The Big Coast Clean Up: We join in a group of volunteers helping keep our beaches beautiful
PUBLISHED: 08:46 03 June 2018 | UPDATED: 09:31 03 June 2018
A cool summer breeze blows as a group of volunteers gather on a quiet shingle beach on the north Norfolk coast.
There are couples, children and pensioners, but they are all united in a single goal as they collect litter pickers and waste bags held open with plastic hoops - to clean up the beach and make it safe for the wildlife that inhabits the land, sea and sky above.
Ewan Carr, Clay Marshes Wildlife Centre manager, said he was delighted to see such keen interest in the clean-up session at Salhouse beach, which is run every second month, alternating with another stretch at Cley further down the coast.
Mr Carr said the clean-ups had a dual purpose.
“A lot of shingle beach is used by nesting birds, so it’s a part of our environment programme,” he said. “But a lot of the work that we do is a educating people about wildlife.
“This is encouraging them to take action to help wildlife and know what they can do to make the countryside better for animals”.
Mr Carr said the clean-up events were part of a growing movement of people taking action to help.
He said: “Then there is also the 2MinuteBeachClean, so there are all sorts of things which are capturing the imagination.”
Pauline Gillings, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteer, has led the Salthouse beach clean since it began about 18 months ago.
She said there had already been a positive change, both in the number of volunteers and the amount of litter found on the beach.
Mrs Gillings said: “When we first started we only had about seven or eight people, but last time there was 37 on one Saturday. It is definitely making a big difference.”
Paul Taylor, from Fakenham, has been joining in the clean-up days since the start of the year.
He said although the job was rarely glamorous - the first litter he found was dog poo in a bag - it was always worthwhile.
Mr Taylor said he had been inspired to take action after seeing nature shows on television - a phenomenon Mrs Gillings called the ‘Blue Planet effect’.
He said: “This week on Springwatch they showed birds whose lives were absolutely wrecked by things like blue twine. It breaks down and unthreads itself everywhere. But I absolutely love coming here.”
What litter is found on the beach?
Items that wash up or are left on beaches range from the mundane to the bizarre.
Mr Carr said: “Last time we picked up a tractor tyre, which wasn’t easy to move. There are also things like lobster pots.
“But it’s the small things that are really harmful to the environment.”
Among the most common items the volunteers find are broken down twine that often gathers other material around it, which can affect the birds that want to use it for building nests.
There are also thousands of cotton buds, wet wipes, polystyrene cups, and even large slabs of sheet plastic which appear to have once been pieces of boats.
Mrs Gillings said: “We find things like drink cans which appear to have been in the water for quite a long time.
“But it can also depend on the time of year.
“There are always things washed up but during the summer there is more waste that people leave when they come down here.
About the Big Coast Clean Up
The Big Coast Clean Up is a new campaign spearheaded by the Eastern Daily Press and its sister papers across the region, and backed by councillors, the RSPB, the Marine Conservation Society and wildlife TV presenter and naturalist Ajay Tegala.
We want to encourage everyone to get involved and help keep East Anglia’s beautiful stretches of coast pristine - not just for our own benefit but for all creatures great and small.
We want to see fewer cases of wildlife habitat being destroyed, and individual animals being caught in plastics and other human detritus.
You can even organise your own event as part of the Big Coast Clean Up, simply head to the Marine Conservation Society website at www.mcsuk.org to learn how to go about it.
For dates and details of other beach cleans, including those at Salthouse, visit www.norfolkcoastaonb.org.uk/partnership/beach-clean-events/691