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.
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!
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.
December’s cleanup was special for a number of reasons….
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.
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 15years.
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!
As the waders cleared the area below Trewint Street Bridge, the rubbish pile grew and grew. There were a couple of mattresses…
Some weights – we have always said cleanups are an outdoor gym!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
At lunch we celebrated Theo’s birthday with this amazing Pike cake made by Sally.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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!
The rubbish quickly started appearing, as it always does. A metal drum, traffic cones, push chairs and more.
As we worked up the river, we stumbled upon my favourite find of my (almost) two years of cleanups – a chef!
As soon as he was safely out of the river, we made sure he was put to good use…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trug after trug were filled, emptied and ferried to the rubbish pile.
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
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.
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…
We soon found the traditional coconut – a Valentine’s gift from the Wandle?
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?
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.
The rubbish pile was impressively large, particularly as we’d also created a second pile at the top of the park!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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..
We found the usual coconut…
As well as what we believe was a Nativity scene Mary, minus the head…
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.
This brightly coloured figurine which I was told was a Shirdi Buba (learning lots at this cleanup)
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!
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.
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..
On top of this, we were joined by Mancinism Design who had made organic cotton bags and branded jumpers especially for the event. Mine was so comfy I wore it all day, and into the office on Monday!
So even before we had started, it was already a special cleanup.
To get the event started, I introduced the day’s plan which was to divide into two wading groups. One to head upstream in the hunt of motorbikes (a classic find at Trewint Street unfortunately) and one to head downstream for all sorts of other rubbish.
Everyone else would support from the bank and litter pick on the Wandle Trail.
So off we went.
Pretty quickly, the wading team were finding plenty of rubbish in the river. However the added challenge of Trewint Street is that the trugs of rubbish have to be hauled up the concrete wall – not logistically easy.
Our motorbike hunting team were off to a slow start, but just as we thought there weren’t any, we found two! The first came up relatively easy, being a small moped. But the second took 15 people on a rope to heave up. The students from Richmond International University all grabbed the ropes and dragged the bike all the way back to the rubbish pile – we were very glad they all came along!
Downstream of the bridge, our wading team were finding some large items which they then had to drag back up the river (against the flow) for us to haul up. They found a toddler’s cot..
And a motorbike which was too heavy to bring back so we hauled it out onto the bank to be collected during our next cleanup downstream at Ravensbury Terrace.
Meanwhile, cleanup guru Jane and Winston (Macinism Design) had found something lurking in the silt of the Wandle, but the identity of the mystery object remained unknown all morning as they struggled to move it on their own. Luckily after lunch we sent more helpers and the object was found to be an old fireplace.
Speaking of lunch – what a treat! Ben’s Canteen supplied us all with bacon rolls! These quickly disappeared among the hungry volunteers. And Bean & Hop sent us some other snacks to share around. So a big thank you to them!
After lunch, everyone was back in the river. One of the last finds was a carpet – not an easy things to pull out of the river, let alone drag back up the channel, haul over the concrete wall and then ferry it to the rubbish pile. But it made it!
So it was a hugely successful day! Thank you to all the volunteers who came along to our event, we hope to see you all at the next one on November 8th at Plough Lane!
So what did we find? 1 fireplace, 1 radiator, 1 BBQ, 1 toddler playpen, 1 Woody doll (who had seen better days), 1 mattress wire, 1 strimmer, 1 vacuum cleaner, 1 number plate, 1 CD player (old school), 1 bicycle tyre, 1 Avengers Assemble football, 1 generic football, 1 bench, 1 carpet, 2 trolleys, 2 motorbikes, 4 tyres, several random pieces of metal and 40 bags of other rubbish.
