[S]ince August a group called Fix the Firth has been clearing rubbish from the Solway Coast – and you can help. So far they’ve had two-hour beach cleans at Bowness on Solway, Silloth West Beach and Mawbray Banks with six more coming up before the end of December.
Organiser John Gorrill explains why they do it: ‘A staff member from the Solway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty retired in May and the official beach cleans stopped. I stepped in as voluntary organiser because the work is important and I love the Solway Coast.’ He adds, ‘I always bring my dog Roly, so we both keep fit and do something useful at the same time.’
The group provides litter-pickers, gloves, black bags and a hoop for keeping the bag open. All volunteers need is walking fitness, wellies or boots and waterproofs in case it rains. Allerdale Borough Council take away the rubbish and pass it to the Hespin Wood Mechanical and Biological Treatment Plant near Carlisle. The Plant claims to recycle 85% of rubbish it receives, so very little goes to landfill.
‘You’d be surprised at what we find,’ says John, ‘bottles, cans, cigarette lighters, burst balloons from somebody’s celebration, nylon ropes, broken toys, used shotgun cartridges, fish boxes from trawlers, tyres and broken buckets for example.’ The strangest finds were a burnt-out motorbike at Bowness and half a boat at Silloth – but normally there is no heavy lifting.
Most of the beach cleans happen on a Thursday or Saturday morning from 10am to midday, depending on the time of high tide. If you’d like to know more details, you can contact John by emailing [email protected]. There’s no need to book a place – volunteers simply turn up and get busy.
‘Some people do a beach clean on their own but it’s fun to be part of a group and the results are amazing,’ says John. Volunteer numbers have ranged from six to fifteen at recent events. The biggest haul of rubbish was twenty-nine bags plus a traffic cone at Bowness on Solway.
But it’s not a competition. Every scrap of litter taken off the beach reduces the world-wide problem of plastic pollution which damages our wildlife, our oceans, our health and our enjoyment of nature. We’re lucky to have the Solway Coast – let’s keep it beautiful!
Beach cleans are listed at cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk in the What’s On pages and at lovemybeach.org in the Volunteering section. Also, the Solway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has a volunteers’ mailing list. The Silloth office sends out details of upcoming events roughly every month.