Thursday, 22 November 2012

Not your ordinary day on the beach

Last weekend we headed down to Saunton Sands to join one of the local legs of the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) Autumn beach cleans.
There was a great turnout with over 100 eager volunteers, young and old, getting stuck in.
"Well done Liza and Millie! What have you found there then?"
The general idea of the morning is to get your gloves on, grab a bucket (and a friend!) and go fill it with as much marine litter as you can possibly find.
A couple of hours later and the bucket is full.... But what sorts of things did we find?
A smelly sock - OK not so shocking (apart from the fact you're holding it in your hands, Daisy!)
And who hasn't left a pair of flip flops on the beach before? (OK maybe that's just me). We did check that the owner hadn't just gone for a paddle!
Some of the items left on the beach can however be very damaging to the environment. For example, plastics make up the vast majority of marine litter and they never truly break down. Experts suggest plastic left in the environment will be with us in some microscopic form for many thousands of years.When in the sea, plastics can adsorb toxic chemicals, becoming increasingly harmful over time, and often enter the food chain when mistaken for food items by marine life. Over 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million seabirds die every year from ingestion of or entanglement in marine litter.
A closer look along any of our beaches is likely to provide you with a history of modern packaging and branding. Remember the ''Its the real thing!' strapline? Apparently that stopped being used in 1985!!!
It may take as long as 500 years for an aluminium can to fully break down and the rusting process obviously poses risks to both humans and marine life (notice the irony of the only legible thing left on this can!)
Along the edges of the sand-dunes we began to find dozens of these tiny plastic pellets. One of the SAS staff told us that these have been dubbed 'Mermaids Tears' and they are used in the manufacturing process of plastic products. 
Once you begin to recognise them you won't be surprised to learn that the Marine Conservation Society found them to be the second most common litter item found on UK beaches
There is a competitive element to add to the fun of the SAS beach cleans and a prize is given for the oldest item found. You can check out the Sun newspaper's report about the 45 year old Golden Wonder crisp packet found during one of last year's cleans of Saunton beach.
There is also a  prize for the finder of the item likely to have travelled the furthest....
As well as the most bizarre find of the day.... Somewhere out there is the fridge to go with this door!
Tides, currents and storms can also sometimes cause marine litter to gather in alarming clusters.
Our friend Jo took these shocking pictures the previous week at 'Crow Point' (just round from Saunton)
At the end of the clean it's time to gather the buckets together....
To survey the contents of the trailer......
And to guess the weight of the finds.... In total our marine litter experts at SAS estimated that we found almost one tonne of litter in the space of 2 hours on Saunton!
There is then time for a little creativity....
Great work kids!
Look at that beach - spotless!
Thanks to SAS for continuing to educate and activate us. They have got some great information and resources so check them out and support in any way you can.
 If you fancy looking further at the global impact of marine litter then you can watch a brilliant BBC documentary called 'Hawaii: Message in the Waves' here . We recently had a showing at the Croyde Deckchair Cinema which was followed by a really interesting discussion time.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Bonfire Preps. Pickwell Style.

If you are a long-standing follower of this blog, you may remember that this is Steve's favourite time of year. The time of year when he walks round with a permanent smile and a spring in his step. 

Never is this more acute than when the lorry arrives to deliver the fireworks. He even tries to draw the kids in to checking them all off the list.

This is why he has been nicknamed Gandalf (thanks PT). 
So here follows the Pickwell recipe for bonfire night preps:

1. Prepare the bonfire. Start by forming a structure which allows for a series of tunnels 

through which the wind will blow thus 'fanning the flames' from below. (make sure you check for hedgehogs at this point as they like to make little houses in a wood pile). 

Then load on anything you have to burn. 

2. Make paper lanterns. 

Start by cutting up bamboo into short and long lengths.

These will form the frame.

Make a triangle shape and masking tape the ends together to hold in place.

 Take a candle, wrap in tin foil (to collect the drips of wax) and fix into place with wire at the bottom. Create a higher, smaller triangle of bamboo and Voila! 

Next, using pva glue, dab liberally over tissue paper and stick onto each side, allowing for lots of overlap.  

Only take the tissue paper up to the point of the higher bamboo frame so it allows for the smoke of the candle to blow out the top.

When they are dry, cut a small window in the side so you can light the candles. Poke wire through the top of the triangle in a circle shape. Wrap wire around the long length of bamboo and create a strong hook to attach the lantern onto. 

3. Make paraffin torches. Cut lengths of wood about 80cm long (Hazel is particularly good for this as it is long and straight).

Cut up felt (make sure it isn't fire retardant as so much is these days), or towelling (we find is just as good) into long, thin strips..

Wrap tightly around the end of the wood and secure well with wire. These will be dipped in paraffin on the night!

4. Go for a walk and find all things 'autumnal'. These will be used to decorate the Ballroom, alongside our beautiful 'pattypan' squash (remember them from a previous blog post?). The final look of the decorations can be seen on a later post.

5. Find friends to keep you entertained while you work (and not just for what they are wearing)

Whatever props come to hand, we don't care! Just keep the entertainment rolling!

6. Invite the headmaster to keep the 'entertaining' friends in order.

7. Get a whole bunch of willing friends to start prepping the food! Bean and chorizo cassoulet and roasted butternut squash soup takes a heck of a lot of chopping!

We are ready. Let the games begin! 

(We will fill you in on the night afterwards - sorry you can't all be here!)