On Saturday the 18th of January, 8 members of the public and 3 RSPB staff and volunteers came together headed out onto St Combs Bay to clean the beach. We were blessed with the weather so in the bright sunlight, with the surf beating and the oystercatchers bleating, we set to work.

It wasn’t long before our binbags started to fill up and numerous piles of collected rubbish started to grow. It seemed that 90% or more of the litter had been thrown by the waves up to the top of the beach, along with a lot of seaweed – presumably a result of the winter storms.

As we worked, we spotted a coastguard lifeboat sailing close by, heading northwards. They may well have been on their way to Fraserburgh to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the loss of 5 crewmen from Fraserburgh’s lifeboat, the RNLB Duchess of Kent – which capsized at sea on 21/01/1970 while heading to the aid of a Danish fishing vessel.

It wasn’t all a slog though as a wee break was allowed! Some of us took time to enjoy the weather (now beginning to cloud over) and take in the fresh air some more. The party’s accompanying canine companion, Slioch, showed real dedication in bringing back one particular item of litter for us, again and again.

After three hours of (mostly) hard work we had an impressive haul between us. The rubbish we collected consisted of tyres, ropes, nets, fish crates, your standard litter and various other quite random bits and bobs.

Thanks to everyone’s hard work, this means there is now a large amount of plastic which will pollute the ocean no longer!

We will be doing it all again next month, with the next beach clean at Rattray Head on Sunday the 16th of February, 10am – 1pm. Hope to see you there!

RSPB and SC Johnson are working together to take action on the issue of marine plastics through a programme reaching over 300,000 people in 2019 and 2020. This work is possible due to their generous support.

photos and text by Stuart Leslie, long term residential volunteer