2019’s beach cleans – our efforts to help the Copeland coast

Volunteers and litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

Throughout 2019 we have run beach cleans at Whitehaven and St Bees. With the help of nearly 400 volunteers, over 100 bags of litter have been removed from the Copeland coastline this year and we want to say a big thank you to all those people who have helped.

It’s great that so many people want to do something to tackle the marine litter crisis. There’s such an interest in the marine environment and coastal pollution that we have no shortage of volunteers whatever the weather.  We’ve had lots of interesting finds this year.  Plastic Smartie lids are a regular find and they often look like new, but in fact Smarties began to use cardboard caps in 2005 so when we find a plastic lid it illustrates how long plastic might be in the oceans for before it washes up and can be removed.

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Alongside the fun finds there are also some saddening finds too. Dead sea birds have been seen on some occasions.  None of them have been tangled in litter, so it’s more likely that have died in rough seas or bad weather.  In November there was also a sad sight when a harbour porpoise washed up St Bees beach.  However, it did give a rare opportunity to get close to one of the marine mammals we know are out there, using our coastline but normally only catch glimpses of.

Alongside the time that people give us by coming along to help out, our beach cleans wouldn’t be as successful without the help of Carvetii Coffee in Threlkeld who donate hessian coffee sacks so we have less plastic going to landfill. A huge thanks must also go to the waste team from Copeland Borough Council who collect all the non-recyclable litter that we find.

We will be holding our last beach clean of the year on Thursday 19th December at Whitehaven North Shore and everyone is welcome to come down and join in, there will be mince pies and chocolates to help celebrate a successful year of beach cleaning.

The results are in…

Beach litter collected from Whitehaven North Shore

The results of this year’s Great British Beach Clean weekend have just been released by the Marine Conservation Society.  Over 10,000 volunteers took part in beach cleans across the UK, from Scotland down to the Channel Islands.

We organised a beach clean at Whitehaven’s North Shore as part of the GBBC activities and were lucky enough to have 8 volunteers coming along to help us collect and record all of the litter we found on the day.  While the majority of what we found was plastic (almost 53%) a lot of what we were collecting was fast food rubbish and waste which we were removing from the shoreline before it had the chance to make it into the sea and become part of the marine litter crisis.

We may have only found 1.7 pieces of litter per metre of beach, which is a lot less than the national picture of 5.5 pieces of litter per metre, but that doesn’t make our efforts any less worthwhile.  As always, we want to say a big THANK YOU to all the volunteers who give up their time to help us remove plastic, wellies, buckets, glass, paper, rope, food wrappers, trolleys, cotton bud sticks, tyres and everything else we find while we’re beach cleaning.  Our last beach clean of 2019 will be back in Whitehaven on the 19th December – come along and join in, there may even be mince pies!

The results of yet another beach clean

As it was the last Thursday in the month we had our regular Colourful Coast beach clean.  32 wonderful people came along to Whitehaven’s North Shore in the bright and chilly winter sunshine.

 

With this many people we decided to do a litter survey as well as a beach clean.  We use the Marine Conservation Society survey methodology so that we can add all of our data to the national picture of marine litter around the UK.  Our project officer, Sophie, has spent the afternoon adding all the results together and loading them onto the MCS website.  The results can be found her – 191031 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey.

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What the results don’t show is the massive amount of net that a few hardy volunteers spent all their time trying to remove.  This involves sitting on cold rocks and using a hacksaw to cut through all of the tangled net and then dragging it back up the rocks.  Along with 12 bags of rubbish, 3 large pieces of metal and some fencing today was a very good day and we left the beach a lot cleaner.

 

As always, a massive thank you to our volunteers.  See you at St Bees in November??

Get Cumbria Buzzing!

North West Cumbria is home to an amazing variety of wild pollinators including bumblebees, hoverflies, solitary bees, butterflies and moths.  These pollinators may be tiny but their impact is huge. Pollinators help provide one third of the food we eat, pollinate more than 80% of our flowering plants and contribute around £690 million a year to the UK economy.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly basking in the sunshine

But, our wild pollinators are in trouble. More than half of UK bee, butterfly and moth species have declined in the past 50 years, and 30 species of bees face extinction. Over the last 75 years we’ve lost 97% of our flower rich meadows, 50% of our hedgerows, and 60% of flowering plants are in decline.

