We have recently discovered how to time travel. What you have to do is walk up and down a local beach with a litter picker and a bin bag, looking down at your feet, picking up and bagging any washed up rubbish you find, then getting your names called in what seems like five minutes time by the organiser to be told that an hour has passed since he handed you the gear and it’s time for gathering again for ‘the weigh-in’.
With Mrs B working at the Cafe overlooking Crackington Haven beach, itself dependent on the attractiveness of the surroundings for visitor numbers as so much of Cornwall is, and us just loving it anyway, we felt moved to answer the call of a Facebook group that was asking for a volunteer force to help clean it up. The fact that my children and a friend of Mrs B’s were staying that weekend only helped us swell the volunteer force, so at 10am on a Sunday morning, before the many holidaymakers had finished digesting their Full English and then heading to the beach, a force of 25 assorted people took part in this relativity experience.
The ‘Crackington Crew‘ is a relatively new volunteer clean up enterprise, even so they were on their 14th cleanup sweep the day we joined in. Getting the kids out in the fresh air is always good and it’s currently very fresh as the wind has been coming from the North West recently. After a quick meeting, safety talk, instructions and a names register, we were off litter picking. Any worries about the kids getting all teenage-sulky about picking litter for an hour were soon dispersed as games of getting each other soaked in the sea could be combined with the actual picking and I can report nothing but positive comments from them afterwards about the experience.
I have seen a few comments along the lines of ‘I wish people wouldn’t leave litter on the beach, there should be no need for clearing up after them.’ While true, there is still a certain amount of that going on, the vast majority of waste is new, incoming stuff to the beach on the daily tides, each wave crash bringing with it a new load of brightly coloured netting, fishing wire and broken up pieces of plastic from carrier bags and assorted containers. All stuff which has been discarded by man somewhere in the world but ends up on your local beach through no fault of anyone in particular, just the actions of winds and tides.
We felt so good about the 25kg of rubbish that we had managed to help clear on the Sunday that when a call on the group page came out for an extracurricular and impromptu pick up on the Monday night, due to the blustery overnight winds and tide bringing in a bumper load of new stuff, we went down to help again. The kids had gone home but still there were 25 volunteers in total. This time the tide was coming in as we were picking, the concentration on eking out the bits of bright rope and assorted plastics from the stones and seaweed resulted in wet feet from sudden wave surges. Once you got that wet once, it didn’t matter much any more.
We finished that evening in time to stay and watch the sun set out across the sea while surfers took advantage of the last light and rolling waves and we were off home before the final weigh-in figure was announced. We thought it had been a lot of stuff, just our bag was pretty heavy by the time we finished, the pile of nets and other black bags from everyone else seemed to be similarly filled. By the time we got home, had our feet up – and dried – and were relaxing with a cuppa the figure was published on the group’s Facebook page. 48kg of rubbish collected.
Pete, the local organiser reported;
Recovered netting (oh, so much netting), plastics, shoes, seagulls (RIP) bones (agricultural, not human), a hocking big piece of nylon bar, smashed plastic from the fishing industry, and — frankly — I’m so exhausted I lost track of of everything else
It’s a figure that we respond to with mixed feelings. Very satisfied feelings of course that over just the two cleans we have helped remove the equivalent weight of rubbish of a Bear Humphreys (ahem, artistic licence stretching to breaking point there..) from the beach but also sad that it’s necessary at all to do it and that this can only be the merest hint of the start in battling a problem that has been out there steadily getting worse through our own society’s wastefulness.
It’s better that we try though, instead of sitting at a keyboard complaining about how rubbish filled the local beach is with the smug knowledge that the Recycle bins are being used properly at home, your food waste is being composted properly and your gutters are saving the rain water into butts. We managed to find the way we could join the new battle. Just a tiny bit sure, but it’s more help than sitting here moaning about it!
If you see one of the ‘Two Minute Beach Clean’ A boards at your beach, give it a go. It’s pretty satisfying to be doing something constructive to help and if my experience of the timey wimey effect of it is consistent, you’ll be doing something like half an hours worth of good in what feels like the two minutes.
- Pictures not my own, shamelessly nicked from the Crackington Crew Facebook page.