Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Catch of the day: Fermanagh anglers reel in bags of rubbish in riverside anti-litter drive

Raymond McClelland, Stephen Hey and Billy Gilmour from
Kesh Angling Club,
Raymond McClelland, Stephen Hey and Billy Gilmour from Kesh Angling Club,

Litter that is thrown into the water doesn't just disappear – as these guardians of the riverbank can testify.

In the case of the scenic Glendarragh River in Co Fermanagh, discarded litter is carried downstream and mounts up at the mouth of the waterway.

Once there, it gradually forms a litter tip that is only visible to boat users and cruisers carrying the tourists that flock to the Fermanagh Lakelands.

And every year a small group of dedicated anglers take to their boats to tackle that rubbish tip as part of our Big Spring Clean anti-litter drive.

Kesh and District Angling Club is urging people to take heed of the consequences of their actions and stop throwing rubbish into the Glendarragh, which is the haunt of valuable species like kingfishers, dippers and otters.

Chairman Stephen Hey explained: "Nobody sees it down there except boat traffic and cruisers, but it's like a rubbish tip.

"When all the reeds die back in winter, all the bottles are sitting on the side and it looks an awful state until May, when the reeds start to grow up. It would be good if some of this G8 money was spent on it."

Stephen pointed out that the Glendarragh is the only river in the area where cruisers can travel upstream from Lough Erne and moor in the village at the marina.

So if tourist boat traffic is confronted by a badly littered riverbank, the economy of Kesh could easily lose out.

"In the summer quite a lot of boat traffic comes up to use the hotel and the restaurants in the village. I know of one or two people who would be quite put off by the amount of rubbish that is there and you get the odd letter to the paper complaining about the rubbish," said Stephen, who believes the rubbish is due to fly-tipping.

"We've had a few strange things, a 6ft toy whale, for example. We found a doll. We've had gas bottles, fire extinguishers, beer barrels, but about 80% of it is plastic bottles and soft drinks containers.

"Over the years the water quality has been getting better, but from an aesthetic point of view it's terribly sad to come up the river in a boat and see a rubbish tip.

"Every year we're collecting all the last year's rubbish. I think it's improving slowly but surely, but if people didn't chuck it in, we wouldn't need to do it."

The Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with Tidy Northern Ireland and DoE Rethink Waste in a bid to inspire tens of thousands of people to roll up their sleeves this spring and tackle the litter blighting our towns and countryside.

We're hoping to galvanise 50,000 people to get involved in the Big Spring Clean across Northern Ireland this April – doubling last year's target of 25,000.

Our war on litter has also won the backing of stars such as golfing heavyweight Graeme McDowell, Olympian Paddy Barnes, Four Weddings And A Funeral star Simon Callow, who studied at Queen's in the 1960s, and football hero Gerry Armstrong.

Last year the Big Spring Clean mobilised 26,000 volunteers who lifted 163 tonnes of litter. This year we've set ourselves a target of getting 50,000 people involved in cleaning up litter hotspots.

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