If you go down to the woods today…

(Written summer 2018  As at January 2020 we have 116 people on our list of litter pickers and have removed hundreds of sacks of rubbish from Westbury and tons of rubbish from the Trym and Hazel Brook, email  suswot2050@gmail.com if you want to help)

…You’re in for a big – pile of rubbish? At least, you would have been if you’d strolled past the Coombe Dingle car park at Blaise at the start of August.  A scaffolding pole, a lorry tyre and 30 car tyres, roadworks signs, concrete blocks, a hedge trimmer, bikes, carpets, tents, clothes, shoes, toys, plastic bottles, drinks cans, tins of paint and oil, mattresses, asbestos, an enormous wooden board and even the proverbial kitchen sink – just some of the junk that a crack team of SusWoT volunteers had pulled out of the Trym that week.

Sam and Di Sheepwood 2
Sam and Di with some of the litter from Sheepwood collected in April 2018

Since March 2018 Sustainable Westbury-on-Trym (SusWoT) has run a monthly litter pick. There are now more than 40 local people who pick litter and about half turn out for each litter picking session.  An astonishing  80 sacks of rubbish have been collected in four sessions as well as prams, a tractor tyre, and full suitcases!  The footpaths throughout Westbury, Sheepwood, and the woods by Vintery Lees and Clover Ground have been tackled.  There are some people who also do litter picking on their own at other times.  If you feel inspired to help please get in touch.  Email suswot2050@gmail.com .

Bristol Waste has been very supportive and is keen to help local groups wishing to run litter picking activities. Their Community Engagement Officer, Lydia Francisty, helped us set up the litter picking activities, advising us on best practice, loaning the kit we need and arranging for the assembled rubbish and recycling to be collected promptly.  Bristol Waste will also deal with broken glass, dog mess and needles reported to them.

In July SusWoT embarked upon the more ambitious task of starting to clear the river Trym. The Trym is around 4 miles long, rising in Filton and joining the Avon by Sea Mills railway station.  The river runs through culverts from Filton to Southmead, through Badock’s Wood as a river, and then through the centre of Westbury in channels and finally through Blaise and to the Avon as a ‘proper’ river.

The Trym before any cleaning

SusWoT would like the Trym, its tributary Hazel Brook, and their surrounding woodlands and meadows to become a high quality corridor for wildlife from Sea Mills to Southmead.  It is possible to walk from Sea Mills station to Blaise more or less off-road and beside the river except to cross the Shirehampton Road by the Mill House pub.  The Friends of Badock’s Wood  and Friends of Blaise have done great work to improve the environment in those areas.

Messing about in the river
cleaning the river

There has been lots of fly tipping for many years between the Dingle Bridge and the Shirehampton Bridge.  This detracts greatly from the benefits of spending time in this green oasis.  It is already home to kingfishers, kestrels, eels, owls and minnows as well as the more common urban wildlife, but it could become much more – diverse wildlife corridor linking Blaise to the Avon one way and to Badock’s Wood the other.

Dawn and Vanessa Cleaning the Trym
Dawn and Vanessa cleaning the river

The rain over the weekend of 26th and 27th July proved a huge accidental boost to the project to clean the Trym.  Instead of 10 people spending a couple of hours cleaning the Trym the activity was rescheduled to take place each evening from Monday to Thursday,

this allowed many more people to take part on at least one evening.  In all a whopping 27 people generously helped clear the river and remove the litter in the surrounding area.  In all about 100 man hours were spent clearing the river and litter picking the 500m stretch from the Dingle Bridge towards Shirehampton Road.  SusWot are grateful for the equipment lent and advice given, by Bristol and Avon Rivers Trust.

Cleaning the river was a real team effort. Those in waders and wellies worked in the river, passing stuff up to those on the bank sometimes needing a grappling hook to make it possible to haul out tyres loaded with gravel. There was so much rubbish in the river four barrows were in constant use moving the rubbish to the collection points.  Others concentrated on collecting litter from the banks and the surrounding woodland.

More rubbish from the Trym

We extracted a huge amount from a relatively small area. The water is much clearer and cleaner now and the wildlife will benefit.  But the benefits will not just be local.  The Trym links to the Avon and the Avon to the Severn, so all the plastic, paint, oil, asbestos, heavy metals and other materials that would have been washed out to sea won’t be, and better still many will be recycled.  All the money that Bristol Waste raise by recycling materials is fed back to their owner Bristol City Council.  So the tin can that is picked up and put in the recycling not only improves the environment but also helps pay for our local services.

Monday to Wednesday rubbish!
Some of the stuff pulled from the Trym over three evenings in July

So what’s next? We plan to finish the initial section in August to host a picnic in the meadow in September to encourage people to enjoy the space.

SusWoT organises litter picking on the last Sunday of every month from 11am to 1pm.  If you feel inspired to help please email SusWoT at suswot2050@gmail.com. You can find out more about SusWoT at www.suswot.org.uk. If you want to do something in your local area, litter-picking equipment can be borrowed from SusWoT, the Co-op on Canford Lane, or Bristol Waste, email SusWoT for more information.

Some of the team Cleaning the Trym
Picking litter you find all sorts including the kitchen sink