Wandle cleanup: August 2016: Wandsworth

The one with the new recruits

Hard to believe a month has passed since we were in Plough Lane but it was indeed cleanup time again on the Wandle last weekend.

For August, 49 of us gathered in King George’s Park in Wandsworth, ready for some cleanup action. We had a number of new faces with us this month including some passers-by who found us in Plough Lane back in July, a local rugby team and a team from EquiLend.

After the usual Health & Safety Briefing we got started. The first task for us was to make a path to the river. As we normally visit King George’s Park in the winter, we were suddenly faced with a forest of nettles and brambles. Using a spade and loppers, Phil and Guy created the first path down to the river and our wading team set off.

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While this was happening, I sent a second team to create similar paths through the nettles at the other two gates, ready to wheelbarrow the rubbish. It was not an easy task!

With the waders in the water, it didn’t take long for the rubbish to start coming out. Behind the willow trees, large amounts of debris had collected such as drinks cans and bottles.

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We also found perhaps the creepiest doll I’ve ever seen amongst the debris…

Creepy Doll

Our bank support team and litterpickers stumbled upon a large stand or two of Himalayan balsam. As balsam seeds can be transported downstream by the river, it is best to tackle this plant from the source of the river first, which we’re doing at Richmond Green, Beddington Park, Hackbridge and Culvers Island. However, when spotted it is always worth preventing it from setting seed so that when we do make it down to Wandsworth, we have less to tackle. So a small team of volunteers pulled the plants up, using bin bags to catch the seeds.

Himalayan Balsam

Jane made sure every last plant was found by checking from the river itself.

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By lunchtime the rubbish pile was huge and so I decided to have our break a little earlier, not that anyone would get out of the river!

Finally, 49 people gathered at the tent to have tea, coffee and homemade cake kindly made by Sally and Ann. We all had a rest and basked in the sunshine which had come out in full force since the morning.

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It wasn’t long until everyone wanted to get back to work, most likely seeking the shade of the river! So we went off again…

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The afternoon saw two main wading teams competing for the best Wandle find. A rugby team stuck together finding bicycle tyres, a trike, typewriter and 2 bed spring bases.

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Whereas the rest of the waders were slightly further upstream tackling a giant lorry tyre!

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By the time is came around to three o’clock I could get neither team out of the river!

The rubbish pile at the end of the day was an impressive pile for just 300m of river..

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So what did we find?  1 lorry tyre, 1 coconut, 1 plastic banana, 1 jewellery box, 1 creepy doll, 1 trike frame, 1 paddling pool, 1 engine block, 1 typewriter, 1 pair of waders, 2 car tyres, 2 wooden pallets, 2 bed spring bases, 2 baby rattles, 4 baby dummies, 5 bikes, 6 footballs, 7 bits of random piping (all shapes and sizes), bags and bags of other junk and 7 piles of Himalayan balsam.

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Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent, Wally for helping supervise the cleanup, and the Waste Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Alex, Allison, And, Ann, Becky, Boguslawa, Carol, Cassandra, Charles, Chris, Clare, Dan, Dave J, Dave W, David A, David C, David H, David T, Eughan, Gideon, Guy, Haydn, Jacek, James, Jane, Jason, John, Jon, L Marshall, Mark, Michael, Nick, Oliver, Penny, Pete, Peter, Phil, Richard, Rose, Rowena, Sally, Sarah, Steve, Stewart, Stuart, Theo, Wally, Zoe B and Zoe D.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That when volunteers are determined, there is no way of getting them out of the river..

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Parrot’s Feather in Beddington Park

The River Wandle has its problems when it comes to invasive non-native species. Floating pennywort is well established, Himalayan balsam can be found up and down the river, and Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed are well spread too. Therefore when it comes to the control of these, progress can be slow.

But it is a different story for Parrot’s Feather!

Parrots Feather

Parrot’s Feather is an aquatic invasive plant native to central and south America.

Parrot’s Feather loves to grow in still or slow moving water bodies, and because of this it became a popular plant for gardens and aquariums. However, like so many of these introduced species, Parrot’s Feather escaped and has become established in the wild.

The plant can quickly grow to cover small waterbodies, displacing native species and blocking out sunlight to the water below. In slow moving waters, it can cause flooding by blocking up watercourses and drainage channels.

