Clearing the foreshore

The Newport Wetlands foreshore is a place where few people go; there’s a clear division between the top of the sea wall with the Wales Coast Path and the bottom with its SSSI status.  To climb down the seawall, you need to work with Natural Resources Wales, to have a permit and a clear plan which avoids disturbing the species that SSSI status is designed to protect.

The second half of March is usually a quiet period between the departure of our overwintering species and the arrival of our summer birds.  The reeds and saltmarsh plants have barely begun growing and the dominant colour is the brown of last year’s growth.  The spring tides are amongst the highest of the year and, with the south-westerly winds, bring masses of flotsam and jetsam across the mudflats to lodge in the saltmarsh and reeds.  The second half of March is when Natural Resources Wales organises a foreshore clearance with RSPB and Keep Wales Tidy.

The past week saw clearance work on Wednesday and Friday.  Wednesday’s small group started by the East Usk Lighthouse and worked west filling about 30 rubbish sacks.  What we found was mostly plastic in its many forms.  Cotton bud sticks, expanded polystyrene, shoes, “disposable” lighters, drinks bottles, take away food cartons, garden seats, broken local authority recycling bins (we filled these up again).  We had a few surprises: 50+ tennis balls with dog teeth marks; three yellow ducks from a duck race; medicines (painkillers, vitamins, antibiotics) and a message in a bottle from a young girl in Rogerstone.  None of these can be recycled because they’re too dirty (recyclers ask you to wash your food packaging at home before putting it on the kerb for collection and the same applies to the plastics we found).  Some material has been recycled already – glass doesn’t have to be sparkly clean (and it wasn’t) before it goes into the recycling bin.

Up to our knees in ... rubbish and silt

All the rubbish was lodged in the reeds, amongst driftwood and the banks of last year’s dead stems.  Most of it needs to be pulled out firmly whilst watching your step to avoid close acquaintance with the gloopy silt.  We could see the early signs of the saltmarsh plants starting to grow.  Just a few inches of green shoots were emerging from the wet, silty mud.  It won’t be long before the foreshore is green again.

Wednesday's team complete with tennis balls and yellow ducks

On Friday a team from NRW and a corporate team joined in.  More than 50 bags of rubbish plus a similar amount too big to bag was cleared.  Two day’s tides had brought a little a more rubbish onto the shore and was quickly cleared.  The teams cleared further west reaching the mouth of the Usk.

Clearing west towards Uskmouth

Much of the rubbish was familiar, but there were a few new types: big blue barrels, gas cylinders, a road sign, several wheels complete with tyres, insulated water pipe, a fridge.

Friday's teams with some of their rubbish

The real theme is that our waters and our shores are the wrong place for things we discard and that our rubbish survives for decades and probably centuries even in the harsh environment of the seas.