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Press release

Beachgoers swap boogie boards for a boogie beach clean to help protect nature at popular Devon beach

A women wearing a purple jacket dances with her arms in the air on Woolacome beach in Devon. She wears headphones and holds a litter picker in the air because she is taking part in a silent disco beach clean
Getting a groove on and doing good for nature at a silent disco beach clean, Woolacombe beach, Devon | © National Trust Images/Sophie Bolesworth

The addition of a silent disco to beach cleans at the National Trust’s Woolacombe beach has seen numbers increase for vital conservation work to help protect nature. By adding a tuneful twist, National Trust Rangers in collaboration with Plastic Free Woolacombe, are broadening the appeal of the monthly beach cleans, welcoming new audiences including many young people.

A haven for surfers and bodyboarders, beachgoers to Woolacombe’s three-mile stretch of golden sands are now swapping their boogie boards for ‘grooving’ whilst doing some good for the environment. Proving to be popular, numbers turning up to don headphones and grab litter pickers have been on the up; with nearly 100 people joining one event in April, triple the amount expected for a standard beach clean at Woolacombe.

Louise Gavin, a volunteer at the most recent Silent Disco Beach Clean event on Sunday 26 May said: “It’s great to be able to come out and help the local community to keep the beaches clean and how you would like them for yourself. It’s important to us to help the local wildlife in any way that we can and work to prevent more plastic from getting into the ocean.”

Located at the heart of the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) the beach and sand dunes welcome upwards of 10,000 people a day during the summer. Monthly cleans make the coastal location a safer home for marine wildlife including seabirds such as gannets and puffins and marine mammals like dolphins and seals, and a more beautiful clean place for people to visit.

North Devon National Trust Ranger Fraser Goodfellow, who helps run the clean-up events, said: “We’ve been running monthly beach cleans at Woolacombe for over a year and uptake can vary widely. Now, with the addition of North Devon Silent Disco, a mix of people from the local community and holidaymakers of all ages, including families and young people, are coming together in a communal effort to keep the beach clean and healthy.

‘Nearly half who come along haven’t done a beach clean before and it’s fantastic to see a wider range of people volunteering their time to get stuck in. We want to say a huge thank you to them all for their hard work; with a constant stream of marine waste and litter arriving across our shores cleaning up our coastline has never been more important.”

Litter has always been a big problem on beaches and in the countryside, as it is hugely damaging to the wildlife and environment. Unsurprisingly, plastic is the most common material washed ashore at Woolacombe, with a staggering 90% of beach rubbish collected in 2019 being plastic or polystyrene.

Efforts are focused on removing these harmful plastics and ‘nurdles’: tiny plastic pellets used by industry to make nearly all our plastic products. Their similarity to fish eggs and small crustaceans means they are often mistaken for food by seabirds and marine animals and enter the food chain.

The scope of the challenge to remove plastic from our beaches and oceans is demonstrated by recent unusual litter pick finds at Woolacombe: These include an opened can of coke dating from 2020 and originating in Denmark, plastic shopping bags from the 1990’s and a plastic fairy liquid bottle with the price marked in shillings which were phased out in the 70’s.

Deborah Vos from Plastic Free Woolacombe, a local environmental charity added: “These items show the permanent nature of plastic in our natural surroundings and the sheer scale of the problem we face to clear up our shores. By holding events like the Silent Disco Beach Cleans at Woolacombe we aim to connect people with their natural surroundings to ensure residents, communities and visitors alike want to protect what our very existence depends on.

‘We want to see radical transformation towards a more informed relationship with the environment, resulting in actions like taking part in today’s clean up here at Woolacombe that result in a healthier planet for both people and nature.”

With Silent Disco Beach Cleans set to continue on the last Sunday of each month at Woolacombe throughout the summer, it is hoped that more will lend a hand in keeping the beach, rock pool and dunes sandy tidy.