We’re working with Cumbria Wildlife Trust on the ‘Get Cumbria Buzzing’ project which aims to try and take action to halt this loss.  The aim is to provide vital stepping stones of a network of flower rich habitat. These stepping stones will enable our wild pollinators to move freely along the network across North West Cumbria.

A short video about the project can be found here.

We’re planning lots of events for you to get involved in so look out for details on the website and social media and lets #getcumbriabuzzing

Our first visit to Birkhams Quarry this year

We’ve been working with Marshalls Stancliffe Stone and visiting Birkhams Sandstone Quarry, just outside Sandwith, for a number of years.  As part of their planning permission Marshalls Stancliffe Stone is required to restore areas of the quarry site once they have finished being worked for stone.  At the end of 2016 topsoil from elsewhere on site was spread over the first restoration area.  The decision was made not to use plug plants or seed the restoration area but to let it vegetate naturally using the seedbank in the topsoil.

The site is developing nicely with a good range of wildflower species now found across the site.  We visit up to three times a year in the growing season to keep weedy species from becoming dominant (by removing most of the ragwort, bracken, dock and thistle) and record all the species we find on each visit. Our first visit for 2019 was on 13th July.  Four volunteers worked alongside our Project Officer to pull up ragwort, nettle, dock and bracken (we decided to leave the thistle as it’s not big enough to pull up yet) and then we spent some time recording all the flowers and grasses we could see.  We only spent about half an hour doing this and still recorded over 30 species which is great.  Our next visit will be on 24th July – come along and join in!

The species we found are listed below:

Birds foot trefoil

Bluebell sp

Bracken

Bramble

Broad leaved dock

Cocks foot

Common nettle

Common sorrel

Creeping thistle

Creeping buttercup

Devils bit scabious

Foxglove

Gorse

Harts tongue fern (possible garden escapee)

Heath bedstraw

Herb Robert

Hogweed

Hop trefoil

Meadow grass

Meadow vetchling

Ragwort

Ribwort plantain

Rosebay willowherb

Sedge sp.

Silverweed

Spear thistle

Speedwell sp

Tufted vetch

Tormentil

White clover

Yarrow

Yorkshire fog

The birds are back in town

Seabirds nesting on the cliffs at St Bees Head, Whitehaven

The birds at St Bees are back on the cliffs again for the summer, and we need your help once again to record whether they’re being disturbed.

The Colourful Coast Partnership is working with the RSPB, Natural England and Royal Yachting Association to recruit volunteers to take a walk up onto St Bees Head and observe the colonies for any disturbance, whether it comes from the air, the land or the sea.

Dave Blackledge, RSPB site manager, said ‘The bird numbers are increasing every year, which is great, but we need to understand if the birds are getting disturbed while they’re on the cliffs or on the water as this can affect their ability to raise healthy chicks or fish for food. We know that boats and climbers can sometimes unintentionally disturb the birds but we also want to know if there’s anything else, like birds of prey or drones, which could be having an effect’

Volunteers will be asked to go out once a fortnight and observe the seabirds from certain points along St Bees Head throughout the summer months, recording any interesting sightings. It’s not just skilled bird watchers who can get involved.   Sophie Badrick from the Colourful Coast Partnership says ‘Anyone who’s got a pair of binoculars and is happy to walk along the headland spending a few hours every fortnight viewing the birds and making notes can get involved.  We’ll be running a few training sessions in a couple of weeks to get volunteers up to speed and then it’s down to each individual to decide how often and when to go out surveying’.

The records will be collected by Natural England who can assess the levels of disturbance, whether this is an issue at the site and what kinds of activities are causing the issues. This will then allow Natural England working alongside the other Colourful Coast partners to focus on raising awareness to try and reduce the impacts of recreational activities on the breeding seabirds at St Bees Head so that the birds can continue to thrive.

