Meet the Sea Wombles

Beach cleaning

Beaches are beautiful places, great for the soul and able to provide you with everything from peace and tranquility to nature-made climbing frames and a never ending adventure playground. Keeping these places enjoyable for all though, takes some work.

Stretches of white sand, turquoise water, salty spray dancing off the crest of a breaking wave.

Close your eyes and that is what you’ll see when someone whispers Kynance in your ears.

Poldhu: green dune grass waving in the wind, towering cliffs and children running barefoot.

Poltesco: sea-smoothed pebbles, a gradient of tide lines leading to the shore, the bobbing heads of curious seals.

What washes up

What you don’t see is the rubbish that washes up, most commonly it's a mix of:

  • discarded fishing tackle
  • cracked plastic bottles
  • broken nets
  • useless toys
  • single shoes
  • split buckets

Nor do you imagine rescuing birds from tangled ropes, stepping over poisoned fish or dodging grey foam being blown up the beach.   

Things like this wash up on the world’s shores every day.

" World wide, 80% of beach litter comes from inland sources; people leaving behind their barbecues, overflowing bins and fly tipping."
- Greenpeace

All of these contribute to the rubbish, some of which ends up in rivers and streams before being ultimately carried down to the sea.

Unusually, inland litter makes up only a small percentage of the unwanted rubbish that sometimes arrives to mar the beauty of the Lizard shoreline.

An unusual location

The unique positioning of beaches like Kynance, Poldhu and Poltesco - near active shipping routes and strong sea currents - means the majority of beach litter comes from marine sources such as fishing activity, jetsam and shipwreck.

In most cases only the ocean knows specifically where each piece came from, so if it can’t be prevented, it has to be collected.

Enter the beach clean-up teams. On average, the National Trust collects one thousand bags of beach litter a year at an annual cost of £5000, not to mention four months hard work every year by volunteers.

It's worth it

It’s worth it though. Such efforts have triggered the setting up of other beach cleaning groups like the Friends of Poldhu, whose mission became urgent in January 2016 following the mysterious arrival of hundreds of bright pink bottles.

The bottles were full of the stain remover Vanish and came from a container that fell overboard during rough weather.

Clearing detergent bottles washed up on Poldhu beach, Cornwall
Clearing Poldhu beach of 1000s of pink detergent bottles
Clearing detergent bottles washed up on Poldhu beach, Cornwall

The irony that the cleaning chemical had not only made the beach dirtier but was never going to vanish of its own accord was not lost on the locals.

Residents of all ages rallied together with bags and gloves to remove the blot on Poldhu’s landscape, showing team work at its best.

Thankfully, the salt water broke down the harmful compounds in the Vanish so once all the bottles were removed and recycled, a few rather colourful photos were the only remaining trace of this eerie appearance.