Tag Archives: HLF

Guardians of the River Wandle

For the last two years, our famous Wandle Trust cleanups have been supported by the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a Heritage Lottery Funded scheme all about connecting people to the River Wandle.

The project was called River Guardians and it aimed to run safe and enjoyable events, while raising awareness about the pollution issues our rivers face such as misconnected properties, urban run-off and fly-tipping – the last of which we physically tackled as a team at each event.

A leaflet was produced to highlight some everyday changes we could all make in their own homes to reduce pollution (pictured below) and how to report pollution when it’s spotted using the Environment Agency’s Incident Hotline – 0800 80 70 60.

Wandle and Pollution

So what did we achieve?

Over the two years, we held a total of 18 Wandle cleanups, spending over 2900 hours clearing rubbish from the Wandle. We would like to thank all the volunteers who joined us at our events – we couldn’t have achieved any of this without you. We would also like to thank our local councils (Wandsworth, Merton and Sutton) who organised the collection and safe disposal of the 58 tonnes of rubbish we pulled out over the course of the project!

Cleanup Summary

What’s next?

With the project now at an end, we are keen to gather some feedback from our volunteers to share with our funders, but also help shape our cleanup events in the future.

If you have attended a cleanup in the past (even if it was 8 years ago!) please take 5 minutes to complete our short survey.

Take the Cleanups Survey now!

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Floating Pennywort on the Wandle

Alan Martin, our Invasive Non-Native Species Officer, has been very busy this last growing season. Working with our trained River Rangers to map all invasive plants on the Wandle, and with the newly trained Hit Squad to start controlling them, we are making great progress.

One species we’ve had some great success with is floating pennywort. This aquatic invasive plant can be found along the river from Carshalton to Wandworth. Alan has developed and implemented a combined manual and chemical approach to tackle this species from its source in Sutton, and work until it is out of the river in Wandsworth. While this is going swimmingly, he has also looked at two sites on the Wandle where pennywort has a stronghold: Watermeads and Ravensbury Park.

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At Watermeads, the floating pennywort had infested a large backwater, a potentially key habitat for river wildlife with added aesthetic, recreational and ecological benefits. Working with the National Trust, Alan set to develop a management regime for this habitat to maintain it as an open water and keep pennywort at bay.

So how did we do it?

Manual Removal

To reduce overall biomass, several hand pulling events were held with volunteers from the National Trust and Wandle Trust – you may recall the epic Battle of Watermeads? Rafts of pennywort were cut away and towed to the bank using long grapple lines. The pennywort was then wheelbarrowed to a site away from the river where it would be left undisturbed to rot away.

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Foliar spraying

After reducing the initial biomass, herbicide was then used on the regrowth. With Environment Agency permission, Alan and Richard (from the National Trust) applied the first spray of herbicide in February this year.

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With this combined approach, open water was achieved!

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Continued monitoring

The secret to this work is that the work actually never stops. As long as there is a source of pennyworth on the Wandle, there is a risk the backwater could become re-infested. The local angling club at Watermeads and the National Trust volunteers have taken ownership of this site and continue to check for signs of pennywort, pulling out new plants. By keeping on top of it this way, it should never reach the scale it was back in 2015.

So what’s next?

Working with Merton Council and the Friends of Ravensbury Park, we are starting a similar management plan on the lake in Ravensbury Park which has been full of pennywort for years. Watch this space!

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Wandle cleanup: December 2016: Wandsworth

The one with the birthday pike!

 December’s cleanup was special for a number of reasons….

  1. It was the last Living Wandle Landscape Partnership cleanup. Thanks to this large HLF project, we have run 20 cleanups and made a real difference to the River Wandle, engaging new people and raising awareness about the issues of fly tipping and other sources of urban pollution.
  2. It was Theo Pike’s birthday! We were very happy to share this cleanup with Theo on his birthday. As Chairman of the Wandle Trust since 2008, Theo was one of our original volunteers, who started our tradition of Wandle cleanups and has guided the Trust in its work for the last 15 years.
  3. It’s Christmas! Well, nearly. And so as usual, I suggested Christmas attire.

For this Christmas/birthday cleanup we were at Trewint Street in Earlsfield. Joined by 30 volunteers on a sunny Sunday morning, I gave the Health & Safety Briefing and we got started.

Thanks to some keen eyed local volunteers, we knew there was a motorbike on the bank upstream, and so a team headed straight there to retrieve the bike and start the rubbish pile. We also had a head start as Guy had arrived early and started litter picking!

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As the waders cleared the area below Trewint Street Bridge, the rubbish pile grew and grew. There were a couple of mattresses…

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Some weights – we have always said cleanups are an outdoor gym!

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While the waders waded, the rest of the team worked to clear a large pile of rubbish left on the path. Perhaps my favourite find of the day from this was a small cocktail bar on wheels – Christmas drink anyone?