Anyone who wants to get involved or would like more information should email Sophie.badrick@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

Two beach cleans in two days – what did we find

Last week we had our usual monthly beach clean in St Bees.  10 wonderful volunteers came along to help out and instead of heading towards Pow Beck and under the cliffs of Tomlin we set off with the aim of walking down to Seamill Lane and focussing our attentions on this end of the beach.

There was so much beach litter that we didn’t get very far!  The volunteers diligently cracked on with the task of collecting and recording all the litter they could find.  The results of the survey are below – as always lots of plastic but not as much sanitary waste as we find when we beach clean near Pow Beck, the results can be found here 190328 St Bees – Survey

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In amongst all of the litter there was one exciting find…a pipefish.  These sea creatures are related to seahorses.  Usually found in shallow water, camouflaged amongst seagrass and seaweed.  They’re found along the coast of Britain and eat tiny plankton which they suck up through their snout like noses.  Definitely an exciting find, and a little reward for beach cleaning!

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The next day we were lucky enough to host the North Lakes National Trust team’s start of season meeting.  Along with hearing about all of the exciting things the teams are up to across the whole property (which stretches from Borrowdale to Ennerdale and Buttermere to the coast) we also got 30 of the team out for a beach clean.

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Despite the large numbers of beach cleaners the rubbish we found didn’t pile up very highly – a testament to the fact that we find so much small plastic waste at St Bees.  One challenge we gave to the team was to try and fill a jar with cotton bud sticks to illustrate the issue we have at St Bees.  Well, the team didn’t disappoint!

Cotton buds

712!  712 cotton bud sticks found in one hour by our team.  That’s quite a shocking number.  We’re thinking about what we need to do try and tackle this issue.  If you’d like to see full results of what was found the full report can be seen here 190329 St Bees – Survey

 

 

Whitehaven beach clean – the results are in!

Yesterday we had a whopping 22 volunteers joining us at our regular Whitehaven beach clean, which is fantastic!  We decided to make use of the big numbers and do a Beach Watch survey of the beach alongside collecting all the litter we could find.

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Together we collected and recorded 623 pieces of litter with over 60% of what we collected being plastic or polystyrene.  The majority of what we found was sourced from the public, which means it was litter dropped by people – we found a lot of fast food waste, plastic bottles, cigarette butts and sweet wrappers.  All of which was picked up by our dedicated volunteers before it was washed out to sea to become part of the global marine litter crisis.

The results from the survey can be found here 181017 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey 17 Oct 2018

Its fantastic to see so many people coming along to help us tackle the marine litter problem.  In total we collected 25 bags of litter, lobster pots, a deck chair and part of a sofa! As always a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came along to help out – especially little Archie who missed a morning at nursery to come down but had a great time.

Whitehaven’s Great British Beach Clean

Once again this autumn we organised a Great British Beach Clean at Whitehaven.  Now in it’s 25th year the Great British Beach Clean, coordinated by the Marine Conservation Society, is the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK.

The information volunteers have collected over the last 25 years has helped make some of the most significant impacts on beach litter ever – the plastic bag charge, microplastics banned in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling, and massive support for a tax on ‘on the go’ plastic single use items.

Trying to get used to the survey forms always takes a little while  so perhaps it was good that the beach at Whitehaven was surprisingly clean.  However, a few steps along the beach and looking amongst the rocks and we soon found enough litter to keep us going.  In total the four of us collected 269 pieces of litter in just one hour.  There was rope, cigarette butts, plastic cups, paper, plastic, glass, nails, lolly sticks and straws.  Joseph even collected some rope that was nearly as tall as he is!

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The rope’s nearly as tall as Joseph!

 

The full report from the beach clean can be found her 180915 Whitehaven North Shore – Survey 15 Sep 2018.  It shows that most of the litter we collected was plastic or polystyrene with paper and cardboard a close second.  Most of this was rubbish we were collecting and disposing of before it reached the sea.  We had surprisingly little sanitary waste which is different from when we beach clean at St Bees.

As always a massive thank you to our dedicated volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning and came out to beach clean in some grey and windy weather!