Volunteers find packaging from 20 years ago after clearing 'tidal wave' of rubbish from River Ribble

Volunteers have collected 30 sacks of rubbish - some of it decades old - from the River Ribble’s banks.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 9:10 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 10:20 am
Thirteen volunteers turned out to litter pick the Ribble after Nicola's social media appeal for help.

Nicola Bennett, 39, from Leyland, recently walked the 80-mile Lancashire Way but despite the beautiful views, Nicola said her enjoyment was hampered by a ‘tidal wave’ of litter on the Ribble.

It sparked the idea to rally an army of volunteers to do something about the problem.

“I do quite a lot of long distance hiking,” said HR professional Nicola.

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Nicola said her enjoyment of the Lancashire Way was hampered by a 'tidal wave' of rubbish.

“With the Lancashire Way literally on my doorstep I got out and walked it, hiking 25 km a day.

“I got to see some gorgeous bits of countryside that I would never normally explore.

“But I couldn’t enjoy the views because all I could focus on was the tidal wave of debris that was washed up or flushed down through the river system.”

Nicola suspects that most of the litter had been dropped elsewhere, rather than on the route's beauty spots, and had been washed up by the tides.

The volunteers set out on one of the hottest days of the year to clean up the Ribble's banks.

“Most of the way was free of rubbish, with the exception of the canal near Wigan, but along one section of the Ribble it was horrific,” she said.

“Only at high tide does it get moved along and it sits there for months and years.”

“I think it’s primarily rubbish that has been washed along or maybe it was dropped into a gutter.

“The further you walk along the river, the worse and worse it becomes.”

Even young Elsie Bennett, eight, and sister Meredith Bennett, six, got involved.

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However, the avid hiker did spot some old campfires surrounded by bottles and cans that had been left behind.

After her shock at the amount of litter, Nicola posted a call for help on Facebook.

“Not long after finishing the walk, I heard about the Surfers for Sewage ‘Million Miles Clean’ campaign,” she said.

30 sacks of rubbish were filled by the group.

The campaign aims to recruit 100,000 volunteers to complete 10-mile clean-ups along the country’s coastline, rivers and countryside

Following Nicola’s call for help, 13 volunteers from near and far turned out for a challenging clean up on Saturday.

Her father and step-mother even joined her from York for the effort.

They set off from Howick Cross Lane, Penwortham, and walked around a mile before they reached the clean-up.

Over the course of two hours, the group filled around 30 sacks with rubbish.

“Filling the bags was upsettingly easy,” Nicola said, “Most were filled within about 45 minutes.”

The route was miles away from a car park so bulky rubbish like this was hard to transport.

Some of the items found by the volunteers were around 20 years old and covered a ‘two-mile stretch’.

Nicola said: “A quick look at some of the dates on the drinks bottles and food wrappers showed some of it was 20 years old.

“There were literally thousands of plastic bottles, glass bottles, cans, food wrappers and then even bigger items like street cones, old shoes, flip flops, inflatables and footballs.”

The area is difficult to reach by car which made the litter pick more challenging.

“It’s not really accessible by car for anyone to really do anything about it,” Nicola said. “The greater challenge was then carrying the sacks back to our cars two miles away.”

The volunteers had to be creative when transporting the rubbish, using sledges and rope to form a ‘rubbish train’ on their journey back to the car park.

“I’m so thankful to the volunteers because they worked so incredibly hard,” Nicola said.

Even young people got involved in the clean-up on one of the hottest days of the year- Elsie Bennett, eight, and Meredith Bennett, six, dragged along half a suitcase and half a plastic chair to be disposed of properly.

The litter pickers weren’t the only ones trying to clean up the area and they encountered another man who says he collects rubbish in the area every day.

According to Nicola the difference in the area after it had been litter picked was ‘huge’.

“We can definitely say we made an impact so that the next people walking by have a slightly better view,” she said.

“We prevented around 100 kg of rubbish ending up in the sea so it was definitely not a ‘waste’ of time.

“I want to raise awareness and ask people to consider their own actions,” she said.

“If even one other person is inspired to organise a clean themselves that would be amazing.”

Surfers Against Sewage is a marine conservation group working with local communities to stop plastic pollution.

The group discourages the use of single use plastics and estimates that 12 million tonnes of marine litter and plastic enter the sea every year.

SAS’s Million Mile Clean up will see 100,000 volunteers tackling plastic pollution through litter picking and community action.

More information about the campaign and how to join can be found here: https://www.sas.org.uk/news/100000-volunteers-x-10-miles-for-the-million-mile-clean/Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 per month for the first two months. Try us today by clicking here.

Nicola said the difference the litter pick made was 'huge' and it could stop more rubbish travelling further down the Ribble and harming wildlife.
Volunteers had to drag the heavy litter sacks for miles and at one point formed a 'litter train' using sleds.
It is thought that some of the rubbish is decades old after checking use by dates.
There are stunning views along the Lancashire Way which the volunteers hope to preserve.
The group of 13 set off from Penwortham to do their bit for the Lancashire Way and the environment.