Before

Luckily on the Wandle we only had one record of Parrot’s Feather, and that was in Manor Pond at Beddington Park. To ensure there was no further spread, we worked with Sutton Council to organise a volunteer day to remove the plant, every last stem!

Our five lucky volunteers, Ed, Dave, Wally and Phil, joined our INNS Officer Alan and Louise from the Living Wandle team to manually remove the plant.

Removing Parrots Feather

While our volunteers worked, our Education Officer ran a number of activities for families passing by to raise awareness about invasive non-native species.

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To start things off, Alan set up nets to catch any stray bits of Parrot’s Feather that might break away during the works. This helped ensure we wouldn’t spread the plant any further. Vegetation was cut back so we could be extra sure none was hiding anywhere.

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Then it was time to grapple and fork it out. Back breaking work… or so I heard…

Parrots Feather

It took 3 hours but all the Parrot’s Feather was removed, and Sutton Council’s Parks Team came and collected the plant to be disposed of.

So the classic before and after…

Before and After

Help the Environment Agency with the midge issue

Midges are chironomids and spend the first part of their lives in the river itself. They then pupate and emerge as flying adults, surviving for only a few days to mate and lay eggs at the river’s surface. However, recently they have been emerging in huge numbers in Ravensbury Park and other sites along the Wandle, with some local residents unable to open their windows.

The Environment Agency are investigating the causes of these mass emergences and as part of this has commissioned a study to find out more about the type of midges causing the problem, and what can be done to alleviate it.

But they need your help…

The Environment Agency need you as their eyes on the river. If and when you experience a swarm of midges in your area, please call a report through to the EA hotline on 0800 80 70 60 as soon as possible, detailing the time of day and location of the swarm.

The Environment Agency will then be able to gain a better understanding of how widespread these occurrences are becoming and whether any specific locations are particularly badly affected. They’ll combine your reports with their own information to assist in establishing reasons for the high midge numbers and working towards appropriate recommendations to help alleviate the problem.

Wandle cleanup: July 2016: Merton

The one with the dodo

Over the last couple of years, I’ve got quicker at packing the van and better at navigating the Wandle Valley and as a result I have started arriving to the cleanups earlier than usual. When I arrive, or not soon after, there have been people slowly arriving. However the morning of this cleanup, no one was there.

And no one was there at half 10…

And no one appeared until 10:50 – by which point I was experiencing a meltdown, checking I had sent the email, and that I wasn’t in the wrong place!

But in that 10 minutes, everyone appeared and we got started as usual. Phew!!

The event was funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a HLF funded scheme all about reconnecting people with the River Wandle. This time, we were even joined by Louise, a team member from the Living Wandle crew!

After the Health & Safety briefing, we got stuck in.

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Firstly our wading team got into the river and headed downstream to Plough Lane Bridge. This small section is often missed on our usual cleanups as it has difficult access for bank support to heave the rubbish up and the waders have to go back on themselves to reach it.

However, it clearly needed some attention! The small stretch was full of rubbish, some of it buried in the silt and some new fresh items which might have been washed down in the recent high flows. Either way, trug after trug were filled with Theo and myself heaving them up the concrete side.

It didn’t take long until I was presented with my first gift from the cleanup – my Wandle slipper. It didn’t fit, which I suppose makes me the ugly sister, but I asked everyone to keep an eye out for Prince Charming just in case.

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One thing we were seeing a lot of were car carpets, we must have pulled out one in every trug load. On top of this, full carpets were being found, and duvets, all of which were extremely heavy having soaked up Wandle water and silt. A great work out for the arms, who needs a gym?

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 Just before lunch we even encountered a rare creature, believed to have been extinct for many years now – the dodo. This fella was discovered in the Wandle! Time to update those species records…

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It was soon lunchtime and we were all thankful for the break. As we drank our tea and ate our cake, we started discussing plans for the washing machine we had found earlier that morning. It was heavy and was at the difficult end of the site with a concrete bank between it and the rubbish pile. So we hatched a plan.

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Once lunch was over, Andy, Phil, Guy and Ed got back in the river and attached the grapple ropes to the washing machine. Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, gathered on the bank with the ropes and pulled like a well-oiled pulley machine.IMG_0417

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We got the washing machine to the top of the bank, but it became stuck under the concrete ledge. Luckily a final injection of muscle allowed us to lift it up and over and drag it to the rubbish pile.

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With that excitement over, everyone got back in the river and we started working upstream filling yet more trugs.

