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.

Cleanup 1

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!

Cleanup 2

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

Cleanup 3

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

Cleanup 4

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

Cleanup 5

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.

Cleanup 6

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.

Cleanup 7

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.

Cleanup 8

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.

Cleanup 10

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

40 Ravensbury Terrace - Apr 2016

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!

After

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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Wandle cleanup: March 2016: Merton

The one with the extra 20p

For March this year we headed to North Road in Wimbledon, but we decided to start much further downstream than normal, at the Haydons Road railway bridge.

First, however, we all met at the usual spot for the Welcome Talk and Health & Safety Briefing. New volunteer, Alex Clements, introduced himself and the work he is doing for a MSc in Environmental Management. For this he has chosen the Wandle as a case study in how social learning and engagement leads to more effective management of rivers and their water catchments. If you can spare two minutes, please do complete his online survey!

After that, we all got stuck in to the main event. Lucky volunteer Joe spotted a friendly chub checking out how the cleanup was going. And an eel which quickly swam away. Quite the spot!

Under the railway bridge, our wading team quickly filled their trugs with all sorts, from tyres to cans to bottles to traffic cones to wallets. The 3 helpers on the banks were soon overwhelmed.

Cleanup

Once the waders reached the footbridge beside Garfield Recreation Ground, we all re-grouped to shift the huge amount of rubbish already found back to the rubbish pile.

Further up the wading team found a tyre, but it was much, much bigger than our usual catch. Remembering some of our previous cleanups at Wandle Bank, we think it might have been an old bus tyre? It took all our volunteer muscle to lever it out of the silt, and then more to get it up on the banks and rolled back to base.

Cleanup

Soon it was 1pm and time for our scheduled lunch break. We had a lovely cake made by Jackie and the sun came out briefly to warm us up.

After lunch we got back to it.

As we ventured into more familiar territory towards the North Road Bridge, our finds became smaller. A small team broke off to venture further ahead, finding a couple of trolleys.

The waders also discovered a safe. Unlike the usual safes we find with the backs blown out, this one was intact and rattling… potential Wandle treasure?

Cleanup

Alas, after some clever hacking with a crow bar, we gained 20p… but every little helps?

All in all it was a great day, and yet another worryingly large haul from the Wandle!

Cleanup

So what did we find?  1 radiator, 1 prisoner card, 1 headless teddy, 1 kitchen chair, 1 bus tyre, 1 bin, 1 traffic fence panel, 1 Christmas tree, 1 chest of drawers (in pieces), 1 barrel, 1 traffic cone, 1 safe and 20p, 2 folding chairs, 2 trolleys, 9 normal size tyres, lots of wooden boarding and bags of bags of other junk.

Huge thanks to Thames Water for funding the event, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Jackie for catering for our volunteers, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent and the Waste Management Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Alex, Andy, Bruno, Charles, Claire, Dave, Derek, Ed, Geoffrey, Guy, Ian, Jackie, Joe, John, Keith, Michael, Nick, Nicola, Penny, Per, Phil, Rose, Ruth, Steve, Stewart, Susan, Theo, Victor, Wally and William.

Wandle cleanup: February 2016: Sutton

The one in the freezing cold

Our February cleanup fell on Valentine’s Day this weekend and so the theme was “Romancing on the River” although I am sorry to report a lack of romance. Perhaps a cold winter day in waders isn’t the best ice breaker?

For this event we headed to Poulter Park where last year we discovered 200 tyres in the river. Luckily, the story didn’t repeat itself!

After a quick welcome talk from myself in the cold wind, we all headed straight off to get to work and warm up. The wading team divided into two. The first team headed to the river down the path and started to tackle a pile of broken up fridges which had lodged on some leaning willows and brushwood islands.

Wading

Fridge Door

The other team headed towards Watermead Lane to tackle a similar pile of rubbish which had collected in the river. Fly-tipping had nowhere to hide…

Fridge Bits

We soon found the traditional coconut – a Valentine’s gift from the Wandle?

Classic Coconut

Perhaps my personal highlight of the day was a surprise visit from Erica who used to run the Wandle cleanups for many years. She had managed to hop on the train from Norfolk that morning and catch a lift with Jo, our famous former cake baker, who had come all the way from China to see us again!

Given the special date, we were hoping that love would be in the air at some point, and we weren’t disappointed when lunch time arrived! A team of students from the American International University in London had baked a huge range of delicious Valentine’s Day themed cakes and cookies for us, as well as contributions from Jan, Ann, Sally and Jackie! Who needs flowers when you have pink heart cookies and a hot cup of tea?

