River Severn - Big Beach Clean

On the 16th September, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust hosted our first ever beach clean.

Gloucestershire isn’t a county that is well known for having a long coastline or very many beaches but it does have the River Severn which has a strong tidal influence that is felt all the way upstream to Gloucester.

The River Severn has the second largest tidal range in the world and a very unique and special feature of the river is the Severn bore that can be observed many times during the year. This is where a large wave travels up the river and spectators are often treated to the sight of people surfing or kayaking along it.


With the river running out to sea just at the edge of our wonderful county, we have the internationally important wetland habitats of the Severn estuary, home to many thousands of breeding and wintering birds each year. Everything we put in our river, flows through these precious habitats. The issue of plastics in our oceans is getting more and more attention and everyone can do something to help.

The Severn vale catchment partnership hosted by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Severn Rivers Trust were really keen to get involved in the national Big Beach Clean weekend organised every year by the Marine Conservation Society. We decided to run an event on the banks of the River Severn at Fretherne, near Arlingham. Many other events were organised around the Severn Estuary by partners in the catchment partnership and we used the hashtag #spruceupthesevern to share ideas and photos.

Severn Beach Clean

We had a great turnout with twenty volunteers who enthusiastically set to work picking up all the litter we could find. We carried out a detailed survey along a 100m stretch and categorised all the litter found based on the type of material it was made from and identified the source of it if possible.

The overwhelming result was the amount of plastic we found. Over 80% of everything collected was made of plastic. The biggest contributors were plastic bottles, bottle lids and the sticks from cotton buds. We carried on and collected litter from a much longer stretch and found all kinds of things, from toilet seat lids to unopened cans of beer, many crisp and sweet packets and even a teddy bear.

Severn Beach Clean

If everyone recycled their bottles and properly disposed of cotton buds, or bought ones with paper sticks we can make a real difference to the amount of plastic waste entering our watercourses. The only things that should ever be flushed down the toilet are pee, poo and paper – not cotton buds or anything else!

The beach clean was a great success and something the catchment partnership is really excited to continue with, we will be organising more events in the future for everyone to get involved with.

Severn Beach Clean