Friday, 6 September 2013

Tide Line

I wandered along the tide line this morning. To find shells and bits of driftwood. It bothered me that there was so much debris washed up by the sea, and started snapping it with my phone. Plastic mainly, in one form or another. Do you know that plastic constitutes 90% of the the rubbish floating on the surface of the sea?

It doesn't biodegrade. It photo degrades with sunlight, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Plastic doesn't ever really disappear - it gets eaten by marine life, washes up on our beaches or becomes microscopic plastic dust. Plastic also gets swept away by ocean currents, landing in ocean gyres. These are swirling vortexes of which the largest is off the coast of California. A swirling mass of plastic rubbish twice the size of Texas, that will never be cleaned up. It poses a significant threat to sea life. Millions of ocean animals and sea birds due to ingesting plastic.

Some of the other items that I saw included discarded netting and other fishing detritus. I saw sanitary wear, clothing, full dog poop bags and glass. Once I started poking about and taking these photographs, I grew more and more alarmed. This is my favourite beach. I love bringing the family here, and I cherish many happy memories of my boys playing here. Most of this rubbish had been washed up onto the beach from who knows where, although I would imagine some of it had been left behind by visitors to the beach.

I recently read Strands by Jean Sprackland. She spent a year recording discoveries made on her local beach in the North of England. She writes:

"Over the years, I've made many finds on my walks which sparked my curiosity. But I rarely followed up. I was busy; I forgot; something else grabbed my attention and the moment was I want to honour this place by looking more closely and recording what I see. I want to take the time to search for answers to my questions, and to follow wherever that search might lead."

What follows is a moving account her various finds. This includes the rubbish washed up by the tide. There are other discoveries too. Not everything on her beach is grim. The same can be said for my beach. I have found beautiful shells and feathers. I have watched different sea birds pecking at the Spider Crabs that have been flung onto the sand. I have hop scotched through jelly fish washed up by a high tide, marvelling in their gelatinous beauty. I pick things up and put them in my pocket. They are scattered throughout the house. A reminder of my time there.

So to whom did those shoes belong to? Did the blue flip flop escape a holiday makers foot while she paddled with her child? Did he try to get it back, but it was swept away from her by the capricious waves? Or did it get washed into the sea by one of those rogue waves that sometimes breaks onto the shore line when the tide is coming in? And the Frisbee (whose other half was at the other end of the beach). Did it get broken in anger? Did it split in two after being badly thrown and hitting a rock? Why wasn't it picked up and taken home?

What was in the polystyrene carton? Fish and chips? A Kebab? Why didn't it get put in the bin after the contents were eaten? And the light bulb. The most interesting one, in a way. How did a piece of glass survive intact like that, filament and all? It must have been bobbing around in the sea for a while. I was amazed that it had survived, something so fragile and 'disposable'.

But survive it has, along with all the other crap.

Another dog walker must have seen me taking pictures, and approached me. She pointed to an old fishing crate in which he had been collecting rubbish from the beach. So I started to help her. Just the big stuff - the plastic bottles. I didn't really want to pick up anything with my bare hands. Not after what I'd seen. She told me that over the past few weeks she had become obsessed with the rubbish on the tide line. She was making enquiries into who manages the beach, and how often it was cleaned up.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Lelant is filthy. It's not. But the tide continues to wash up some extraordinary things onto it. A legacy of sorts. A social commentary perhaps? A message in a plastic bottle?

Leanne xx


  1. It's upsetting, isn't it? And it's not just the beaches, though that's where so much of it ends up. I've been hiking in remote places and seen lots of trash in the wilderness. You have to wonder what kind of people would make the effort to hike all the way into a remote location only to strew trash around before they hike out again. It doesn't seem to fit. It's good of you to help with the clean-up and I understand why you were hesitant to touch so much of it with bare hands, I would have been too. But every bit helps, so thank you for doing that.

    You are not alone Leanne
    I can not walk past a piece ofi rubbish without picking it up ... If it is pick uppable

  3. Agree with your comments entirely. I live next to a lovely park. The rubbish deeply upsets me, there are plenty of bins. I walk regularly there and it is the young teenagers who drop it when sat in groups on the benches. No doubt to look "cool". It wasn't cool when I was young to drop litter. I am not brave enough to tackle them, so I pick it up when it is just the dog walkers there and take the glass and plastic bottles from their late night drinking sessions home and put them in my recycling. It makes me deeply sad, but at least I feel I am doing something to make it nicer for the rest of us. Jane

  4. It's dismaying to see what is being done to our beautiful planet. I am horrified by the swirl of plastic twice the size of Texas - impossible to imagine. This is a really great post Leanne.

  5. Interesting and inspiring post, Leanne. Right now, plastic is the most important pollutant on the beach in every part of our earth. I try to reduce using plastic bag or other plastic matters. Reuse plastic matter is one way to reduce pollution cause by plastic. Keep our beaches clean and clear. Have a nice weekend

  6. What an interesting post and something that Is so very close to my heart. When I lived by the sea years ago I did much the same on my daily walks and that was almost 15 years ago now. Then when I moved to the countryside I always carried a bag over my shoulder to collect rubbish that people couldn't be bothered to put in the bin themselves. It really infuriates me to see how little some people care for their environment and especially for the continuation of a flourishing ecology. I loathe plastic, the stuff is poison and I personally wish we could go back to market days where we take our bags to go and collect things, without any and everything be packed in plastic. I must add I won't be able to shop then (so thank goodness for online shopping). I think it's a wonderful post that really captures just what is happening out there and thank you for bringing it to people's attention and also for picking up some of the crap. Your photos are AMAZING, gosh how I miss the sea!!! Wishing you a very lovely weekend my dearest xoxox

  7. What a beautiful place that people are enjoying and treating so badly. It makes me so cross. My mum now ends up taking spare carrier bags with her when she goes on walks and picks up anything that she finds to throw away. It just does not seem right. Gorgeous photos though! x

  8. An excellent thought provocing post Leanne! We love the beach too but it is such a shame that people feel the need to drop litter, which in turn gets washed up on our beautiful beaches! It's awful to try and imagine a plastic swirl the size of Texas! Amazing photos again Leanne x

  9. do you know for a whole year after tilly was first born i would walk a circular route and collect (yes and bring home) all the interesting stuff i found walking that route! It was fascinating! I was going to make a huge art piece with it but having babies overtook me and in the end i threw all the stuff away! I so regret that now! Loved this and the fact you spent time picking up rubbish...still wanna come and live there x

  10. Great Post Leanne! It's pretty pristine here but I have visited parts of South East Asia that were completely spoiled by the rubbish lining their beaches and bays. Even World Heritage Areas protected by UNESCO such as Ha Long Bay in Vietnam had a huge problem dealing with rubbish - mostly plastic drinking water bottles. They had special boats out specifically to collect rubbish. It's a huge issue......but a vortex twice the size of Texas though? Sheesh! Have a great week ahead! Mel x

  11. I've been making similar observations on the beaches here in North Wales, and I find it scary and fascinating both at the same time!

  12. Leanne, what a fantastic post. I love how deeply you care about your local beaches, and the planet. It doesn't look so bad in the photos (in fact, they mainly make the beach look really nice!) but it's horrible to be up close to it.

    On a happier note, look at the beautiful art this person creates with the flotsam and jetsam she finds on her local beach:

    Gillian xx