Llandysul Paddlers clean up

Llandysul Paddlers with some of the dumped waste they recovered fronm the River Teifi. Pic: Llandysul Paddlers.

Paddle Power . . . Welsh Canoe Club Leads The Fightback Against Illegal River Dumping

By Graham Thomas

Anyone visiting the River Teifi this springtime should have reason to applaud the work of Llandysul Paddlers Canoe Club.

The beauty of the river and its surroundings was under threat at the start of this year as pollution and debris suggested illegal dumping higher up stream from the village of Llandysul in Ceredigion.

That prompted canoe club members to explore the source of the problem and they soon discovered tons of black silage wrap had spewed their contents into the river.

Keen to protect their waterway – and mindful of their role in looking after the environment – the Llandysul canoeists organised their own clean-up, having alerted the river authorities to the damage.

Three big energy-sapping clean-up sessions later – which involved filling empty canoes and rafts with the debris and towing it all away – the club have so far removed over 10-tonnes of waste.

“We started in February and began with three Saturday clean-up sessions,” says Gareth Bryant, centre manager of Llandysul Paddlers.
“A lot of volunteers turned out to help us – there must have been around 50 people at one of the sessions – and it shows how concerned and alarmed people were at what was happening in that part of the river.


“The state of the river was just heart-breaking. We always spot small amounts of litter and clean that up, but this was on a different level.”

The extent of the issue and damage to wildlife and habitat was underlined by the fact that along with removing the silage, there were also dozens of dead fish, fish still alive but caught up in the wrapping, as well as the carcasses of six dead sheep.

All of it had to be towed clear by the members and volunteers, before being loaded onto tractors for removal.

“The area now looks amazing again, but we are hoping that Natural Resources Wales are now going to investigate and that local farmers will be spoken to, to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” says Gareth.

“We’re a canoe club, so the worry is if that if it happened again we simply haven’t got the resources and the man-hours to keep cleaning the river.”

The Big Paddle Clean Up

Canoeing is by no means the only sport to get active in combatting the threat pollution poses to participants and their environments.

Sailing has led the way in highlighting the horrors of plastic pollution, while Surfers Against Sewage have also shone a light on the amount of untreated sewage being washed into UK rivers and seas.

But few sports can have as direct a role in identifying the problems and dangers posed to Welsh rivers as the canoeists and kayakers who paddle across hundreds of miles of Welsh water every week.

That is why Canoe Wales recently launched their Big Paddle Clean Up campaign – aimed at removing 500 sacks of litter from inland and coastal waters between May 27 and June 11 this year.

Canoeists are being encouraged to organise clean-ups with club members and friends, log what they have achieved and where, and spread the word through social media, using the hashtags #BigPaddleCleanUp and #GlanhadMawrWrthBadlo.

The Paddlers’ Code

Those new to water sports – especially in rapidly growing areas like paddle boarding – are also encouraged to check out the governing body’s new “Paddlers’ Code” which offers advice on how to paddle responsibly and ensure a sustainable future for the sport.

Canoe Wales’ Places to Paddle Manager, Phil Stone is urging those newcomers to learn what is required and for all those on the water to help fight against pollution.

“Sadly, there is just more general mess in our rivers these days,” says Phil.

“There is a greater concern in the paddling community and the wider river users community – whether you’re bathing in the water or going outdoor swimming, or fishing or paddling – that we are seeing more rubbish and material in the rivers.

“If there is clear evidence of pollution, then canoeists should report it to the Natural Resources Wales reporting line.

“Within the Big Paddle Clean Up campaign, we are also sending out clean-up kits to clubs who request them – litter pickers, bags, bag hoops and gloves – to enable people to do their own clean-ups.”

Last year, over 30 clubs contacted Canoe Wales asking for kits and this year that figure is expected to rise.

“On a personal level, we are also asking individual canoeists, if you spot a piece of litter on the river, then please do your duty and pick it up. Log where you found it and report it via the website to the Big Paddle Clean Up campaign.

“Everyone can do their bit and there are also other environmental initiatives we are involved in, such as the Check, Clean, Dry campaign which is there to prevent the spread of invasive species on our waterways.

“We all need to work hard and be vigilant to protect the beautiful waterways we have.”

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