Saturday, 4 March 2017

Chessel Bay Beach Clean

by Adam Manning

On a bright spring morning, my family and I went to Chessel Bay, in Bitterne in Southampton, to help with a beach clean up and litter pick.  I had been to a similar event there some years before and remembered the area to be really beautiful, although suffering from a serious litter problem, and was looking forward to seeing if there had been any change.

Chessel Bay is quite hidden and not many local people know of its existence on the shores of the River Itchen.  Near the Northam Bridge, there are views from it across the river towards the city of Southampton.  It is bordered by a pretty woodland, with footpaths through the trees, leading to a steep bank that slopes down to the shore.  The pebbled shore is interspersed with thick patches of reed and is a habitat for wading birds.  Chessel Bay is a Local Nature Reserve and is looked after by Southampton City Council and the local Friends of Chessel Bay volunteers.

I was greeted warmly by Ian Bailey from the Hawthorns Centre and signed in. Ian had previously told me that part of the problem for Chessel Bay is that much of the rest of the shoreline in Southampton has a hard surface, such as concrete edging, and this means any rubbish or litter floating about on the water tends to bounce off these and end up accumulating on the mudflats or shores of the nature reserve.

Ian Bailey from the Hawthorns Centre
My daughter and I clambered down onto the shore to help with the clean up and it was wonderful to see lots of volunteers already in action.

At first the shore looked relatively clean but on closer inspection, as well as all the usual sweet and chocolate wrappers, drinks cans and so forth, the surface was covered in countless bits of polystyrene debris.  With a litter picker, it was possible to pick up some of the larger chunks of this but there were a lot of small crumbs of it all over the place.

Polystyrene debris
There was of course a lot of larger items of litter and rubbish along the shore, including the remains of a dinghy, a number of cannisters of various sizes, glass bottles and even the remains of a surfboard from a windsurfer!

Board from a Windsurfer found during the beach clean!
I was very pleased to see a group from the University of Southampton who were volunteers from their Marine Conservation Society. They were hard at work making a big difference to the area.

The Marine Conservation Society at Chessel Bay, hard at work
Looking closer at the ground at Chessel Bay, in some areas the soil was thick with nurdles - the small pellets of plastic that are used in manufacturing.  This was so bad that one of the volunteers from Marine Conservation Society commented to me later that in parts of the shore, there seemed to be more nurdles than soil.

As always, it was heartening to see volunteers taking action to improve an area. I had to leave half way through the event and already a great quantity of rubbish of all sorts had been cleared up.  Yet to see the soil so embedded with the offcasts of our industry shocked and dismayed me.

Chessel Bay is a beautiful part of Southampton, precious in being one of the few ways to access the water. The volunteers are doing wonderful things in keeping it that way and let us hope that it receives even more care in the coming years.

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