By the end of the day the rubbish pile was huge and everyone was very satisfied with their work for the day. Time to go home, catch the end of Murray’s game and prepare for the football.

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 So what did we find?  1 washing machine, 1 computer keyboard, 1 scooter, 1 crutch, 1 outer layer of a tent, 1 CD player, 1 record, 1 sun chair, 1 grill pan, 1 Cinderella shoe (no prince as of yet), 1 sleeping bag, 1 mattress wire, 1 telephone, 1 suitcase, 2 roller skates, 2 duvets, 2 licence plates, 2 bike frames, 3 toy guns, 3 coconuts, 3 tyres, 6 carpets, 20 car carpets

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent, Wally for helping supervise the cleanup, and the Waste Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Andy, Charles, Chris, Dave, David, Ed, Ellie, Georgie, Guy, Jane, Joann, John N, John P, Josephine, Louise Co, Louise Cr, Mark, Maureen, Merel, Nick, Patrick, Per, Phil, Rose, Sally, Stet, Steve, Stuart, Theo, Tom and Wally

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That even if it is the men’s Wimbledon final, people still would rather come and clear up the Wandle!

 

 

Wandle cleanup: June 2016: Wandsworth

The one with all the rain

I have now been running cleanups for almost two years and I was getting pretty proud of my track record of providing sunshine for everyone. But I failed at this June cleanup. Really failed.

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The weather leading up to this cleanup had been very stormy, with thunder and lightning. The morning of the cleanup was drizzling rain – the deceptive sort of rain where you are unaware of just how wet you are getting. But thankfully, I wasn’t alone. A small group of volunteers showed up to power through the rain!

We were at Trewint Street for this cleanup, funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a HLF funded scheme all about reconnecting people with the River Wandle. After the usual Health & Safety briefing we climbed down to the Wandle and started pulling out the rubbish which had collected from fly tipping, but also washed down from upstream in the recent heavy flows.

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Even though we were a small group, the rubbish was being dragged up the concrete banks with impressive speed. We found a bicycle, the old railings from the path (preventing access for motorbikes), a barrel and the drum of a washing machine.

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 And if that wasn’t challenge enough, we even found a mattress which took everyone to heave it up over the concrete banks and round to the ever growing rubbish pile.

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As the rain came down, I made use of the tent sides, which I was very thankful I’d decided to pack last minute – quite a squeeze for our little Zipvan.

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Instead of the usual litter picking, our other volunteers tackled a large stand of Himalayan balsam on the bank at Trewint Street. The stand was very dense and had grown very tall, but was yet to flower. Therefore by pulling it up now, we would be preventing it from seeding and making our job easier in the future when we make it down this far with our Invasive Species Officer.

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By lunchtime we were all pretty soaked, so we huddled under the tent to warm up with a cup of tea and some cake kindly made for us by Ann. Given the rain and our sodden coats, we decided to be democratic and take a vote on whether to keep cleaning, or to finish early and head home for warm showers.

I am sure you can guess which won…

So what did we find?  1 barrel, 1 bin, 1 bed headboard (dismantled), 1 washing machine drum, 1 plastic chair, 1 bike, 1 royal mail bag, 1 mattress, 1 country fair sign, 2 road signs, 3 bike barriers, 5 tennis balls, 20+ planks of wood and 35+ bags of other rubbish. Plus all that balsam!

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Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent, Wally for helping supervise the cleanup, and the Waste Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming:  Aaron, Andy, Ann, Charles, Chris, Claire, Dave, Derek, George, Guy, Joanna, John S, John N, Per, Phil, Rianna, Rose, Steve, Stewart, Wally and Will.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That as much as I might think it, I cannot control the weather with the power of my mind. Time to work on the weather machine…

Wandle cleanup: May 2016: Sutton

The one with the traffic jam

For our May cleanup, we headed to Beddington Park. The event was funded by the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a HLF funded scheme all about reconnecting people with the River Wandle.

I arrived an hour and a half early for this event. Why you may ask? Well I was woken up early with a small nightmare about the cleanup. I dreamt that I arrived at the event, unpacked the van and got everything set up myself. At 11 o’clock no volunteers had arrived and instead I get a phone call saying I was in the wrong place, and all the volunteers were waiting the other side of the park!

Luckily on the day, this didn’t happen.

