Well, what a weekend. The ‘Beast from the East’ and storm Emma had threatened to cancel our beach cleans but with clear roads, clear(ish) skies and low tides we decided to encourage everyone to wrap up warm and head to the shore.
And what a turn out … 26 people at St Bees on Saturday! The sun even put in an appearance and there was plenty of chatter and treasure hunting going on alongside the shoreline rubbish searching. As usual we found all the small stuff – plenty of sanitary products, cotton bud sticks, bottles and the ever present bits of unidentifiable plastic. In total we collected 16 bags of rubbish which is quite a feat when most of the litter we collected could fit into the palm of your hand.
The weather wasn’t quite as kind on Sunday in Whitehaven, but Jack and his family still came down to tackle the litter at North Shore. Here, we mostly find fast food wrappers, cups, cardboard and paper and today was no different. In an hour and a half we had filled 7 bin bags with Jack quickly becoming an expert at finding even the tiniest bits of litter!
A huge thanks to volunteers who gave up their time to come down and help out. We beach clean regularly so check out the events page for when and where we’ll be next.
Over the weekend we will be donning lots of warn layers and braving the remnants of the ‘Beast from the East’ to beach clean at St Bees and Whitehaven as part of Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean.
On Saturday we’ll be at St Bees from 2pm – 3pm and on Sunday we’re heading to Whitehaven’s North Shore between 2pm – 3.30pm.
Right, we’re off to buy some cakes to reward those intrepid volunteers who turn up…
While beach cleaning at St Bees today we found our first piece of washed up Lego in amongst the usual plastic debris. Why is this so interesting you might ask, well, we’ll try and explain…
On 13 February 1997 a container ship, the Tokio Express, was hit by a wave about 20 miles off the Cornish coast. The wave tilted the ship so violently that 62 containers were lost overboard. One of those containers was filled with nearly 4.8 million pieces of Lego, many of which were nautical themed. Soon after cutlasses, flippers, scuba gear, seagrass, spear guns and the odd octopus began to wash up on Cornwall’s beaches. So it’s possible that our tiny piece of Lego sea grass has been bobbing about in the ocean, not breaking down, being nibbled by fish and other marine creatures for over 20 years before drifting ashore on our coast to, finally, be found in a beach clean and stop being part of the marine pollution problem.
Plastic in the sea doesn’t just decompose, or go away. Our last blog post has lots of ideas about how you can reduce the plastic you use everyday, or if you want to see if you can find some #legolostatsea of your own join us on our next beach clean, all the details are on our Events page. To find out more about the lost Lego and see when other pieces have been washed up have a look at the Lego Lost at Sea facebook page.
If you’ve been inspired by watching Blue Planet II and are concerned about the plastic pollution problem that is currently affecting our oceans then there are lots of ways you can get involved to help our oceans. Why not make 2018 the year that you commit to helping tackle the marine litter crisis? We’ve listed a few easy ways you can get involved or make small changes in your daily life to help out without noticing!
Switch the stick – we’ve written before about finding lots of cotton bud sticks while we’re beach cleaning along the Colourful Coast. Plastic cotton buds are among the thousands of sanitary products flushed down toilets everyday instead of being put in the bin, and the plastic sticks end up on our beaches. Please remember to bin cotton buds – they don’t belong down the toilet. You can help even further by choosing cotton buds with cardboard sticks instead of plastic.
2 minute beach clean – simply spend 2 minutes picking up litter when you’re next on the beach. There’s no need for equipment and you can do it anywhere, any time, on your own or with others. Join the #2minutebeachclean family by tagging your photos on facebook, instagram or twitter and share photos of your efforts.
Join a beach clean – we organise beach cleans alongside a fantastic group of organisations (Surfers Against Sewage, the Marine Conservation Society and Cumbria Coastline Cleanup) along the Colourful Coast and many others take place further afield along the whole Cumbrian coast. All the equipment you need is provided, there’s often cake or biscuits and you get the chance to meet new people while feeling great about helping the environment! We’re finalising details of the beach cleans we’ll be running in 2018 so check back for more details soon.
For more ideas about how to get involved or make changes the check out the BBC’s article.
Along the Colourful Coast when the tide is out and the lower shore is exposed you can often find strange looking honeycomb like structures forming hummocks or sheets across the rocks and sand.