Heart Cookies

After lunch we were all pretty cold, but headed back out to the river. Within half an hour, our two wading teams met in the middle and we quickly realised we had covered the whole river through Poulter Park! So given the weather and the blue tinge to people’s lips, we called it a day early and started to pack up.

Back to wading

The rubbish pile was impressively large, particularly as we’d also created a second pile at the top of the park!

Rubbish Pile

So what did we find?  1 mattress wire, 1 golf trophy, 1 woven chair, 1 bicycle, 1 floor fan, 1 wooden pallet, 1 shelving unit, 1 trolley, 1 dustbin lid, 3 coconuts, 4 traffic cones, 5 concrete fencing stands, 5 fridge doors, 8 tyres, lots and lots of wiring and insulation from inside the fridges, bags and bags of other rubbish.

Bicycle

Huge thanks to Thames Water for funding the event, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Mitcham & Carshalton Rugby Club for use of the facilities, Ann, Jackie, Sally and the students for catering for our volunteers, Wally & Chris for supervising with me, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent and the Waste Management Team at Sutton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Abi, Ahmed, Alassimo, Alex C, Amir, Andy, Ann, Aubrey, Barry, Behnaz, Blagovesta, Brian, Charin, Chris E, Chris S, Dan, Dave, David, Derek, Ed B, Eden, Emma, Gabrila, Gillian, Guy, Helen, Hiriah, Ian, Ida, J, Jan , Jane, Jason, Joe, Kaitlynn, Lisa, Manuel, Marina, Marta, Nikola, Per, Phil L, Phil R, Piper, Rachele, Rafael, Rob W, Robert M, Robert T, Rose, Rositsa, Rox, Sally, Samantha, Seamus, Thea, Theo, Tim, Vittorio, Wally, Wayne and Yoanna

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? That wading the Wandle isn’t the most popular Valentine’s Day date.

Fish Passage Restored!

Last year we were working on a fish passage project on the Wandle at Trewint Street, Earlsfield.

Although there are many weirs on the Wandle which impede the migration of fish Trewint Street is one of the largest, with two weirs either side of a large concrete channel. With funding from the Environment Agency, Thames Water and Defra’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund (CPAF), we have restored passage for fish and eels, allowing movement to upstream habitats.

So how did we achieve this?

A bespoke fish pass was designed by Fishtek and installed on the weir by local contractors Amenity Water Management (AWM).

At the top of the right hand weir, a series of recycled plastic baffles were fixed onto the weir. These deepen and slow the flow of water and as you can see from the picture below, the baffles are arranged with a diagonal gap up to the top. This is the path the fish use to swim up the weir.

Baffles

The baffles had to be fixed to the weir in dry conditions, and so sandbags were used to divert the water down the left hand weir, leaving the right hand side high and dry while our contractors worked. Watch the timelapse footage of AWM installing the baffles.

The second part of the fish pass were three large wooden pre-barrages at the bottom end of the island which were designed to slow the water down and reduce the drop in water level between the channel and the baffles.

Barrages going in

Each barrage was notched to create a path for migrating fish.

To makes sure the pass works in low flows a huge piece of wood (7m long!) was placed at the top of the left hand weir to divert water at low flow down the right hand side and the fish pass.  This ensures the pass works over a large range of flows.

Deflector and Eel Bristles

Bristles were fixed to each of the barrages to allow eel passage. Eel tiles were then fixed alongside the baffles on the concrete wall making the weir passable to both fish and European Eels.

A big thanks to our contractors AWM, landowner Mr Lammas and Thames Water, Defra and the Environment Agency for their funding.

Contractors

Wandle cleanup: January 2016: Wandsworth

The one where we worked so hard we finished early..

Firstly, a Happy New Year to everyone!

For the first cleanup of 2016, we returned to Trewint Street in Earlsfield following reports of fly-tipping in the river. However little did we know that the day before brought a huge downpour of rain, so when we arrived at 10am on Sunday morning, all the rubbish had been washed further downstream. Oh well, off we go!

To start off 2016, I decided to summarise what we had achieved as a group in 2015. In total, we had spent 2241 hours clearing the Wandle covering 6.6 km of the river with 595 volunteers pulling out 33 tonnes of rubbish. Amazing. Below you can see some of the highlights.