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As the waders worked, we all noticed a rather bad smell coming from the river. But luckily our waders found two air fresheners, so I just put those out to cleanse the air.

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What’s great about the Christmas cleanup is that it is the perfect chance to sort my Christmas shopping out. I found this lovely soggy handbag and flowers for my mum.

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Another find of the day was a Boris bike. The bike had seen better days but we call TFL up and reported it to them anyway.

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Just before lunch we found a small collection of Chinese coins. After much googling, we worked out that we had £1 in Chinese money – a Christmas miracle!

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At lunch we celebrated Theo’s birthday with this amazing Pike cake made by Sally.

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We also had Christmas treats from other volunteers including this snowman cake from Ann. During lunch we were joined by Giselle who is working on an MSc project all about rewildling. If you could spare a couple of minutes to complete her online survey, that would be great. 

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After lunch, we got back in the river, but we had been so quick in the morning, most of the rubbish was cleared all the way down to Ravensbury Terrace. By half past two, the river was spotless (well, as spotless as the Wandle can be) and so we packed up and headed home a bit early.

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So what did we find? 1 motorbike, 1 cocktail bar, 1 kid’s bicycle, 1 Boris bike, 1 bedside lamp, 1 set of body building weights, 1 licence plates, 1 handbag for my mum, 1 electric scooter, 1 walking stick, £1 in Chinese money, 2 window frames,  2 air fresheners, 3 mattresses, 3 cushions, 3 bouquets of flowers, 3 garden chairs and bags and bags of other rubbish from the river and footpath.

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding this final 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 and Helen for helping supervise the cleanup, Ann and Sally for baking, 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: Adam, Andy, Ann, Bob, Charles, Dave , David, Derek, Ed, Gearoid, Guy, Helen, Jamie, Jason, Jeremy, Jim, John, Judy, Kai, Mike, Nick, Penny, Per, Phil, Rose, Sally, Theo, Tom H, Tom K, Victor, Wally and Will.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?  Well, I learned all about Chinese currency!

Welcome to Alice and Verity!

We are pleased to welcome Alice Dawes and Verity Thomson to our educational programme Project Kingfisher. Alice and Verity will be working as freelance teachers supporting David Gill, the Education Officer, delivering various aspects of the project to schools throughout the Wandle catchment.

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David, Verity and Alice take a break from an educational workshop
(and even saw a kingfisher on the Wandle!)

During the last academic year, David delivered presentations to 23 schools across the Boroughs of Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth. This year, with Alice and Verity in support, we hope to work with many more schools. Alice is very excited about her new role. She writes:

‘It’s vital to get children learning outdoors and engaging with their local area. The River Wandle creates a vast range of different teaching and learning opportunities’.

Alice and Verity will provide whole school assemblies and class presentations to children of all ages and abilities. They will use puppets, an interpretation board and build a mock river to provide a platform where the students can fully engage with their understanding of the river and its wildlife and how people have used it in the past to the present day. The presentations conclude with the children and young people understanding that we all have a role in looking after our local river.

Project Kingfisher also offers the opportunities for schools to look after creatures from the river – we bring the Wandle into the classroom. They can look after plants (grown in a tyre pond), freshwater shrimps, tadpoles or sticklebacks (in fish tanks).

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Male stickleback

The children will use the creatures to understand much more about living and non-living things, habitats, life cycles, food chains and food webs and adaptations – and all linked to the requirements of the National Curriculum (that the teachers like!)

Verity writes:

‘I first heard about Project Kingfisher from my daughter who had some ‘strange creatures in the classroom’. There’s only so much you can wheedle out of a five-year-old, but I found out much more when I joined the children and walked down to Butter Hill to release the freshwater shrimps back in to the River Wandle’.

Verity goes on:

‘The whole project was such a wonderful experience for the kids, and they really enjoyed the release event on the river. Each child took a turn to fish a shrimp out of the bucket with their net and set it free into the Wandle’.

What better way can you get the message across that their local river must be valued? It tells the children that the river is the home to so many creatures and we need to help look after it now and in the future.

Alice adds:

‘We will be taking the classroom to the Wandle too – we want to engage children in a whole range of different activities and learning opportunities and let them see the river for themselves.’

We play lots of river-related games – one called Crocodile River (!), another called Duck Pond – all designed to be fun but have some important learning outcomes associated with them. The children will make decisions, learn to work as a team, follow written instructions and can create a map of their surroundings. Find out more about Window on the Wandle here.

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Children constructing an animal home next to the ‘river’

David sees Alice and Verity bringing much more to Project Kingfisher. He writes:

‘Up until this time the Project has been all about my teaching and learning ideas. I am really looking forward to seeing what Alice and Verity bring to the party. They are both experienced teachers so I am confident they will only enhance and build upon what we have done so far. These are very exciting times!’

