Britain's waterways are an amazing and beautiful natural resource. They are a free space for people to splash around, play, view nature, take exercise, and to get away from the stresses of modern society. However, they can only be so if we take action.
We all know the planet has a huge problem with plastics and trash disposal. Some non-biodegradable items find themselves in the waterways by accident, and some things by the people's ignorance. Either way, they'll not disappear. A piece of trash that goes into the waterways will end up in one of 3 places: The Sea, an animal's belly, or washed up around the banks the river. Our rivers are ours, so let's look after them.
How, and what extras to bring? It doesn't need to be a big mission to go and pick up every piece of litter you see every time! Big focussed litter picks can be great, but we think the best way to do this is little and often, alongside your other adventures. Pick a trip that motivates you, and then just bring a mesh bag (so the water drains out) with you when you head out. That way if you see anything that shouldn't be there you can quickly grab it and dump it in a bin when you get off the water.
Depending on the type of boat you're in, you may want to carry an extended grabbing tool. These can be useful for getting pieces from high up banks and trees, and for keeping your hands well away from what you're picking up. We'd also recommend you wear gloves whenever handling waste, especially if you're not sure what it is. Cloth/cotton gloves don't fare well on paddling trips, since they are cold and slippery when wet. The simplest and cheapest solution is the old fashioned Marigold rubber glove! If you want to get more advanced than that, perhaps something made with a neoprene based material that has some grip on the palms.
Any potential issues to be aware of? When you have a task like cleaning up the planet in your hands, its easy to get carried away and forget to look after yourself! These questions are designed to help you plan a litter pick paddle to go swimmingly:
- Does my plan match with the weather's plan?
- Does my plan match my boat control skills?
- Does my plan match my ability to sort myself (or my friend) out if things go wrong?
If you are still new to paddling and boat control, you should start in Very Sheltered Water. This means a waterway in which you are never more than 10 metres or so from the banks, such as a canal which doesn't flow. Before getting on the water, ask yourself 'Could I rescue myself, i.e. swim from the middle to the side and get out without assistance, if I had to.' This should help prevent you from getting in over your head right from the beginning. Repeatedly asking yourself this question as you progress in your trip would be a great idea. Stay humble.
Many sections of river that you might wish to litter-pick have a gentle flow. Understanding currents is a skill, and learning this can be a lot of fun. On the other hand, thrills can lead to spills, and it might be best to make sure you're not learning about currents at the same time as you're learning how to control your boat, or it all might get a bit much. We'd recommend you only collect litter from waters in which you are fully in control. If you'd like to venture into moving water, we'd recommend seeking instruction, either with Dee River Kayaking or another professional river guiding organisation.
Here are a couple of less obvious hazards to be aware of:
-Bushes or trees that hang into a flowing river are the classic example of a hazard that it's better to avoid. Plastic loves to sit in the trees so it can be really inviting to get up close and personal with these. Remember that the trees may stop a boat but they'll not stop the river's flow. You can quickly find yourself too close for comfort and you can lose your control.
- Water-borne diseases: When we're out on the waterways we are also exposed to water and surfaces that have a potential to carry infectious diseases. Cases are not common, but best practice is to make sure all cuts are covered, avoid touching your mouth while out on the water, and wash your hands when you get back on dry land.
So now we're ready to go out there and clean the planet one waterway at a time! You do of course need to make sure you have all the basic safety equipment needed for river paddling, as well as a boat! If you're not a paddling pro yet, this article here has some great ideas to help you plan your first trip out: Kayaking Adventures For Everyone, But how do I get started?- Go Kayaking Retail Stores
If you'd like to get involved in litter picking on the waterways but fancy a helping hand when it comes to the important bits such as picking a safe trip, boat control, and having all the right equipment, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd be thrilled to help you begin your paddling adventures and your environmental impact goals, in a fun and safe way.
For some more ideas on how to advocate for clean and natural river environments, we'd recommend browsing the Save Our Rivers website.
While you're at it, go ahead and follow Dee River Kayaking on Facebook, if you haven't already!