Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!

When discussing what we would do for our community project part of the Dunamis Diploma course, the idea of beach cleaning was suggested and we all immediately liked it. We decided on a Thursday in September before we were due back at college. We all played a part and the day came together nicely; a few people who knew the East Sussex Coast well considered locations, one person did the risk assessment, several people brought equipment, another person took photos and so on. We settled on Seaford.

On the Day

When we arrived in the morning we felt joy in seeing each other again and we were lucky that it was a beautiful, glorious day. A few of us had arrived early to take a dip in the big blue sea, which was smooth and welcoming. I still remember bobbing in the sea on that day, feeling the cool water soothe my body and mind. Then it was time to get to work! We initially worried there was not a lot to clean as at first glance there didn’t seem to be much rubbish on the beach (which is a good thing of course …). As we started spreading out and looked more closely, there were loads of smaller
pieces of litter, from less pleasant discarded tissues and wet wipes, ear plugs and dental brushes, to a champagne cork, a tiny plastic soldier, a reindeer Christmas decoration, bottle tops, sweetwrappers, plastic netting etc. Some of us commented that it is the small pieces of plastic that can do a lot of damage to wildlife as birds may pick up these pieces thinking it’s food, or get caught up in the plastic netting. All in all, we collected several bags of rubbish from a relatively small stretch of beach, occasionally musing about our collective carelessness that results in the damage to the environment, and making some disapproving noises when something filthy went into a bag. A local fisherman was pleased with our efforts and offered to take our picture.

How we felt

We felt satisfaction in having done our little bit to clean a stretch of beach that gives pleasure, fun and comfort to so many people, and that belongs to us all and connects us all, as Rachel Carson wrote so beautifully and poignantly:

‘Hearing the rising tide, I think how it is pressing also against other shores I know — rising on a southern beach where there is no fog, but a moon edging all the waves with silver and touching the wet sands with lambent sheen, and on a still more distant shore sending its streaming currents against the moonlit pinnacles and the dark caves of the coral rock.

Then in my thoughts these shores, so different in their nature and in the inhabitants they support, are made one by the unifying touch of the sea. For the differences I sense in this particular instant of time that is mine are but the differences of a moment, determined by our place in the stream of time and in the long rhythms of the sea’.

Rachel Carson

From The Sea Around Us (1951)