Verity sums up her new role: ‘We want to get more schools out of the classroom and down to the river, where they might just spot a kingfisher or a brown trout as we ourselves did last week…’

Now that’s the WOW factor we need! Why? Because it stays with you for life…

Wandle cleanup: November 2016: Merton

The one with the long, long walk

Ravensbury Park is a lovely green space on the River Wandle, but hard work for a cleanup site!  With limited vehicle access, we have to wheel barrow the rubbish all the way through the park to the road which, at the farthest point, is half a mile each way! Nevertheless, we were determined to tackle the park, and so we did.

On a sunny November morning, 48 volunteers gathered in Ravensbury Park for our latest Wandle cleanup, and at 11am we held the two minute silence to mark Remembrance Sunday.

Before we got started, we asked everyone to vote for our Aviva Community Project, to fund cleanups in 2017. Our Wandle cleanups are incredibly popular, and now we need extra support to keep up with the demand! If we are successful with this fund, we will be able to buy much needed equipment, including chest waders, gloves and wheelbarrows, as well as recruit and train volunteer Event Supervisors to help organise and run the events in 2017. You can still vote and help secure us funding for 2017 – just click the link below – and vote before November 18th.

Aviva: https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/voting/project/view/16-2471

With plenty of volunteers from Friends of Ravensbury Park, Richmond International University and our usual keen supporters, we divided into 4 groups: wading, bank support, litter picking and tree maintenance (led by the Friends of the park).

Our waders headed into the park and starting hunting down rubbish. Surprisingly there wasn’t much in the main channel. Could this be evidence that we are making progress at this site?

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As the waders got closer to the bridge at the far end of the park, we quickly found a concentrated amount of rubbish, including a trolley!

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At lunchtime we were lucky enough to have the students from the Richmond International University bake for us – cupcakes and cookies, as well as a tray bake from Ann. Spoiled for choice! What amused us all were the unique cake boxes the students used, in the absence of Tupperware…

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With the main channel completed, we headed to the far end of the park to tackle the back channel after lunch. This hadn’t been tackled for a while, and though it was easy wading, there were a lot of overgrown trees in the way, and blockages in the channel itself.

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Progress was slow as the waders worked their way through the undergrowth, filling trugs and sending them up to our bank team who embarked on the voyage back the rubbish pile, a mere half a mile away.

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We even found a rescue boat, but it wasn’t large enough to help the volunteers.

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By 3 o’clock, we hadn’t quite completed the back channel, but we had made good progress and so we started to pack up the van.

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So what did we find? ½ a garden pond, 1 bicycle wheel, 1 bicycle, 1 child scooter, 1 ironing board, 1 road sign, 1 push chair, 1 toy electric boat, 1 puppy teddy, 1 PC keyboard, 1 wicker baskets, 2 mobile phones, 2 shopping trolleys, 2 tyres, 2 licence plates, 3 coconuts, 6 metal poles, lots of wood and bags and bags of 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, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent, Wally & Helen for helping supervise the cleanup, Ann and the students for baking, 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:  Alex, Andy B, Andy T, Ann, Bethel, Charles, Charlotte, Chris, Dave, Derek, Dyu-Sayaor, Ed, Gemma, Guy, Hailey, Hamai, Hannah, Ian, Isabella, James, Jamie, Jane Plant, Jane Porter, Joanne, Joe, Kayla, Kirk, Leah, Lesley, Lillian, Luisa, Lyn, Michael A, Michael S, Nick, Paniz, Per, Phil, Rose, Sara, Steve B, Steve M, Stewart, Theo, Tom, Wally and Wayne.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?  That our cleanup efforts are making a difference!

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Wandle cleanup: October 2016: Merton

The one where the rubbish didn’t stop coming

For our October cleanup we ventured to a new site for myself, but one that had been done in the past when Erica ran the cleanups – Waterside Way.

Waterside Way is the half way point between Plough Lane and Merton High Street, meaning we could clean further down the Plough Lane stretch than we had reached before. The fact that we hadn’t been there for a number of years was very obvious once we got started…

The wading team walked 100 m downstream and got into the river. Instantly, large items were found and piled up on the side – the bank support team didn’t stand a chance!

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Shopping baskets, bed springs, carpets, car seats, car bumpers – all within a stretch less than 10 m long.

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The rubbish came out so fast that we ended up asking some waders to hope out and help shift the rubbish from the bank to the rubbish pile back on Waterside Way.

Perhaps the “Find of the Day” was our creepy baby manikin – just in time for Halloween…

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By lunchtime, everyone was exhausted and so we headed back to base for some tea and carrot cake (kindly baked for us by Ann). Even creepy baby joined us for some tea.

