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Surprising things found in canals and rivers

Shopping trolleys, traffic cones and old tyres were commonly found during the Big Paddle Cleanup. But what about the more unusual finds in our rivers and canals?

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British Canoeing members and the rest of the paddling community have pulled all sorts of unexpected items out of the country’s waterways, including:

A unicorn, plastic stools, underwear, pallets, deflated footballs, a Fanta can from the 1980s, roadworks barriers, cash register, wheelbarrow, rubber ducks, skateboards, a Playstation and a dead parrot.

In Scotland, one canoe club found a message in a bottle, while sprint athlete Tom Lusty rescued a puppy from a canal!

Tell us about your cleanup and win a prize >>
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The strange finds were revealed by the Clear Access, Clear Waters campaign after two weeks of action to record and remove what had been found in the country’s canals and rivers.

Reported finds also included: 

  • Enough clothes and underwear to have the full outfit.

  • Bicycle

  • A lost cygnet (reunited with its mother)

  • Pallets

  • A pair of trainers

  • Part of a wooden landing ladder

  • A wheeled plastic tray

  • Golf balls... miles from a golf course!

  • Sex toys

  • Two shovels

  • Roadworks barrier

  • Mop Bucket

  • Wheel barrow

  • Water Melon

  • Dog poo bags

  • Plastic bucket

  • Garden Trowel

  • Kitchen plates and part of a fence

  • Road work traffic sign holders

  • A skateboard

  • Rotting bag of chicken pieces and floating cushion

  • Fridge door

  • Rocking chair

  • Complete toilet

  • Petrol strimmer

  • Wheel trims

  • Brake discs

  • A yellow hook duck

  • Single shoes

  • Cheese grater

  • Deflated large rubber ting

  • Five syringes

  • A pair of padded bra inserts

  • Alcohol bottles

  • Wheelie Bin

  • Very large plant pot

  • A closed suitcase

  • Flower pot

  • Car bumper

  • An electric iron!

  • Cash register tray with 5p left in it

  • Desk chair

  • Baby car seat

  • Prescription glasses

  • Bike wheel

  • Half full tub of butter

  • Insulin container with measuring scale (half full)

  • Car indicator

  • Candlestick

  • Heavy iron woodstove

  • 2 tubs of dairy free spread.

  • Child’s car seat

  • Bag of human poo

  • Builder's helmet (containing lots of interesting bugs)

  • Jacket

  • Yellow pipe insulation

  • A chair

  • Child’s baseball bat

  • Umbrella

  • CDs

  • Large doll’s head

  • A deflated inflated ring

  • Electrical insulation unit from overhead power cables

  • Lead pipe

  • A suicidal pigeon… 

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ERDINGER Alkoholfrei, one of British Canoeing’s commercial partners, support the Big Paddle Cleanup.

By logging your paddle cleanup you will go into a monthly draw to win ERDINGER Alkoholfrei prizes.

Pembrokeshire Paddlers have won the latest prize. The 13 volunteers did their cleanup at Lindsway Bay and filled three large sacks.

Their most surprising find were large blocks of yellow insulation foam.

Tell us about your cleanup and win a prize >>
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Pembrokeshire Paddlers

Chantelle Grundy, Access and Environment Lead, said: “We’re always surprised and often bemused by what is found during the Big Paddle Cleanup. 

"However, the junk which is ending up in our waterways is causing untold damage to wildlife and its great to be part of a community taking positive action to make a real difference."

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The Big Paddle Cleanup 2023 saw an incredible effort from our fantastic community of paddlers.

More than 2,000 volunteers participated and over 1,300 big sacks were filled. 

Inside those bags were more than 5,000 plastic bottles, 1,458 glass bottles, 2,866 cans and 6,258 food wrappers.

Please continue to log your paddle cleanups with us throughout the year so we can highlight the scale of the issue to encourage change. 

You will also be in with a chance of winning a spot prize thanks to  Erdinger Alkoholfrei.

Tell us about your cleanup and win a prize >>
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We have distributed 600 paddle cleanup kits throughout the paddling community, thanks to funds from British Canoeing's Go Green membership.

Find out more >>