The Thames21 Great River Rescue

Watling Park, Burnt Oak

By Caroline Wilson & Jess Rego on October 9, 2017

Is there anything better than a lazy day inside on a rainy Saturday? A few weeks ago I probably would have said no but that was before I spent the day with some wonderful people clearing up litter in Watling Park in Burnt Oak.

I know what you’re thinking - picking up trash is no way to spend a weekend! - but we had a great morning, helping to remove 40 bags of litter from the waterways, and meeting the brilliant team working to clean up their local area. A little rain was no match for these everyday heroes; despite the drizzle, more than 15 volunteers turned up, most of whom had been regulars at the Thames 21 events over the summer.

Signing up for the Great River Rescue

Billy, the man charge, got us geared up with a safety briefing and a reminder of the positive impact of what we were here to do. An estimated 80% of all marine debris found in the ocean begins it’s life inland and 80-90% is made from plastic, according to the Last Plastic Straw campaign. By tackling the problem on solid ground, we can help prevent plastic and litter from entering our tributaries and finding their way in the ocean.

Once we were fully briefed it was time to squeeze into our waders - it’s harder than it looks! - and grab our litter picking accessories. My gloves even matched my sweater (you’d think I’d planned it!) and Jess got a little happy with her grabber. She was very sad to let it go at the end of the day.

Caroline in her waders Jess with her grabber

I teamed up with Meek (apologies as I’m not sure on spelling) - a local man, passionate about doing good in his community and a regular at these events. With his guidance we were soon plastic snipers, grabbing every tiny bit, and diving into the river. Some of us more… enthusiastically… than others. One bad step had Jess elbow deep in the creek!

Spirits high, we stumbled on a plastic gold mine at a spot just behind a bench. Within an hour, we’d filled 3 bin sacks with plastic bottles and tin cans. Another bin sack later, we pinned down Billy for a quick interview (video coming soon) to find out more about Thames21 and why events like this are so important.

Our new friend Meek One hour's worth of litter

Over the summer, the event has drawn crowds of volunteers as large as 37 and it’s not hard to see why, the enthusiasm of the organisers and volunteers was infectious. There was a wonderful sense of community and teamwork with everyone getting stuck in to do as much as they could. One person we weren’t expecting to run into was Hendon MP, Matthew Offord! While he’s always championed environmental issues and used his platform to bring attention to these easily avoidable problems it was refreshing to see him get down and dirty with the rest of us. Often we hear government officials, and other influential individuals, talking about making a change but we need more people taking action. Be the change you want to see in the world! (It’s a cliche because it’s true)

Meeting MP Matthew Offord

The Great River Rescue is taking place throughout October 2017 and is England’s first national clean up campaign of rivers. Calling on locals to get involved, the campaign aims to spread it’s roots and impact deep into the community. By offering free training courses which enable individuals to run their own clean up events, the campaign hopes to extend and prolong its positive impacts long after the day is over.

Some of the 40 bags of rubbish we removed

We see the devastating effects of plastic pollution everyday and it always seems as though there isn’t enough time to do something about it. It’s always someone else’s problem to clean up. We tut and tsk at rubbish on the ground but never bend down to pick it up. If every person did that just once a day we might not have to organise these weekend efforts but until that day comes get yourself involved. Sign up to your local cleanups, help educate your friends and don’t be afraid to leave the comfort of a warm bed on a rainy saturday to do some good. I promise you’ll feel great afterwards! If there’s an event you’re thinking about taking part in, let us know! You might just get a visit from Status Row :)

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The Thames21 Great River Rescue

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