The one where the police were called on us…
On a cold November morning, I arrived at North Road, Wimbledon to set up for this month’s Wandle cleanup. As I was unloading the van with a couple of helpers, a police car pulled up.
Although we knew we’d done nothing wrong, we were slightly nervous as they approached. It turned out that someone had reported fly-tipping from a Zip Van, and the police had come to check it out, only to find the Wandle Trust setting up our event to tackle fly-tipping.
So that was ironic – but if you’re reading this, and you were the person who made that call – thank you for caring so much about keeping the Wandle Valley clean, and don’t stop making those calls if you see anything suspicious!
With that all sorted, and no one arrested, I gathered our 45 volunteers to take a two minute silence for Remembrance Sunday, and then got our cleanup started.
This is the first event supported by the Tesco Bags of Help Fund which offers community groups and projects across the UK a share of revenue generated from the 5p charge levied on single-use carrier bags.
Our project, Wombles of the Wandle, was successful in receiving £2,000 after coming second in the public vote. The money will be used to run two Wandle cleanups in the Merton area and to replace some equipment such as gloves. So a big thanks to all who voted for us. We have already put the money to good use…
To get started, we headed down to the footbridge by Garfield Recreation Park and got in to the Wandle to work upstream. The water was much deeper than usual, with poor visibility. This was due to heavy rainfall overnight, and some natural woody material which had fallen in the river, creating some excellent new habitats for fish in what was previously quite a straight, uniform channel.
While we loved the new additions to the channel, it did make our event a bit harder, with logs and bits of tree to navigate over, and deeper water. In fact, in some places it was so deep we had to get out and walk along the bank until the level had dropped.
Despite the additional challenges, rubbish was found. We cleared 15 bags of plastic bottles which had accumulated near one tree trunk..
We found the token Wandle coconuts too, as well as a green pepper, carved pumpkin and apples…
We also found this commemorative mug from Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding.
By lunch time we were freezing and headed back to the tent for tea and cakes, as well as some delicious savoury snacks made for us by the students from the Richmond International University. However, we didn’t stop for long as the weather wasn’t getting any warmer and it was better to be moving than standing still.
After lunch, we headed under the North Road bridge and continued upstream. Again, the water was deep and murky, but we found a few things which made our trip worthwhile, including a sofa…
A Merton Council waste bin…
And a bike.
With 500 m of the Wandle covered in this cleanup, we called it a day and all went home to defrost.
So what did we find? 1 carved pumpkin, 1 green pepper, 1 step ladder, 1 computer chair, 1 Vishnu statue, 1 Prince Charles & Princess Diana mug, 1 piece of guttering, 1 shopping basket, 1 bicycle, 1 tyre, 1 bike wheel, 1 wheelchair, 1 mattress, 1 duvet, 1 Merton Council waste bin, 1 sofa, 2 wooden pallets, 10 coconuts, 15 tennis balls, 15 bags of plastic bottles and bags and bags of other junk.
Huge thanks everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Wally for supervising the Event Tent, the students from Richmond International University for baking such yummy treats and the Waste Team at Merton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day, Big Yellow Wandsworth for providing free storage space for our equipment and to our funders, Tesco!
Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, Alec, Andrew, Andy, Beth, Carl, Charles, Chris, Christine, Claire, Dave, David, Derek, Emily , Fahad, George, Guy, Hayley, Ian, James L, James T, Jayne, Joe, John, Kai, Karoline, Korab, Lisa, Michael D, Michael O, Mickeif, Nick, Per, Phil R, Phil S, Rolanas, Sheila, Steve, Stewart, Thea, Thomas, Wally, Wayne and Will.
So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup? Tick off all the equipment as you pack the van so you don’t have to drive back to site at 5pm and dig through the rubbish pile to find the missing Wandle Trust flag. I looked like a crazy person…