Huge thanks to everyone who helped pack up van after the event and Rose for supervising the Event Tent; Wally, Theo & Chris for helping supervise everyone on the day, Mancinism Design for our jumpers and bags, South West London TV for coming along and Ben’s Canteen for the bacon sandwiches 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, Abigail, Adam, Andrew W, Ann W, Brandi, Breuno, Brigid, Charles WS, Chris E, Chris R, Claire, Colin, Colin M, Curtis, Daniel, Dave J, Dave P, David W, Derek, Ed, Faisal, Geroid, Giacometi, Giulla, Hannah, Henry, Ida, Jack, Jane P, Jason, Jess, Jessica, Joanna, John N, Jonathan, Kimberly, Linus M, Lois, Louise, Luca, Maggie, Michael, Michael R, Nick, Nikola, Noah, Oliver, Olivia, Paul R, Penny, Phil, Rachel, Rob, Rose, Rosemary, Russell, Sally, Sara M, Sarah, Shannon, Simon, Tate, Theo, Tom, Vic, Wafiya, Wally, Wayne, William, Winston and Zoe.
So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? There is nothing better than a bacon sandwich after a morning of Wandle work.
Check out South West London TV’s Video of the Cleanup here!
The one where a tea related disaster almost struck…
This July we were in Hackbridge cleaning the Carshalton arm of the river. Our event was kindly supported by Rydons who are developing nearby properties – many thanks to them!
Having arrived an hour early and feeling pretty smug about my efficient morning collecting the van, I discovered I’d brought an empty gas canister with me – disaster! As I began to panic, some kind volunteers who lived nearby offered to boil the kettle – but numbers grew and grew…
Finally Wally saved the day, buying a new full canister! And with that, we started the event.
We divided into two wading teams taking a side of Culvers Island each with team leaders being myself and Chris.
What shocked us all was the amount of rubbish we found! Trolleys, TVs, wooden shelves, patio doors. It was quite shocking. The rubbish pile grew and grew. A personal highlight for me – one ski.
While waders waded, a team of 3 went hunting down Himalayan Balsam. The Wandle Trust have been balsam bashing in this area of a number of years and now only a few plants remain. But it was crucial these didn’t seed. Luckily I had some real experts on the hunt.
Lunch break came and with the kind help of Jackie and Ann, we all had teas and cake. Even I baked this time…
In the afternoon, the waders hopped in at Hackbridge and continued up Restmor Way finding more and more rubbish.
Eventually I called it a day and got everyone to hunt down tools and wheelbarrows which we had discarded on the way.
So what did we find? 1 ski, 1 doll hand (very creepy), 1 patio door, 1 rake head, 1 saucepan, 1 drawer, 1 desk, 1 broom handle, 1 trainer, 1 cat statue (thank you Aaron for the kind gift), 1 washing line, 1 bicycle wheel, 1 laptop screen, 1 sandal, 1 umbrella, 1 net, 2 trolleys, 2 cones, 2 TVs, 6 small bottles of vodka (empty), lots of cables, 100s of glass bottles, bags and bags of other junk and let’s not forget – all the Himalayan balsam!
Huge thanks to everyone who helped pack up van after the event, Jackie and Ann for catering for our volunteers, Jackie for supervising the Event Tent, Chris for helping supervise everyone on the day, Wally for saving the day with the gas, 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, Abinas, Adam, Andrea, Ann, Anthony, Arangen, Barry, Bill, Chris, Dan, Daniel, Dave, David, Dennis, Derek, Devashanthan, Ed, Gary, Gemma, Geoff, Hanna, Jackie, Jan, Jay, Jez, Joe, John N, John S, Jon, Keith, Louise, Marion, Marta, Mike, Nick B, Nick H, Per, Phil, Rayhav, Rob, Rose, Saiprem, Sathyandran, Simon, Stewart, Sue, Vic and Wally.
So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? Wally is my cleanup hero.
At the start of our Pollution Monitoring scheme with the Environment Agency an outfall in Morden Hall Park was identified to be a chronic source of pollution – a likely misconnection problem.
Working closely with our local Environment Agency team, our volunteers helped to monitor this outfall gathering evidence of when pollution was spotted with photographic evidence. This extra information enabled the Environment Agency and Thames Water to investigate 412 homes in the area and discover 17 misconnected properties with 40 appliances discharging directly into the River Wandle.
This is a huge success for our Pollution Patrol project so thank you to our dedicated volunteers. We hope to have many more similar success stories in the future!
Our Pollution Patrol is still running today with 50 volunteers trained on our three rivers – Wandle, Hogsmill and Beverley Brook. Our local Wandle Environment Agency Officer Kate for the Wandle has kindly put together an update on pollution in the last few months and what we need to start focusing on now!