These fragile structures are the home of the aptly named honeycomb worm (or Sabellaria alveolata if you want to get technical). The reefs are formed from the closely packed sandy tubes constructed by these colonial worms to live in. The reef structures resemble honeycomb (hence the name honeycomb worm) and can extend for tens of metres across and up to a metre deep, constructed of thousands or even millions of individual tubes. The worms are very specific in their requirements for forming reefs – as well as needing a hard substrate to attach to, they also need a supply of sand for tube-building so they are found on shores where there is sufficient water movement to bring a sand supply from nearby. Their tubes are made by gluing sand and shell fragments together with mucus. The worms head protrudes from the tubes to feed when the tide covers the reefs and then retreat into the protection of the tube as the tide goes out. The reefs also provide habitats for a wide range of other animals including anemones, snails, shore crabs and seaweeds.
Honeycomb worm reefs are just one of the unique aspects of the Colourful Coastline, and one of the reasons why the area was designated as a Marine Conservation Zone, or MCZ. The Cumbria Coast MCZ stretches for approximately 27 km along the coast of Cumbria, extending from south of Whitehaven, around the cliffs at St Bees Head, to the mouth of the Ravenglass Estuary. More information about the MCZ can be found on the Natural England website.
Last week we spent some time on the shore in Whitehaven and came across some empty Flat Periwinkle shells (or littorina obtusata to give them their full Latin name). These small marine molluscs are widespread and common along the UK coast and can usually found on rocky shores amongst the brown seaweeds. They grow to about 1.5 centimetres and can occur with orange, yellow, brown, grey or even chequered shells.
A little way further along the shore we found an occupied shell with a periwinkle exploring its surroundings. Check out the video on our instagram page.
When you’re next on the shore why not stop your stroll and take a while to look closer at the amazing creatures you can see?
On Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 October we joined the Surfers Against Sewage team for the Autumn Beach Clean Series to collect litter and washed up rubbish at Whitehaven’s North Shore and St Bees Beach.
The weather was kind on both days and over 30 volunteers gave up their weekend afternoons to come along and join in. As always the amount of plastic pollution was astounding. We spent two hours at each beach and there were so many cotton bud sticks, strings from balloon releases, straws, single use plastic bottles and sanitary applicators that we gave up counting and just kept on collecting. In St Bees alone we collected and removed 22 bags of litter. Fast food packaging, wet wipes, cutlery and rope were also, unfortunately, in abundance high up on the tide line having been washed up during recent storms.
Much of this waste could be avoided with a little bit of though or planning. Some simple (and easy) tips are:
- Take a reusable cup to the coffee shop
- Recycle cans and bottles – don’t chuck them on the ground or in the bin
- Most importantly remember that only the three P’s should go down the toilet – pee, poo and paper!
This year’s Copeland Coastal Conference was a great success with a variety of speakers and attendees having a great day at the new Beacon Portal. Presentations covered a variety of topics from the new Lake District World Heritage Site to marine litter issues, a potential extension to the St Bees Head Heritage Coast and a pioneering food and energy positive community at Millom.
The rain also held off long enough for us to get outside to hear about an exciting new project which aims to tackle to litter issue in Whitehaven harbour with the Whitehaven Harbour Youth Project aiming to be one of the first places in Britain to purchase a SeaBin.
All the presentations from the day can be found below:
The Lake District – a new World Heritage Site, Eric Barker (Lake District National Park)
A tourism perspective on the world heritage site designation, Peter Frost-Pennington (Muncaster Castle)
Harmony presentation, Ashley Dobbs
Curating on the Coast Whitehaven, a heritage town, Elizabeth Kwasnik (The Beacon)
Seabins and the Whitehaven marina clean-up project, Steve Walter (Whitehaven Harbour Youth Project)
LOVEmyBEACH, Hannah Barnes (Morecambe Bay Partnership)
Marine designations along the Copeland Coast, Laurence Browning (Natural England)
We also heard from Neil Harnott of Cumbria Wildlife Trust about the Cumbria Coast Pollinator Project. If you’re interested in filling in the pollinator survey all then information can be found in a previous ‘News’ post What do you know about pollinators?
Sophie Badrick, our project officer, organised the day and also gave an update on the Heritage Coast extension proposals. A copy of the Heritage Coast report, produced by the Colourful Coast partnership and National Trust, can be downloaded from this page Heritage Coast extension
Finally, Steve Wilson from Surfers Against Sewage gave a great talk on his interest in the area. Details of future beach clean events can be found on the Cumbria Coastline Clean up facebook page
Can you spare a few minutes to help Cumbria’s pollinators?
The Cumbria Local Nature Partnership is hoping to secure Lottery funding that will help pollinating insects on the west coast of Cumbria, by creating and connecting suitable habitats.
To inform the application, it is important that we have more information about what people in Cumbria know about pollinating insects and the sorts of activities you might like to get involved with.
Please complete this very short questionnaire to help wildlife thrive on the Cumbrian coastline.
It should take just a couple of minutes. Thank you for your help!