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Age UK Cornwall and TAP20 Beach Cleans

Published on 22 September 2023 08:16 AM

Age UK Cornwall & Isles of Scilly & TAP 20: Beach Cleans 2023 

Porthpean Beach Clean | Saturday 16th September 

The day was better than forecasted. Force 4 winds, slight rain early, turning heavier later with the risk of thunderstorms – possibly lightning. Hardly one that would invite beach cleaners onto Porthpean just outside St Austell, but when the volunteers and I arrived just before 11 a.m., there were already a dozen or so intrepid, excited families and volunteers listening intently to their teacher, Rob Stevenson, about what they might see, do and collect.

Rob and his daughter, Emily, are founding partners of Beach Guardians who have been involved up and down the Cornish beaches and estuaries, with their host of followers, keeping our marine environment free from plastic and other contaminants.

Our co-hosted beach cleans are annual events planned carefully around the beginning of Autumn after the tourists have left the beaches free for us to roam and work on; it also coincides with World Clean-up Week. The media had done some of the work for us to alert possible volunteers to 3 beaches around our coast – Harlyn Bay, Porthpean and Swanpool.

Age UK Cornwall & Isles of Scilly are now making these events a yearly feature because it is a great way to get young and old to have fun together. This year, we are co-hosting events with TAP (Transport Access People) and focusing on connectivity and sustainability. You can find out more about their Sustainable Transport Service here. 

Nothing is better than being out in the fresh sea air with a mission.

Beach Cleaning, here we come! 

By 11 a.m., a dozen more volunteers had arrived, including local MP Steve Double. He combed one end of the beach with Anne, his wife, the Cornwall Councillor for St Austell Central and Gover division, and we were supported by Cornwall Councillor James Mustoe, Chairman of the Children & Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee, MP Office Manager. We certainly made an interesting and passionate team.

I found myself with Alli and her husband, Ian. Together, we began by sifting through the seaweed and did this in a very competitive manner!

‘We have got to find a Mermaid's Purse’ said Alli, ‘I have heard it takes up to 2 years for one of the sharks out there to produce young from their birth sack’. ‘Come on Tim, keep searching through fresh seaweed with your picker’.

In the beginning, Rob had laid out all the necessary tools and cleaning aids, including hand sanitisers, to help us all do our job. There were sieves, long-handled grabbers and a host of coloured bags. The pickers were made out of recycled plastics by Waterhaul in Newquay ‘Guess, what the blue ones are made from?’ A number of likely suggestions came from the crowd. ‘No, they are from COVID masks and were given to us by Treliske Hospital. The green ones are from ghost gear from discarded fishing nets. The reusable beach cleaning bags are made from old thrown-away tents from music festivals, including this year’s Boardmasters! The Women’s Institute sewed them together - making ideal litter-picker bags.

I have just found some burnt plastic; 'I’ve only learnt that because Rob showed us a piece earlier and explained how nasty it is, said Ian.’ ‘I haven’t found anything to write home about’, said Tim. ‘Keep going all’, Rob encouraged us – ‘let’s all come back to base at ten to Midday.


Show and tell

The ‘show and tell’ provided several impressive finds. 

A young lady showed us all a long piece of wood with strange hieroglyphics on it.’ That’s from China said Rob, it’s amazing to think that this has come halfway across the world and ended up on Portpean Beach. But look at those nasty rusty nails – they are really dangerous. 

‘What have you found young man? Rob turned to see a tiny outstretched hand with a weird white cone-shaped object with a sharp spike poking out. Ah! Connor, I think that is either the skeleton of a fish or a bird. Well done. I will get my daughter, Emily, to identify it – she studied Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth and is currently doing her PhD with Exeter University in Falmouth, and she is sure to know. Keep looking on our website to check out her findings' 

Beach Cleans - TAP20 - 16th September - Porthpean show and tell.jpg

What's next?

Later, I asked Rob how the Harlyn Bay beach clean had gone last weekend, and it appeared to have been a very successful day. Many families and people were getting in the last of the holiday weather.

Unfortunately, the very next day, Swanpool in Falmouth had to be cancelled because of severe weather conditions. We want to thank everyone who came to the Beach Cleans, especially the TAP team who brought our new Electric Vehicle to Swanpool. We are so sorry the weather shut us down. 

Don't worry - Lee, Rob, and I are planning an extra Beach Clean in October, we will keep you updated. ‘We are also planning next year’s beach guardianship’ Rob reminded us, see you then and do watch our social media channels and our website for more news 

We are indebted to Datasharp, who sponsored Age UK Cornwall and TAP 2023 for these events.  


Story by Tim Guy, AGE UK and TAP anniversary co-ordinator.

Published by Lee Davies, Age UK Cornwall Communications Lead. Please email for any media enquiries.