2015 in Cleanups

After the inspirational talk, it was time to get started. A team of brave waders climbed over the fence into the Wandle and headed downstream under the Trewint Street bridge. A mattress had been spotted a short wade away and everyone’s sights had been set on dragging this back up the river and hauling it out over the concrete bank. A great warm up, we all thought..

Mattress

Pulling the mattress may look simple enough but it actually took 6 of us hauling on the grapples and holding the mattress in the air while it drained away some of the water it had soaked up. Getting in on a wheelbarrow and to the rubbish pile was a whole new kettle of fish.

Mattress

Meanwhile, litter pickers had discovered the large pile of fly-tipping further down the Wandle Trail. This pile has been kindly re-stocked for every cleanup to date, but a team got stuck in and shifted all sorts to the rubbish pile including water barrels, flooring, fencing, garden furniture and a TV.

Fly tipping

As the day continued, the rubbish pile got bigger and bigger. Theo cleared the newly installed fish pass which had caught some branches in the recent high flows on the river. Without getting wet, he managed to remove the branches using the grappling hook, much like one of those grabber arcade games except there was no adorable cuddly toy prize at the end, before clambering down the ladder to dislodge the biggest branches by hand.

Wading

We stopped slightly early for lunch as we were all pretty cold and in need of a cup of tea. Sally Ann, Jackie and Ann had made some delicious cakes for us all which disappeared in no time. Before we got started again, we had a mini team meeting to work out what to do. The waders had cleared downstream of the bridge leaving only the upstream route which was known to be full of silt. Bravely, the waders got back in and headed towards Plough Lane.

Jane

Within 20 m, they were out again! The river was too deep and waders only reach so far up. So instead we all walked along the Wandle Trail looking for motorbikes from the banks. For once, we couldn’t see any!

Having already removed a huge pile of rubbish we decided to finish slightly early. We packed up the van and all headed home for a much needed warm shower.

Next month our cleanup falls on Valentine’s Day – so why not bring along a date! Who wants flowers and chocolates when you can wade in the Wandle and find yourself the perfect gift…

The Perfect Gift

So what did we find?  1 sodden mattress, 1 desk chair, 1 folding chair, 1 lounger, 1 kitchen chair, 1 picnic table, 1 TV, 1 dustbin, 1 gas canister, 1 push chair, 1 thermos, 1 rusty old air rifle, 1 clothes dryer, 1 heater, 3 traffic cones, 3 water barrels, 4 bicycles, lots and lots of fencing and miscellaneous flooring and bags and bags of other rubbish.

Huge thanks to Thames Water for funding the event, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Ann, Jackie and Sally Ann for catering for our volunteers, Wally & Theo for supervising with me and 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, Abi, Alex, Andrea, Andy, Ann, Barry, Charles, Chris, Dave J, Dave W, Derek, Ed, George E, George N, Guy, Hamish, Hugo, Ian, Jackie, James, Jane B, Jane P, Jason, Joe, John, Karoline, Louise, Margie, Marina, Mark, Mike, Penny, Phil, Rianne, Rose, Sally Ann, Simon, Stephen, Subiratha, Sue, Theo, Tom H, Tom K, Victor, Wally, Xilona and Zoe

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That there is a very good reason why I bring the bag of spare clothes every month…

Rubbish Pile

Wandle cleanup: December 2015: King George’s Park

The one with the return of Miss Evans…

The year has gone very fast indeed and before we knew it, the last cleanup of 2015 was upon us. For December we went to King Georges Park in Wandsworth. With the Event Tent decked with tinsel and my reindeer antlers on, I was joined by 30 volunteers on a chilly Sunday morning. After the usual Health & Safety briefing we got started, with half of us getting in the river and the other half working from the banks.

Within 10 minutes, a bicycle had been sighted, collected and placed on the start of the rubbish pile by Santa. An excellent start.

River Santa

While on the banks we were discussing Christmas shopping, and how far behind we all were, with the idea that maybe the Wandle could be our solution? Although I imagine we’d be less than impressed if Santa’s sack really was filled with soggy gifts from the Wandle. Olaf flip flop anyone?

Olaf Flip Flop

To distract us all from the cold, we became magpies, closely inspecting what we were pulling out of the Wandle, looking for some special Christmas finds. I discovered this old style Fanta can which no one else seemed quite as excited about..

Fanta Can

We found the usual coconut…

Classic Coconut

As well as what we believe was a Nativity scene Mary, minus the head…

Mary

By 1pm, we were all ready for a cup of tea to warm up and to try some of Ann’s carrot cake which she kindly made for us all. Much to our delight, we were visited by a Christmas Angel during lunch – Erica Evans! As lots of our volunteers will remember, Erica organised our Wandle cleanups for many years and happened to be visiting London this weekend, so she thought she’d pay us a visit!

