push before winter to get the litter removed from our beaches. It's not just tourists that visit the beaches in the summer, they are used year round but once the summer holiday makers have left they often forgotten about, or left to the locals to clean up.

On arrival at the beach we were greeted by the Surfers Against Sewage rep along with a handful of volunteers. Kitted out with gloves and a black bag my four year old son and I set of along the beach in search of rubbish. Of course to him it was like a treasure hunt, he is rarely happier than when he's on the beach so any excuse to get down there is good enough for him.

Two hours later we returned with a bin bag full of rusty old beer cans, fishing line, string and inevitably plastic bottles. Looking back throughout the clean more and more people had joined in, by the time we had finished the ten that started had very quickly turned into about thirty or so; in fact there were more people the beach with bin bags in hand than without.

The sense of freedom you get on a beach, looking out at a huge expanse of seemingly never ending water, is like nothing else. These truly are places that must be protected and not destroyed and run down like so many others. With millions of people visiting Britain's beaches each year if everybody picked up some of rubbish a little bit would go a very long way. We'll certainly be doing another beach clean and I'll be telling anyone that will listen that they should do the same.

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