Wandle cleanup: June 2013: Sutton

The one with the inflatable crocodile! 

Despite idle threats of rain, it turned out that the day of our June cleanup was cloudy but warm. 33 volunteers assembled at the top of Watermead Lane and we were delighted to see some new faces.  There were three different tasks to tackle on the day: removing rubbish from the channel adjacent to the Wates Way car park, tackling some dumped litter just upstream of Goat Bridge, and pulling up Himalayan balsam at the side of the Wandle Trail down towards the Hub.

We hadn’t visited the side channel since 10/10/10, and in the intervening couple of years the wider criminal population had been at work depositing their swag into the water.  First up and out of the river was a pay and display machine which had originally belonged to Croydon Council. The front had been removed revealing its internal workings, but, as far as we could see, there was no money in it!

1 Parking meter

On the bank, in the bushes, apart from a collection of Christmas decorations, we found a silver trophy, but we weren’t prepared for Per, Helen and Bob, who were in the river, to hand out another four cups, two silver trays and a silver bowl in quick succession:

3 Golf trophies

Not long afterwards, the three of them found a motorbike which the rest of us hauled up the bank:

10 Motorbike

Julian took charge of reporting our find to the police and dialled 101 from his mobile, telling the operator we would leave the bike in the car park for their collection. Not one to miss an opportunity, young Ben decided to emulate the late, great Steve McQueen for a photo astride the bike!

12 Motorbike

When we broke for lunch we took the golf trophies back to the gazebo and Jo S set about ringing local golf clubs to find out whether or not they were missing any silverware. Starting with the Mitcham, she worked her way outwards geographically until she successfully located a golf club in Hertfordshire who were surprised and delighted to be contacted as they had indeed had their trophies stolen in the last ten days!

Demonstrating her versatility, Jo complemented her detective skills with culinary ones and had produced malt loaves and a large carrot cake for Gideon which was iced with tiny fish in reference to his involvement with the Trout in the Classroom project. We were happy to help him celebrate his milestone birthday taking place later in the month:

20 Gideon-50th Birthday

As we tucked into this delicious repast, our other volunteers joined us, dragging a double mattress across the road to the dumpsite, and telling tales of how they’d wrestled with a crocodile in the shallows upstream of Goat Bridge:

23 Croc

Jo H, John and their team, having diligently spent the morning pulling up large swathes of Himalayan balsam, leaving it to rot down well away from the river, were not far behind:


After a relaxing break, we returned to our three different locations, and carried on with rubbish removal and Himalayan balsam pulling until it was time to pack up:

28 Himalayan Balsam

Finally, before any of the local scrappies came and took away the metal items, we assembled for a team photo by the enormous rubbish pile.  Gideon, having put on a black fedora, posed with the crocodile looking every inch a veritable Mick Dundee!


Thank you to John Littlewood who helped load and unload the van, and also to David from Sutton Council’s waste management team for organising the collection of the rubbish.

Thanks to our volunteers:  Andy, Anthony, Bella, Ben, Bob, Charles, Chris, Daniel, Elizabeth, Gideon, Helen, Jacques, James, Jan, Jane, Jo H, Jo S, John L, John N, Julian, Ken, Pat, Paul, Per, Richard, Rob, Rosie, Sally Ann, Talia, Thomas, Tim, Valerie and Waldo

… who removed:  1 pay and display machine, 1 motorbike, 1 bucket, 1 child’s scooter, 1 golf figurine trophy, 1 silver bowl, 1 shelving unit, 1 inflatable crocodile, 1 lorry tyre, 1 kitchen sink, 1 television, 1 car seat, 1 garden chair, 1 barbecue, 1 mattress, 1 wooden pallet, 1 golf club, 1 golf ball, 1 fishing rod, 1 car jack, 2 silver salvers, 2 road lamps, 2 road cones, 2 bicycles, 2 road barriers, 5 silver golf trophies, 6 car tyres, 20 packs of Very catalogues, umpteen pieces of chipboard, 30 bags of rubbish and a tonne or so of Himalayan balsam. 

Eel tally: 1 

All photographs: Sally Ann Symis


This event was supported by a Sutton Neighbourhood Fund

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