Pembrokeshire beach clean features on BBC Springwatch

Martin Hughes-Games, Michaela Strachan, Chris Packham and Gillian Burke
Published : 23 Mar 2016 Last update : 30 Mar 2016

BBC presenter Michaela Strachan helped schoolchildren collect printer cartridges, fishing lines and more from Freshwater West - one of the beaches we care for. Famous for its wildlife, surfing and now as the location for this Easter’s BBC Springwatch special.

Freshwater West is a well-protected beach on the Stackpole Estate in Pembrokeshire. The waters here are part of the Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation with the dunes behind a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It’s a special place for wildlife. Our Bioblitz survey last year found the crow-like Chough and the rare Corn Marigold flower living here, both on the global Red List of species under threat of extinction or serious decline.

The beach is also a special place for surfers. Its swells - formed over the Atlantic - offer some of the best surfing in Wales.

A less welcome guest

However, every year tonnes of rubbish wash up on this beach. The waves bring everything from printer cartridges to plastic fishing ropes and cigarette packets.

In early March local schoolchildren helped BBC Springwatch presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan clean this beach.

Springwatch presenter Michaela Strachan has seen first-hand the impact of litter in our oceans.
'Rubbish is on every beach in every continent. The consequences are devastating for wildlife.'

Litter is a growing problem at Freshwater West. Our visitor experience and community officer at Stackpole, Rhian Sula said: 'Every year and every month we’re seeing more and more litter wash up on the beach.'

Only two months earlier hundreds of volunteers turned out for a beach clean at Freshwater West, collecting over 175 bags full of rubbish – the vast majority of it plastics.

Plastic danger

Ossian, one of the schoolchildren helping with the clean on Freshwater West explained why they were on a cold beach picking up rubbish.

'It’s so the animals don’t die. The plastic might get into fishes' tummies and then they die,' says Ossian.

Plastics in our ecosystems are a growing problem. According to the Marine Conservation Society, plastic waste on our beaches has increased by 140 per cent since 1994. It’s estimated that globally more than a million birds die each year after becoming entangled in or eating plastic found in our seas.

Potential solutions to this rising tide of plastic range from conservation zones that attempt to curtail waste being dumped by ships through to introducing financial incentives to encourage people to return plastic bottles to the manufacturers.

How can you help?

Help protect your local wildlife by getting involved in a local beach clean or by helping to clean up your local park. Follow the link below to our volunteering page to find opportunities local to you.

But you’d be forgiven for questioning the point of cleaning the beach, given that the next tide will uncover even more rubbish.

Litter-pick in hand Michaela Strachan offers a response: 'keep doing it,' she says. 'Just imagine what the beach would look like if you didn’t.'

Springwatch at Easter airs on BBC2 at 9pm on Good Friday. The programme will see the launch of the BBC’s Do Something Great season, encouraging everyone to take action to volunteer in their local community.