Beedington Park Clean up and HB bash 8 May 2016 (13)

For the day we had two aims: the first was our usual Wandle cleanup, and the second was to tackle invasive Himalayan balsam. In the past we’ve hunted balsam later in the year, when the plant stood high above the nettles with its bright pink flowers. Since we’re now getting closer to eradicating this species from Beddington Park and the upper Wandle, we decided to hit it even earlier in the year. But that did make spotting it slightly harder…

Beedington Park Clean up and HB bash 8 May 2016 (21)

After a welcome talk and Health & Safety briefing we divided into teams. We had a wading team which went off into the Wandle to start removing rubbish, we had a bank support team to ferry the rubbish to the pile, a litter picking team around the park and two balsam pulling teams headed up by Theo Pike and Alan Martin.

As our Invasive Species Officer, Alan had surveyed the whole park ahead of the event and mapped where the small balsam plants could be found. But as they were only small, our volunteers needed a keen eye.

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Meanwhile, our waders had already discovered a trolley!

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Keeping an eye on the waders involved some getting past some extensive greenery on the sides of the banks, something we don’t have a problem with in winter.

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By lunch time everyone was very hot and relieved to find a bit of shade from the hot sun. We sat around eating our lunches and drinking water, marvelling at the traffic chaos that was happening in the park. Car after car had turned up for a day in the sun only to result in a grid local down the narrow Church Road.

After lunch, the wading team heading further into the park and found another trolley, some traffic cones and a pot of paint.

Beedington Park Clean up and HB bash 8 May 2016 (40)

After this though, the river was very clear and for once we felt like what we were doing was making a difference.

The balsam bashing team continued to tackle the wetland areas within the park, making sure every last plant was discovered and pulled up.

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Finally after a long day in the sun, we packed up the van and all joined the traffic jam awaiting us trying to get down Church Road. What a palaver!

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So what did we find?  1 bucket, 1 cage front, 1 dismantled tent and wire, 1 saucepan (thought this might be a good addition to my new flat), 1 pot of paint, 2 trolleys, 2 road work signs, 3 disposable BBQs, 5 traffic cones, 6 panels of metal fencing, 15 planks of wood and 20 bags of other junk. Plus all the tiny, tiny balsam plants….

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie & Dave for supervising the Event Tent, Theo & Alan for helping supervise the balsam bashing, John, Chris and Wally for helping to supervise the waders and the Parks Team at Sutton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Alex, Andrea, Andy, Anna, Ben, Charles, Chris, Dave, Derek, Ed, Geoff, Geoffrey, Gillian, Guy, Hanna, Helen, Henry, Hillevi, Ian, Isabelle, Jamie, Jane , Janet, JJ, Joe, John L, John N, John S, John W, Keith, Klara, Len, Mark M, Martina, Mia, Nick H, Nigel, Per, Rob, Rosie, Roy, Sally, Sofia, Sue, Thebias, Theo, Twyla, Victor, Wally and Will

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That Beddington Park is the beach of South London on a hot summer’s day.

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Award Winning Wandle Restoration

Our rehabilitation work on the Carshalton Arm of the River Wandle recently won the Urban Category of the 2016 UK River Prize – an incredible achievement for all of those involved.

To express our thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way over the last 10 years, we have created a short film. So make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy…

Wandle cleanup: April 2016: Wandsworth

The one with the local chef

For our April cleanup, it was time to venture to an unknown site for myself (but a well-known site for the regulars) – Ravensbury Terrace. This site is the next stop downstream from Trewint Street so we knew there would be plenty to find.

This was a slightly special cleanup as we were being filmed! Our work on the Carshalton Arm of the Wandle had recently won the Urban Category for the UK River Prize and for this we needed to produce a film about the project. One of the most important elements of our project was community engagement and our wonderful volunteers – and the cleanup was the perfect chance to catch them!

After a welcome talk from myself, we all got in the river to film a shot for our video – you’ll be able to watch the full film soon so keep your eyes peeled…

Once that was all wrapped up, the cleanup commenced. The first challenge was getting down to the bank via an upcycled staircase made of wooden pallets – the perfect addition to any fashionable London house. Once down there, we had a narrow path to ferry the rubbish back and forth.

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To make matters worse, there were several Giant Hogweed plants growing along the path. Giant Hogweed is a nasty invasive plant which can grow up to 5m tall – outshading native vegetation. The plant also produces a toxic sap which can cause chemical burns to the skin following exposure to sunlight. To help prevent anyone having to experience this, Theo Pike covered each plant with its very own traffic cone. We always there would be a use for all the traffic cones we found in the river!