We didn’t stop for long with the chilly weather, and so back in the river we went. The waders continued upstream to the next bridge, clearing over 300m of river. Some afternoon finds included:

This metal chair, which I have been informed is a welding chair.

Welding Chair

This brightly coloured figurine which I was told was a Shirdi Buba (learning lots at this cleanup)

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And some large heavy shed roof sheets which had absorbed so much water they were a real challenge to get out so late in the day. Trust Derek to find something just as we were finishing up!

Wooden Board

Last year 518 volunteers pulled out 8.5 tonnes of rubbish from the Wandle, donating 2012 hours of their time to the cause. Have we beaten this for 2015? Stayed tuned over the Christmas break to find out!

So what did we find?  1 frisbee, 1 motorbike dashboard, 1 Olaf flip flop, 1 railway sleeper, 1 70” record, 1 radio, 1 television, 1 vintage Fanta can, 1 sun lounger, 1 welding chair, 1 generic chair, 2 bicycles, 4 pillows, 5 tyres, 5 umbrellas, lots of wire and bags and bags of other junk.

The Rubbish Pile!

Huge thanks to everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Ann for catering for our volunteers (cheese scones and carrot cake!), Wally 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, Ann, Barry, Charles, Chris, Dave, David, Derek, Ed  ,Guy, James, Jamie, Jane, John, Louise, Marina , Mike, Nick , Paul, Per, Phil, Sally, Simon, Theo, Tom, Victor, Wally, Xilano and Zoe.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That no one reads the email blast! My request for Christmas attire was missed on everyone..

Christmas Selfie

Wandle cleanup: November 2015: Plough Lane

The one with a record amount of rubbish!

BasherAnother month, another Wandle Trust cleanup, and for November we returned to Plough Lane in Merton.

After holding a two minute silence for Remembrance Day, 40 eager volunteers descended on the river to hunt down rubbish and clean up the surrounding area; supervised by myself and Basher.

Our wading team, led by Derek, got straight in and starting finding trugs and trugs of rubbish – it really was rich pickings!

I was soon presented with the first of many gifts from the wading team – my very own bike.

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Another interesting find in the morning was a Boris Bike – the bike was still working and we used it for the rest of the day, travelling up and down the Wandle Trail with tools.

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After a busy morning, we all stopped for some much needed cheese scones and chocolate cake, kindly made for us Ann and Tesco’s.

The afternoon saw more and more rubbish – including another children’s bike:

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A TK Max trolley:

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And a mattress frame:

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Just when we were wrapping up for the day, a mystery item was found lurking in the depths of silt in the Wandle. Soon the entire wading team were called in as back up to find out what this item was, and everyone was pulling and heaving on the grappling hooks. What was it? Well it was a car frame we think…

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All in all, we pulled out an amazing amount of rubbish from the Wandle at Plough Lane – just check out the rubbish pile!

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So what did we find?  1 jumper, 1 pair of jogging bottoms, 1 safe, 1 toy guitar, 1 Boris bike, 1 TK Max trolley, 1 car seat, 1 set of false teeth, 1 hub cap, 1 Coolest Christmas Ever DVD, 1 tennis racquet, 1 stereo system, 1 coconut, 1 bike wheel, 1 Wix trolley, 1 floor lino, 2 hanging baskets, 2 traffic cones, 2 kids bikes, 4 car mats, 4 car carpets, 4 licence plates, rolls and rolls of carpet, and lots more bags of plastic, metal and other rubbish

Huge thanks to everyone who helped pack up van after the event, Ann for catering for our volunteers (cheese scones were delicious!), Louise for supervising the Event Tent, Wally for helping supervise everyone on the day, and the Waste Management Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Abi, Aimee, Alima, Andrea, Andy, Ann, Anna, Audrey, Bill, Brandi, Charles, Chris, Danielle, Dave, David H, David S, Debora, Derek, Ed, George, Guy, Hannah, Helen, Hugo, Jan , Jane, John N, John S, Karoline, Lorenzo, Louise, Lucinda, Max, McKay, Mike, Nick, Nusrut, Patrick, Paul, Penny, Phil, Richard, Rose, Scarlett, Stewart, Theo, Tony, Victor, Wally, Wayne and Yvana.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?  Sometimes you get muddier packing the van than at the actual cleanup!