Warleigh Waste

I found this bag of rubbish deeply ironic.

Ordinarily I use this blog to laugh at the many and varied torments of life. You know, the ones that are infuriating at the time, but you can laugh at them later? Sometimes though, I feel I have to write about somethings that I’m not likely to laugh at later. Like the Warleigh Waste.

Myself and my family are continuous cruisers currently on the Kennet and Avon canal and one of the many reasons we choose to live this way is because of the close proximity to nature.

This is the environment I want Finn and Niamh to grow up in.

One of our favourite spots is at Claverton, not because it’s close to Warleigh weir, but because that was were we were granted an overstay by CRT before and after Finn was born. We spent a couple of months there and on Finn’s birth certificate his place of residence is noted as Ferry Lane.

At the bottom of Ferry Lane is a beautiful little spot called Warleigh Weir, which has always been a popular spot for swimming in the summer when it gets too hot. But in recent years this little spot has grown in popularity drawing more and more people from further afield.

Warleigh Weir from Ferry Lane.

Tony a local resident told me that it has always been busy in the summer, but he has never seen it as bad as in the last two years. As we spoke somebody cranked up a sound system and there were whoops and cheers from the 100 plus crowd gathered there. I asked him how he puts up with it and he shrugged. There isn’t much he can do. A few weeks ago people had trespassed into his back garden and stole a tender in broad daylight and he feels he has little hope of seeing that again. Tony’s 82 next week…

As has been seen by the aftermaths of many a festival (the village of Pilton after the Glasto is a perfect example of this), a thing which attracts crowds, also attracts rubbish. After a particularly busy week this month a large pile of rubbish had built up just on the other side of the railway tracks. Apparently it had started as a hippo bag placed by an unknown, but in the way of many piles of rubbish it out grew its container and sprawled out in the most hideous fashion.

Groups of swimmers stroll past the heap through shards of broken glass.

A local walker known as Luna Bella shared a post about the sprawling heap and the rubbish strewn about the fields on facebook it was picked up by the Bath Chronicle who ran an article, which got shared enough times that it came to the attention of a few people willing to do something about it.


Sam Worrall of Julian House and boater got in contact with Alison Millar the ward councillor who replied with:

“I’m sorry to hear this situation is causing such havoc. I’ve been in contact with the head of street cleansing, Montague Meerholz and he’s said he would send a team to deal with the rubbish – but they can’t cross the level crossing so all rubbish on the other side can’t be collected!

I’ve alerted all the members of claverton parish council to your emails as they are thinking of having an emergency meeting as it’s got so bad. Will let you know. Thanks for what you are doing.”

Sarah Esmerelda Golding a Bath postie and boater put an appeal for help on the Kennet and Avon Canal Boaters Society and was answered by plenty of willing support.

**6pm tomorrow onwards. Weds 21st** (Bring gloves and bin bags)

I know its not our mess but how does everyone feel about a Boater Clean Up at the wier? I have a van so if we get some decent strong bin bags and take it to Dundas bins? Then Fanny Gorman can make signs saying we did it this once but wont be doing it again etc. It’d be a shame to loose such a lovely place.

So on the longest day of the year a group of local residents and boaters (17 in total) turned up armed to the teeth with bins liners, gloves and litter pickers and rolled up their sleeves to tackle a heap that embodied a great wrong in our society.

Local residents and boaters work together in the heat to bag the mess.

It took over two hundred bin liners and over an hour to bag and shift the heap from one side of the track to the other and in spite of the grossness of the task there was lots of laughter about who could find the best stuff.

I guess the disposable bbq wasn’t up to the task.

We found raw and cooked meats, unopened packets of sandwiches, towels, shoes, cool boxes, disposable bbqs, beer cans, wine and cider bottles (many smashed), lilos, picnic blankets, socks and even a test for Chlamydia. The smell was atrocious and there were many squeals of disgust as unexpected bin juice spattered on feet hands and legs, but the band were determined and the heap was conquered.

A boater, Penny, gives the initial hippo bag the heave ho.
A few of the dream team.

A few of the swimmers were roped into the task as Tony thrust bins at them on the way past politely saying, “you’ve enjoyed our patch, can you help tidy it?”

Just a slight scar but the heap was vanquished.

I think that there was probably a bit of rubbish left at the weir last night as when I left, the party was still in full swing. I’ve been a boater for over twenty years now and during that time I’ve been called a number of things, but the worst to be levelled at me and I think the wider boating community is that we are somehow an environmental nuisance.

A sign put up by the Diggers crew, unfortunately ignored by the crowds.

All of the boaters I know wouldn’t dream of dumping their rubbish in this fashion. Even if it does mean humping it a couple of kilometers down the towpath in all weathers to dispose of it responsibly, that is what they will do. To see this level of carelessness makes our hearts sink, but thankfully we have a will to tackle it and that restores my faith in humanity somewhat.

We came, we smelt, we conquered.

I’m going to check on it later just to see if anything else needs a tidy, but thankfully (for the locals, Tony and his wife especially) the rain clouds have gathered and should deter people from coming down for a while at least.

I got in a bit of stinky wild swimming.




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