We are always keen to have more volunteers join our scheme. If you think you might be interested in joining the Wandle team (or Hogsmill or Beverley Brook team), please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check your house: Make sure your house is connected correctly with the Connect Rightwebsite.
I had been very excited about this cleanup for a while as it was being held in the newly opened Watermeads Nature Reserve near Poulter Park – a truly beautiful site for a Wandle Trust event!
The event was funded through the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership. To start the event off, we introduced our new Invasive Species Officer – Alan Martin. Alan is working to coordinate the control of invasive species along the entire Wandle corridor with the help of other organisations, local landowners and volunteers.
After the Health & Safety briefing, all 41 of us divided up into 5 teams…
Team 1: The litter pickers!
Since Watermeads was so newly opened to the public, the litter pickers weren’t sure how much general rubbish they would find, but as always they tracked some down! Using our newly purchased litter pickers and our new bag hoops provided by the Capital Cleanup fund, they dispersed into Watermeads and returned with bags of litter!
Teams 2 & 3: Wandle waders and bank support
Again armed with new litter pickers, our wading team headed to the far end of the reserve to hop in the Wandle and start hunting down rubbish. Although shallow in the reserve, the river bed was very silty so the waders made slow progress as they moved upstream. With such high levels of silt, finding rubbish was a challenge – but that didn’t stop them! Using their feet they discovered two trolleys, rolls of carpet and several traffic cones and tyres, all before coffee time.
Team 4: Balsam bashers
The Watermeads Nature Reserve was full of Himalayan balsam so Theo led a team to track down each plant and pull it out, roots and all. They first tackled balsam along the edge of the river and paths – to ensure these plants wouldn’t seed and spread further downstream. After this, the team bravely ventured into the undergrowth of nettles and brambles to find forests of balsam standing well above their heads.
Team 5: Floating pennywort
Alan was keen to tackle the backwater pond in Watermeads which was full of floating pennywort – a highly invasive aquatic plant which can smother a water body and impede water flow. However, the site was challenging as the water was too deep for our waders. Some creative thinking was called for…
Volunteers used grappling hooks and rakes to pull in pennywort from the banks. It was a strange sight to see – volunteers lassoing hooks across the pond in the hope of snagging a large raft of pennywort. They quickly cleared one side of the bank and were in need of support to reach the other side.
Two lucky volunteers stepped up and got into a boat. Using very, very small paddles, they freed pennywort from the other side and used grappling hooks to tow the rafts back to the bank. A true example of team work.
Meanwhile, Alan wanted to be sure the pennywort wasn’t spreading any further downstream. With the help of Dave, they created a barrier at the end of the pond to catch any straying bits of pennywort, containing the invasive in one place.
It was a very busy day but we achieved so much in just four hours! So a BIG thank you to all our volunteers who came and we look forward to seeing you at the next one on July 12th in Hackbridge – details to follow soon!
So what did we find? 1 baseball bat, 1 old hairdryer, 1 fire extinguisher, 1 Hindu statue, 1 shovel head, 2 carpets, 4 footballs (including 1 Finding Nemo football, so glad we found him), 3 traffic cones, 3 trolleys, 5 plastic guttering poles, 11 tyres, piles of wood and metal sheets, many bags of other miscellaneous rubbish, piles and piles of Himalayan balsam and even larger piles of floating pennywort!
Huge thanks to everyone who helped pack up van after the event, Sally and Ann for catering for our volunteers (carrot cake and cheese scones were delicious!), Jackie for supervising the Event Tent, Theo, Sally and Alan for helping supervise everyone on the day, National Trust for letting us loose in Watermeads Nature Reserve 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, AJ, Amarapuspa, Ann, Barry, Carol, Charles, Daniel B, Dave J, Dave W, David, Dennis, Derek, Ed, Felix, Harrison, Henry, Ian, Jackie, James W, Jane, Joe, John L, John N, Kas, Keith S, Marta, Marion, Mark, Nicholas, Nick H, Nick W, Per, Richard, Rose, Sally, Sue, Tara, Theo and Thomas C.
So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? That you have to be very creative when tackling pennywort in a pond too deep to wade!