“Oh wow…that is some mud.” Jenny Hickman of Sealife London

“Oh wow…that is some mud.” 

These are the simple yet terrified words that told us we had arrived at our beach clean. Every year, SEA LIFE London like to do their bit for their local environment by joining in with the cleaner Thames challenge with Thames21. Loosely referred to as a “beach clean,” the Thames challenge is an annual fest of knee deep mud, heavy lifting and bizarre finds and this year promised to be no different.

Despite quite a late night the night before, our weary little team arrived at Battersea bridge bright and early. Kitting up in steel toe capped wellies, thick red gloves and bright blue SEA LIFE T-shirts, we listened intently to the in depth health and safety briefing (which included what to do if you found a grenade).

We armed ourselves with litter pickers, spades and bin bags and listened to the obligatory “Charlies Angels” style briefing and photo-shoot before heading down to the beach.

Calling this a beach may be a little misleading. At low tide, the Thames reveals miles of long muddy river banks which have become coated in a layer of litter. In previous years, getting to the beach has involved quite literally wading through knee deep, quick sand style mud which even the toughest of wellies couldn’t endure, so this year we were pleasantly surprised to arrive on a reassuringly solid pebble beach.

Before long, Honor and Jakub from the London Eye were getting stuck in, digging a traffic cone out from its swampy grave. I watched from afar…took some pictures and continued down the beach. They had it covered. Spotting some unseen rubbish, I begun to litter pick. Demonstrating a level of incompetence similar to that of a hippo using chopsticks , it wasn’t long before one kind hearted team member took the litter pickers off of me and recommended I just picked things up. Sensible…and far more effective. The bin bags began to fill and the beach was looking cleaner by the minute.

An hour or so in to the clean and a late comer arrived (Beki). Standing at the top of the steps looking down on to the beach, I waved to her to come and join. She shook her head and beckoned me up the steps. I made my way over and it soon became clear why Beki had not wanted to join. Stage one of the beach clean, the stairs, had proved too much for Beki and she had suffered an unfortunate and wildly ungraceful fall, sliding down the flight of sludge covered concrete stairs and coating herself in a layer of wet grey mud and algae. After a fair amount of quite possibly insensitive laughter and picture taking, I wiped some mud out of her hair, kitted her up and escorted her down to the beach where I then enjoyed relaying the story to our friends, colleagues and general passers by.

The day before our beach clean, some colleagues had joined the beach clean in Hammersmith at which they had found a grand total of four guns. We were determined to beat them. We thought our luck was in when one team member, Sam, let out an excited squeal. As we raced over to see what she had found, she spun around, eyes shining and gleefully brandishing a fish skull and matching rib cage. Thrilled with the discovery, we attempted for a while to guess what kind of fish it came from, before Sam decided it was funnier to make the fish talk. Wiggling the fish’s jaw, she managed just 2 seconds of comedy ventriloquism before screaming and throwing the fish head away, deciding it was in fact terrifying. We continued the clean.

After three hours, exhausted and covered in a layer of mud, it was time to head off. We had uncovered all sorts of rubbish from cans and bottles to little plastic toys, toothbrushes and tyres. The bin bags filled two large crates, just from one small stretch of river bank.

Every year people across the world produce hundreds of millions of tonnes of litter, much of which will end up in our oceans and threaten the health of our planet and its amazing creatures. By joining in these beach cleans, we are not only getting out in the open and having fun with friends, but we are doing our bit to stop this litter endangering the lives of all sorts of wildlife, from birds and fish to dolphins and sea turtles. Why not see if you can lend a hand at the next beach clean near you and help to preserve the beauty of our planet for years to come J

Samantha’s summary:

Thank you to Jenny, it sounds like your friends were extremely helpful in their efforts and well done to you for keeping the ‘moral’ up on the day with your ‘charming’ personality :)

It sounded like it as the perfect beach clean up- fun and silliness but also a great success. Beach clean ups are a great way that we can all get involved and improve our surroundings and environment! It doesn’t matter where in the world that you live we can all do little things to help.

Beach clean up dates and details will be listed in the events section of the Sea Urchins website


Keep checking throughout the year- there are often more listings in the warmer seasons but it is also fun to throw on the wellies and raincoat (I am picturing multi- coloured with polka dots or Ben 10) and think of that lovely hot chocolate with marshmallows that you can have afterwards!

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