Last weekend saw around 700 people wading, rowing and diving in an effort to clean up the River Taff. Volunteers lined the banks from the river’s source in the Brecon Beacons to its mouth in Cardiff - over 50 miles away.
The Taff is one of Wales’ most iconic natural landmarks and is one of the ten major rivers in the UK. Sadly, it has been subjected to misuse for over a hundred years. In the height of the coalmining era the water is said to have run black and more recently it has become a dumping ground for rubbish.
However, over the past decade there has been significant investment in improving the water quality of the river. Wildlife has returned in abundance - the upper reaches are said to be one of the best spots for trout fishing, while otter populations are repopulating the lower reaches.
Now volunteer groups are getting together to restore the watercourse to its pre-Industrial Revolution best. Environmental charity, Keep Wales Tidy, organised last weekend’s ‘Great Taff Tidy’ to encourage local residents to clean up unsightly litter black spots. They removed vast amounts of waste - including three unopened safes and a bag of stolen gold jewellery!
Kayakers from Canoe Wales removed rubbish from overhanging branches and volunteers from Keep Wales Tidy, the Welsh Assembly Government, Barclaycard, McDonalds and Llamau assisted from the shores. Other organizations involved included Cardiff Rivers Group, Dŵr Cymru, Glamorgan Anglers, The Ramblers, Sustrans and Merthyr Outdoor Learning Centre.
"Rivers are a crucial part of the Ecosystem and of great importance in terms of wildlife and biodiversity. They are also a great resource for recreation," said Louise Tambini, Projects Director for Keep Wales Tidy. "One of the biggest problems that we see is the litter. Not only does it look unsightly, but it can be dangerous to river users and inhabitants. The River Taff has benefited from significant investment, which has resulted in increased fish populations and biodiversity. So it's crucially important that we resolve the litter issue - to ensure this investment is not wasted."
She continued: "We have never before attempted to clean the entire river from the Beacons to Cardiff Bay. The response to our plea for volunteers has been astounding and just goes to show that the people of Wales really do care about their rivers."
Cardiff Central AM Jenny Randerson and prospective AM Nigel Howells were also there to help with the litter pick along the river bank. Nigel Howells said: "It's great to see so many people taking pride in their area and helping clean up the local environment."
Want to get involved? Tidy Wales Week takes place from 20-26th September. Keep Wales Tidy expect there to be around 1000 events taking place across Wales and are hoping to recruit 50,000 volunteers! Volunteers can register for a free clean up kit on the Keep Wales Tidy website.
Photo by Louise Tambini, Keep Wales Tidy Projects Officer.
Published: Wales Online, 2 August 2010