By Adam Manning, Sunday 29th June 2014
As a boy growing up in Southampton my family were frequent visitors to Weston Shore and so I grew up with a love for the place. There were long walks along the beautiful beach with so much to explore.
Sadly the area had a bad reputation locally. Every now and then cars would be left on the shore and set on fire and there was lots of litter and rubbish everywhere. It was one of the few areas in Southampton where people could easily go to the seaside yet at the same time it seemed to be neglected and thought of with a certain disdain. During the nineties environmental issues became more prominent and I thought a good practical way to get involved would be to clear up litter on the shore.
Fortunately Southampton City Council were happy to help and as a first attempt we decided to concentrate on the stream that crosses Weston Shore on the way towards Weston Sailing Club. So, one day in August 1996 my brother Lawrence and I walked to the stream with some bags for the rubbish. We worked all day in the bright summer sunshine and by the end had a large number of bin bags full of litter and rubbish to show for our troubles. The Council duly arrived at the appointed time to take it away and it was wonderful to look round afterwards and see the area looking pristine and clean.
That was the start and every year for around the next decade or so we held a clean up on the beach with the help of the Council. At first we only had the bags to put the rubbish in but eventually we were able to borrow litter pickers which made the work a lot easier. The shore was very dirty when we started with litter and rubbish of all sorts strewn everywhere. There was always an endless supply of plastic straws, drink cans and cartons, chocolate bar wrappers and the plastic bindings that keep packs of four or six cans of drink together. For some reason if you found a shoe or a sock, it was almost always only one of a pair which left the puzzling conclusion that someone had left the shore with only one sock or shoe.
Over the years the litter picks became steadily larger and it was inspiring to find so many people wanting to get involved. We soon built up a core of regulars who came along every time. During the late 2000s the Council suggested that we should form into a “Friends” group as this would enable us to apply for funding and branch out into other activities to help Weston Shore. In 2009 Weston Shore was given the prestigious Green Flag award in recognition of its improving condition and that year the Friends of Weston Shore group was formally constituted.
Our annual litter pick has grown into our biggest event each year and last year was our most well attended of all, with sixty participants. As well as the public clean up in August, we hold smaller events as a group throughout the year and also work with other organisations who want to come down and lend a hand, including the Marine Conservation Society.
The focus of our efforts is still very much on working to keep the shore clear of litter but we have also run other events including a book reading, walks to enjoy the area and pirate themed fun days for families. We are always looking for new ideas for the shore and so if you have any please let us know.
The inter-tidal area at Weston Shore is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its value as a habitat for wading birds. Weston Shore is home to a large range of plant and animal life from the bladder wrack and gutweed on the tide line, the sea campion and the meadow brown butterfly in the grasslands to the egrets and curlew that fish there. It’s a wonderful, rich habitat for nature and we are passionate about protecting and celebrating this resource we have right on our doorstep.
We are very grateful for all the help we get from Southampton City Council and Groundwork Solent with our efforts for Weston Shore.
We are often told by visitors to Weston Shore how much cleaner the shore is now compared to years gone by and this is something we are keen to continue and improve upon. If you want to learn more about the Friends of Weston Shore please have a look at our website at https://westonshore.wordpress.com, find us on Facebook or follow us on twitter at @WestonShore. The more help we have the more we can achieve so please get in touch!