Many clubs took to rivers and waterways during the Big Paddle Cleanup, in June, removing hundreds of sacks of plastic pollution in the process.
The campaign followed a government report that said a ‘chemical cocktai’ of sewage, agricultural waste and plastic are polluting our rivers.
It is easy to feel downhearted and helpless. But our fantastic community of paddlers went beyond the call of duty to show they can make a difference.
One of them was 4As Newark (Adventure Activities for All Abilities), a community club which encourages people with physical and learning disabilities to take part in sport.
Julie Gray, a paediatric physiotherapist, who has been working with young people with additional and special needs for about 30 years, led a cleanup on 11th June, on the River Devon, near Newark.
“For my youngsters the [Big Paddle Cleanup] is ideal,” she said.
“They all love it. It’s one of their favourite things that we do. It’s what motivates them. One lad was cleaning up before we even got on the water.
“They have good environmental awareness and it’s something they can do and feel good about themselves.
“We’ve been having [cleanups] for three years, but it’s lovely to have the extra equipment from British Canoeing.”
About 25 people took part in the cleanup on the River Devon, with six big bags of rubbish collected.
They also towed a Canadian canoe and “filled it with rubbish”.
Along with plucking out plastic rubbish, Julie and the club have been clearing overgrown vegetation too.
“We keep an eye on the [River Devon] more than anyone else,” said Julie.
We have been impressed by the support and engagement from our members and supporters.
The Big Paddle Cleanup was an amazing week of action by paddlers.
In total, 1,228 volunteers took part. They came from 103 English canoe clubs, 30 community groups and delivery partners, along with individual members.
Each river clean took about two hours, which equates to roughly 2,456 hours hours dedicated to the campaign by volunteers,
They filled 704 sacks, which included 2,123 single use plastic bottles, 1,476 cans, 831 glass bottles and 3,296 food wrappers.
It’s worth mentioning that a full breakdown of items removed was not possible. This was because of the sheer volume and the state of the items, having been in the water for so long.
Unusual finds included, a footstool, a computer monitor, an electric scooter, a doll’s leg, a water pistol, a high chair and some dental floss.
Chantelle Grundy, British Canoeing’s Access and Environment Lead, said: “The Big Paddle Cleanup has seen an amazing week of action by paddlers.
“There was a real sense of camaraderie within our community, all coming together to protect the places we paddle from plastic pollution.
“It has been really inspiring and I would like to thank those paddlers who volunteered their time to get behind the campaign - protecting our blue spaces for people, for nature and for the future.
“The campaign has really highlighted the need to reduce our plastic footprint and the need for access to water to enable our community to protect the environment for all to benefit.”
To see what other things paddlers found, check out our online map, here: https://clearaccessclearwaters.org.uk/paddle-cleanups-map/