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After lunch, we got back to it. With so much rubbish coming out, we were glad for the extra help from students from Richmond International University University – helping us ferry the rubbish back to base.

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Throughout the cleanup, carpets were the most prominent find with over 20 found in our short 50 m stretch. These took a lot of man power to get out as they had become part of the river bed, trapping silt and allsorts.

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At the end of the day, everyone got out on the banks and helped to carry the surplus of rubbish back to the pile. And what a pile it was!

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So what did we find? 1 flymo, 1 bed spring, 1 hanging basket, 1 creepy baby manikin, 1 shoe, 1 clothes horse, 1 lino sample book, 1 car bumper, 1 keyboard, 1 mop, 1 dustbin, 1 cooker hob, 1 TV, 1 tyre, 1 bicycle frame and tyre, 1 giant pipe, 2 hose pipes, 2 car seats, 2 shopping baskets, 2 microwaves, 2 toasters, 4 stereos, 3 traffic cones, 3 umbrellas, 15 spray glue cans, 20+ carpets and piles and piles of wood planks and other rubbish.

We also saw an eel and a frog!

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, Dave and Louise 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: Alex, Alison, Amelia, Andy, Ann, Charles, Cheyenne, Chris, Claire, Danny, Dave, David, Davis, Ed, Gary, Guy, Jane, Jason, Julia, Kaitlynn, Kamillah, Keith, Kristina, Louise, Marley, Nick, Niyin, Phil, Richard, Rob, Shivani, Steve, Stewart, Sue, Thima, Wally, Wayne, Will and William.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?  That our cleanup effort was just the start, we will need to come back to Waterside Way!

Wandle cleanup: September 2016: Merton

The one with a record number of people

On a sunny, September morning 85 volunteers gathered at Wandle Meadow Nature Park on North Road in Merton for another Wandle cleanup.

Yes, you read that right – 85!!!

Why so many? Well our numbers were larger than normal we were joined by 25 fresh recruits from the Richmond International University. We were also lucky enough to have our ZipCar team again from last year, no floating pennywort for them to tackle this time though.

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After the safety talk, 85 of us got to work. We had a large wading team which headed right to the end of the park as with so many people we were sure we could cover the distance.

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Once again, large amounts of rubbish started coming out but with plenty of hands on the bank we made light work of it.

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One logistical challenge was a large piece of metal which would not fit in a wheelbarrow. So a chain of 8 people took turns carrying it over the bridge to the rubbish pile, with all the other wheelbarrows of junk too.

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As we worked up the river, there was no shortage of rubbish. We found Iggle Piggle, lawnmowers, coffee tables and tyres.

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Given we had only been at the site in March, there was a lot of rubbish to find! By lunch time we were exhausted so it was time to stop for cake and tea. A big thank you to Rebecca Watts (Programme Manager for the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership) for nipping to buy emergency cake rations – I had not catered for the feeding of the 5000…

After lunch, we had to change our plan of heading further upstream due to the discovery of an aggressive wasp nest. So instead we headed back and gave the river a second sweep to double check we got everything. Which being the Wandle, of course we hadn’t!

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And sure enough, there was more to find. After covering the stretch twice we called it a day and started to pack up the van.

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So what did we find? 1 shoe, 1 oar, 1 dinghy, 1 BB gun, 1 mini skateboard, 1 full size skateboard, 1 strimmer, 1 lawnmower, 1 motorbike chassis, 1 bike, 3 traffic cones,  3 disposable BBQs, 5 tyres, 7 items of clothing, loads of planks of wood, a pair of Rayburn sunglasses (and lots of the usual unidentifiable mixed rubbish!)

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, Abi, Alex B, Alex S, Andrew, Andy, Anya, Ben C, Ben C, Ben W, Berengere, Carol , Caroline, Charles, Chloe Chris E, Christine, Claire, Conor, Dave J, David C, David H, Derek, Diana, Dimal, Emma, Fumbi, Gearoid, ,Gemma, Guy, Ida, Jackie, Jay, Joanna, John, Kaia, Kaitlynn, Kamillah, Katelyn, Kaylee, Kevin, Kristina, Kyra, Leah, Louise, Madison, Mark, Mel, Merel, Michelle, Mike, Miriah, Nick, Nicki, Nina, Patrick, Peggy, Per, Reagor, Renah, Rob, Rory, Rosie, Sabina, Sally, Samantha, Samira, Shannon, Shela, Shelby, Si, Sophie, Steve B, Steve M, Stewart, Theo, Tom C, Tom K, Tony, Tyler, Wally and Wayne. Phew!

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?  That you never know how many people will fancy joining a Wandle cleanup on the day. So prepare for 80….

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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…

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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

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…

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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!

Rubbish Pile

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.

Beedington Park Clean up and HB bash 8 May 2016 (50)