Day 7 Pilling Sands - Leave only footprint
Wednesday 12th April 2017
Start of Phase II!
It was a long drive, very long, from London to Pilling, a total of 5 hours. But even the wind and rain could dampen our spirits which were buoyed by the excitement of seeing the sea once more.
As we arrived the skies parted, drenching the hedgerows and flat green expanse of Pilling in golden afternoon sunlight. We were back in the rich green countryside, with the sorely missed blue ribbon stretching out beyond just under the horizon.
However, the joy did not last long, the access point to the mud-flats we were told would be there, was not. So after some asking around we eventually found an access point. Predictably, we discovered the land was not where we'd been granted permission for and instead was owned by the Environment Agency (EA). As we did not have permission to fly on Environment Agency land, in accordance with Civil Aviation Authority regulations, we had to move on. After getting through to the representative of the landowner and some investigation on their part, Pete eventually managed to gain access to the land we had permission for.
By now it was getting on for 5 pm, so for those who came to the beach clean we're sorry for missing you!
Pilling Sands was a good lesson on how difficult it can be to organise beach cleans without clear links with local beach cleaners, land owners and/or communities with the knowledge of the local area.
The area was chosen because it is a mudflat and marshy environment, an ideal coastal environment to help train our computer program. This is because the more varied the beaches we feed into the tagging program the smarter our algorithm gets.
Pete inspected the mud-flats we had permission to fly on, keeping an eye out for local bird and wildlife to ensure we did not disturb if we flew. But, after 40 minutes walking across the flats to the beach, while Pete could see plenty of birds he could not see a single piece of plastic. The only sign of people we could find were footprints in the soft mud.
This came as quite a surprise, we had thought we'd at least find some evidence of plastics or litter washed up, the odd fragment or fishing line perhaps. But there was nothing. We were not sure why this might be, perhaps a quirk of the landscape? Or a recent thorough beach clean?
With a strong breeze picking up, Ellie and Pete decided not to risk the wind and disturbing the local wildlife or birds for a chance of finding plastics. So with mixed feelings, partly glad that we could not find litter and disappointed we would not have a dataset, we packed up and headed off to our accommodation for the night.
It was uplifting to know we’d found a beach where, “Leave only footprints”, the ironic sign at Rhossili beach - the most polluted so far, had been realised. On Pilling sands, that day at least, we only found footprints.
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