Belfast Telegraph

Tractor tyres among items cleared from Giant’s Causeway coastline

The National Trust has carried out its third water based litter pick from one of the region’s most famous coastlines.

Volunteers offload rubbish onto Ballintoy Harbour (Liam McBurney/PA)
Volunteers offload rubbish onto Ballintoy Harbour (Liam McBurney/PA)

Tractor tyres, lobster pots and plastic bottles have been cleaned off the beaches of Northern Ireland’s most famous coastline.

Swimmers, jet skis and small boats all helped to reach bays at the bottom of steep cliffs close to Unesco World Heritage Site the Giant’s Causeway.

It was the National Trust’s third litter pick at sea in the area which is teeming with wildlife from pods of dolphins to breeding seabirds, porpoises and even the occasional orca.

Last August, volunteers lifted more than two tonnes of rubbish in the second effort, following the first litter pick at sea in the area which took place in April.

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Volunteers help clean up rubbish around the coastline of the Giant’s Causeway (Liam McBurney/PA)

The initiative came after National Trust rangers noticed litter gathering on the remote beaches from cliff top paths close to the Giant’s Causeway, while carrying out daily litter picks at the north Antrim attraction.

Fiona Bryant, coastal officer for the National Trust in Northern Ireland, said they approached local outdoor activity providers for help.

“With the mixture of different clubs – coasteering, surf and a dive school – along with fishing vessels, it has been really helpful to get into each of the bays and make an impact by lifting the litter there,” she said.

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Volunteers load rubbish onto a boat (Liam McBurney/PA)

However even with all that expertise, she said operating on the often treacherous section of coastline – including the point where in 1588 the Spanish Armada’s Girona sank – demands a lot of preparation.

Much of the litter is washed up to the shore by high tides and storms, and it can become lodged in rocks, making it hard to remove.

“This point in the sea can be very stormy, and there is a lot of preparation goes into planning a day like this, from weather and tide conditions to the activity providers being available, our conservation rangers and all the staff,” she said.

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Fiona Bryant, coastal officer for the National Trust in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Trying to get everything co-ordinated on the same day is quite an operation.

“The volunteers have to swim to each bay to pick everything up and swim back so there is only so much you can do in one day.”

Ms Bryant described the litter collected as a “real mixture”.

“There is household waste, plastics, then some from the fishing industry such as ghost netting, ropes, lobster pots, plastic crates,” she said.

“Then there are lots of things left behind by visitors, sports equipment such as tennis balls, flip flops and shoes.

“There is a lot of plastic. Last year we lifted over a thousand plastic bottles, and some of them, you can tell from the labels, have been in the sea for quite a while.”

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A boat passes Port na Spaniagh during a litter pick around the coastline of the Giant’s Causeway (Liam McBurney/PA)

She warned of the dangers of plastic pollution in the sea to wildlife, adding the public can help by building litter picking into their day out.

“The long term effect on marine life have not yet been determined, but we know it is negative and we know that over time those plastics are breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces of micro plastics and that is having an effect on the marine environment,” she said.

“Every little bit helps to try and remove that from the bays.

“This areas is really important for marine life and breeding seabirds.

“As the leading conservation charity, the National Trust is trying to work this into the standard annual programmes.

“We carry out beach cleans on other properties, particularly around Murlough, Strangford Lough and Whitepark Bay. Rangers teams and volunteers work 364 days of the year on Portstewart Strand lifting litter as well.

“Of course the public can come along to help on those litter pick days, and also when they are visitors to special places, bringing their litter home or having their own beach clean – lifting some plastics when they are there as part of their day trip.”

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