Sunday, 19 March 2017

#SpringCleanCymru #TorfaenSpringClean - Biggest non school event since we started

As a Community Group we focus on Henllys Local Nature Reserve. However, from time to time, we join in with larger national events such as Clean Coasts Week and Be Tidy. We like to do this as it demonstrates we are part of a much bigger picture with lots of other groups and individuals across Wales, the UK and the world. #SpringCleanCymru / #TorfaenSpringClean was something very similar. It was all a part of a UK-wide campaign by Keep Britain Tidy, but in Wales it had a much more Welsh-pride themed campaign managed by Keep Wales Tidy. Parallel to that Torfaen County Borough Council ran their own campaign Torfaen Spring Clean which supported groups within the borough alongside their own deep cleanse. Both have been really brilliant with some lovely stories.

We advertised our event alongside our BLF celebration event which followed immediately afterwards with free pizza, but we also had excellent coverage from both TCBC and KWT. We got set up nice and early and were totally blown away by the numbers of people who turned up to help. Altogether we had 25 people take part in our Spring Clean and we think around 23 full bags were collected. This was the biggest turnout we'd had at any event which didn't include the school, cubs or beavers.

Some late arrivals, didn't make it into our picture!!
Nearly all of the litter was from around the main culvert, some of this is from Llys Gwrydd as we can see where it is has been dumped down the hill behind houses into the stream, but lots of if also comes from being washed down smaller culverts further upstream coming straight from the roads.

When the culvert blocks after storms, the water levels rise here to a very high level. It then drops all that plastic (and some much heavier items) as well as Himalayan balsam seeds over all this area.
Sadly, most of this plastic bottles and drink cans and the same things are happening all across the world. It is estimated that 80% of all marine litter enters the sea from human activities on land. We can only imagine that it will not be too long before there is a Deposit Return Scheme in Wales where everybody pays more for drinks and you get money back when you return the empty containers. If people still drop their cans and bottles on the floor, more fool them, and we'll soon pay for our group insurance when we pick it up after them. We imagine that if behaviour change occurred overnight with 5p on a single use carrier bag in Wales, then 5-10p on every can or bottle of drink will do the same and there will be even less litter blighting our land and oceans.

The 25 people who turned up were a great cross section of local users of the LNR and is really pleasing for us as a small community group that so many people really care about our little green space. It is very pleasing for us when we hear so many positive comments about the LNR. We were pleased to see and catch up with our friend Cllr. Collete Thomas who generously gave us a £100 cheque which will either pay for our insurance, or we'll put it to something else on the LNR. We also had several Henllys Community Councillors, who also really enjoy getting stuck in.

Evie is a true conservation hero on the LNR, her dormouse boxes have blue tits and wood mice nesting in them and now she's out litterpicking with us. Maybe a little bit of positive support from her parents too ;-)
We were overjoyed to get a contact with Cwmbran High School through the Chair of Coed Eva Primary School, Peter Friswell. Peter has been a long-time supporter of our work, as well as a one of the wheelbarrow heroes. We've been trying for years to work with CHS (Fairwater High School when we first started trying) and we are really hopeful that we can do some great things together.

We were also lucky enough to finally meet up with Monmouthshire and Torfaen Youth Offenders. We've been like passing ships in the night for over a year now and they are really keen to work with us. We've been hesitant in the past to work with any community payback scheme as we wanted people to genuinely want to get involved with what we were doing and were concerned that we didn't want our work associated with punishment or someone else's responsibility. We were also worried that it would add another excuse to those people think it is OK to litter as either 1. it keeps people in a job. or 2. you should get the criminals to pick it up. We think that looking after your local area is not a punishment, but the right thing to do and littering is simply the wrong thing to do. Convincing such people to change their behaviour is very difficult, but it is exactly the reason why we focus our work with local primary schools as we want to break that behavioural cycle. Now we have so many LNR users and local people on our side, we are confident that we can incorporate what the Youth Offenders can do with us for our mutual benefit. We also think that by them doing something more constructive than litter picking, they'll feel like they have done something useful and contributed positively to society (We've got some nice projects in the pipeline subject to funding).

We finally have to thank TCBC for collecting all of the litter and fly tipping. We can't do this without their support. We also had to borrow extra litterpicking equipment from Keep Wales Tidy, so thank you to Thom Board and Gareth Davies for that.

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