Enthusiastic volunteers clear rubbish from river

Volunteers clean-up the river in Queen Elizabeth Park. 254C

Volunteers clean-up the river in Queen Elizabeth Park. 254C

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THE Journal joined Grantham Rivercare volunteers on cold and blustery Saturday as more than a dozen people gave up their morning to help clean a stretch of the River Witham at Queen Elizabeth Park.

GRANTHAM Rivercare Leader John Knowles tells me the most surprising object he’s pulled from the River Witham in his seven years was probably a computer printer earlier this year.

But one or two of the objects found on Saturday may well surpass that.

“The most challenging I can remember,” John said, “was trying to get a mattress out of the river. It was the weight of it that was the problem. It got to the point where I told everyone to leave it but they hate leaving anything behind.

“We got it out in the end.”

When I join the volunteers they are clearing away rubbish blocking the river at the bridge at Harrowby Mill.

They have already pulled out a child’s mountain bike in more than reasonable condition, along with a car tyre.

John said: “It’s a lovely stretch of river and we are very lucky to have it but when you think that all this rubbish has been thrown in by people, it’s awful really.”

The river level is particularly low at the moment due to a lack of rain which is causing more rubbish than ever to become snagged.

The volunteers - who ranged in age from children to over 70s - at times show scant disregard for their own well-being in doing everything they could to pull rubbish from the river.

At one stage I found myself helping a lady as she heaved a weighted traffic cone from the river bed while hanging on to a thorn bush to prevent herself falling in.

John said such commitment to the cause is not uncommon.

He added: “We have about 40 volunteers and get about half that number each time we have a rivercare morning. There’s tremendous enthusiasm from everyone.

“Sometimes, if I even dare to think about calling it off they say ‘come on John, we can get out there’.”

“It’s a smashing group of volunteers. They love the challenge and don’t mind getting dirty.”

As we make our way along the river towards Wyndham Park, two wheelbarrows are filled with more traffic cones, bottles, cans and other litter.

I alone pulled an adult’s trainer and a breast pump from river and I’m certain everyone there found equally strange items.

After two hours the group, tired and dirty, calls a halt until next time. I ask if more bins along the river would be a solution to the fly-tipping problem.

“The problem is,” said one volunteer, “they throw the bins in the river.”