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The rubbish quickly started appearing, as it always does. A metal drum, traffic cones, push chairs and more.

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As we worked up the river, we stumbled upon my favourite find of my (almost) two years of cleanups – a chef!

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As soon as he was safely out of the river, we made sure he was put to good use…

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Just before lunch, we got close to Trewint Street. On a previous cleanup there we had found a motorbike in the river, but we knew we’d be unable to haul it up the concrete flood walls above the bridge, so we pulled it out of the river and left it here it on the bank. But now it was time for collection.

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The bike was extremely heavy and the path was very narrow (even narrower with the hogweed plants). Our volunteer first broke the steering lock off the bike, allowing us to move it down the path easier. Two wrecking poles were then used to lift the bike.

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At the other end, our volunteers built a ramp up the pallet stairs and we all watched and hoped the ramp wouldn’t give way..

But it didn’t, one bike successfully removed. Time for lunch.

We were once again spoilt by the students from the American International University in London, who baked us a very impressive spread of cakes including salted caramel brownies and gooey chocolate cookies.

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During lunch, we even had time to interview some of our volunteers about the project and how the river in Carshalton has changed.

The cleanup resumed after lunch. A mattress was found and removed with some effort,  together with planks of wood and lots of piping as well.

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Cleanup 9Trug after trug were filled, emptied and ferried to the rubbish pile.

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So what did we find?  1 mattress, 1 chef statue, 1 jumper, 1 vase of flowers, 1 robot hand, 1 donkey toy from Shrek (great early birthday present, thank you), 1 motorbike, 1 pushchair, 2 chairs, 3 traffic cones, 6 tyres, lots of plastic piping, lots of planks of wood, bags and bags of bottles, cans and other junk.

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Dean’s Blinds for hosting us, the students for catering for our volunteers, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent and the Waste Management Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming:  Aaron, Alex, Andy ,Barbara, Bella, Brandon, Brian, Charles, Charly, Chris, Daniel, Dave, Denis, Derek, Ed, Eden, Emes, Guy, Ian, Jamie, Jess, Joe, John, Keith, Ken, Lisa, Mark, Matthew, Merel, Miriam, Nick, Olivia, Paul, Penny, Per, Phil, Piper, Rachelle, Rafael, Rob, Rose, Sally Ann, Sara, Steve, Theo, Victor, Victoria, Vittorio, Wally and Wayne.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That you can make anything you need from what you find in the Wandle

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The Wandle’s a Winner!

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We’re delighted to announce that we are a category winner in the 2016 UK River Prize. The Carshalton arm of the Wandle has won the ‘Urban Project’ category and is one of four category winners who will now go forward as finalists for the overall river prize.

The overall UK River Prize will be announced at an awards dinner at the River Restoration Centre’s Annual Conference in Blackpool on the 26th April.

You can read the River Restoration Centre’s press release here (UK_River_Prize_Finalists) to see the other category winners and finalists who we’re up against. Each finalist will make a short video about their project which will be shown at the awards dinner.

Keep your fingers crossed!!

Shrimps in Schools: Release Day!

Tuesday was a big day for the students of All Saints Carshalton Primary School!

Shrimp Release

After signing up to our new Creatures in the Classroom project, the Year 1 class were given a tank filled with rocks, stones, sand and aquatic plants to replicate the natural habitat of the freshwater shrimps which were delivered a couple of weeks later.

Over the last month, the students have been caring for the shrimps, learning about the River Wandle, and taking responsibility for the ongoing care and welfare of the shrimps.

After school on Tuesday, the class gathered at Butter Hill in Carshalton to say goodbye to their shrimps and release them back into the Wandle. Each student had a go at catching some shrimps in a small net, and passing them to David Gill, the Education Officer, to release them into the Wandle.

Shrimp Release

Shrimp Release

Shrimp Release

Creatures in the Classroom is part of Project Kingfisher, a new education project from the Wandle Trust funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

This year, 25 schools like All Saints Primary School have taken part in Creatures in the Classroom raising sticklebacks and tadpoles, creating tyre ponds and looking after shrimps.

This spring we will be launching Window on the Wandle all about bringing students to the River Wandle to learn about its history, wildlife and future. Education packs for this will soon be available so watch this space!

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