Two years ago, Peter Thorpe was voted by the IOG into our newly-created committee role, Volunteering Coordinator. Despite starting with some great ideas, including coordinating a parkrun takeover, the new plans to encourage volunteering within the group fell flat, as everything ground to a halt with the coronavirus pandemic. Now, with our group finally re-opened, Pete has restarted his remit with a last-minute volunteering opportunity to help out at Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Trimley Marshes with the annual Great British Beach Clean, organised by the Marine Conservation Society.
Pete and I had little idea what to expect when we initially arrived in Trimley, but after reaching the car park at the end of Cordy’s Lane, we were surprised to find a cardboard sign indicating a shuttle bus stop. Group pride forbade us from waiting around here, so we ploughed on and walked down to the marshes – a good thing too, as we eventually reached the visitor centre hut without seeing a soul along the way. We discovered when we arrived that, due to illness, only Neil – our coordinator for the day – was around to supervise, so the shuttle bus had not been running as often as originally planned. Fortunately, we caught Neil with just enough time to get us set up with a bin bag, a couple of pairs of rubbish collecting tongs and a clipboard. We were both rather surprised and questioned the need for paperwork … was our homework going to be marked? Neil patiently explained that whilst we were there to collect rubbish, the primary goal was actually to perform a survey of the types of rubbish that we found and so it was equally important that we recorded exactly what we were filling our bag up with…
And so the game was afoot … we spent the next couple of hours, working as a pair on our allocated section of beach, combing it for the smallest unnatural pieces of debris. I was surprised that there wasn’t quite as much as I had originally feared, and yet also how much small stuff was collected in certain key areas. We unearthed lots of plastic, the remnants of a football, two halves of a broken spade (but not the same one!), a plastic toy star and, at the end of the session, a humongous rope which had embedded itself into the bank and required Pete to utilise all his core strength to drag out from under the reeds!
All told, we’d only managed a small dent in a small section of the riverside, but we both felt rather pleased with ourselves for contributing a little time back to a worthwhile cause. As we waited around for the shuttle bus to return and got chatting to some of the other volunteers who had put in their time too, we learned that even better – SWT had arranged for us to be rewarded with our choice of a bottle of Adnams or a gin and tonic. Bonus!
It was really great to give a little something back, and I hope we’ll get the chance to do some more volunteering through the group soon. Plans are afoot, I am reliably informed!