‘Take only photos leave only footprints’ should be the motto of anyone spending time in a National Park.
So, as we mark World Cleanup Day on September 21, here are some of the most important ways you can help care for the South Downs:
- Leave no trace – take home any litter and recycle as much as possible
- Challenge anyone you see dropping litter
- Use refillable water bottles to reduce plastic waste – it’s important to stay hydrated. Fortunately, in the South Downs, you’re never too far from potable water, whether on the South Downs Way or rambling on the many other trails across the Park.
- Pick up after your dog and take it home or put it in a bin
- Join local clean-up teams – volunteers are the backbone for so much conservation activity in the National Park, from repairing trails to tree coppicing and planting, to helping to pick-up litter, volunteers in the National Park do a sterling job.
- Plogging – jogging and picking up litter!
- Report overfilled bins and flytipping – you might be the first person to spot these, find out who is responsible for removing these. Some items, like fridges or old car batteries, are particularly hazardous to just be left outside.
All these steps have a part to play in protecting this special area for future generations. But we have also come to realise that this is not enough, and we have to take action to clean up what past generations have dumped into our precious habitats.
This is particularly evident in some of the coastal areas of the South Downs National Park such as Seven Sisters Country Park, where plastic waste is lurking among the shingle and is being broken down into ever smaller pieces by the action of the waves as they pound the beach, and then being blown into the surrounding wetland habitats,
This summer the South Downs National Park Authority launched its first series of Youth Action Days to provide the next generation of custodians with some practical ways to make a difference to their local environment. A group of young people spent four hours removing plastics from around the estuary mouth at Seven Sisters.
The Youth Action Days also included clearance of Himalayan balsam – an invasive species along river banks – at Rotherlands Local Nature Reserve in Petersfield, as well as a butterfly conservation day near Storrington.
Daniel Greenwood, Volunteer Development Officer for the South Downs National Park, said: ‘Chatting to the youth volunteers it’s clear we have an emerging generation of people who are one of the most environmentally aware.
“It is hugely exciting in terms of how policies will be shaped by their desire and drive for positive environmental change.
“They want to be involved in making a difference for their futures and it’s great to be able to offer them a chance to take action.”
A number of free Youth Action Days are planned for the October half term holidays. Please check the South Downs National Park website for updates and to book at https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/care-for/volunteering-2/