Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Not messing about on the river

Working on looking after the local environment in the most practical way I know - clearing litter - continues with an exciting new twist! Our group has purchased a dinghy to attempt to retrieve sunken litter and litter on riverbanks inaccessible from land

We wanted to pick up some tips about using boats to collect litter. Four of us spent an afternoon on the River Soar, a much bigger river than our meandering River Welland. Here we met experienced  litter pickers working with the Outdoor Pursuit Centre. Right in the middle of the city there are monthly sessions which often involve 20 volunteers on the water in canoes or on the riverbanks above them.

We started out being kitted up with gloves and of course the life jacket which felt more like a strait-jacket and makes you feel a little less agile! 
volunteer in life jacket 
The sight of the canoes - see right of picture - gave me the jitters - especially when I realised we were to work in pairs. I am notoriously uncoordinated on boats - the steering confuses me! However needs must. Next the litter picking gear - two types of picker - big pincers were new to us but we were going to be lifting heavy sodden litter and they are better at this than the traditional pickers. And very impressed to find we were to separate our litter into two hooped bags - one green and one red.

bags ready
Off we went in our canoes and had to learn very quickly how to steer especially as we were competing with vast groups of canoeists out for the afternoon. And the current is very strong in places. Some frayed moments - not only in terms of litter...

I found there was a knack to keeping close to the bank to allow your partner to pick the litter. Need to have something to cling onto even if it is only a blackberry stalk..Taking pictures at the same time was not an easy option..
I'll just get that Warburton's wrapper..

The worst offenders are plastic bags which either drape themselves in overhanging branches or languish on struts and offer all kinds of terrors to wildlife. Very heavy to lift out too.

I chatted to two litter pickers on the riverbanks - regulars who had seen some sights in their time. They spoke about finding an old safe in the river, a bag of passports, bags of puppies and kittens. Not for the squeamish in a river this size I think. You never know what you will find. We took "on board" a heavy bag the river bankers had collected to save their shoulders.

The weather wasn't ever so kind to us novices - it rained and even hailed - but we were wet from the start and it was another lesson we learnt I think! Wear waterproof trousers next time...