Thames Clean Up London

Cleaning The Thames: It’s Rubbish

On Sunday morning I woke up before 6:30am. It was biting cold and still dark outside, an unwelcomed reminder that summer is definitely over and the sharp British winter is on its way. We jumped on an early train, eating cinnamon rolls on the way to coax us out of that Sunday morning coma, and rode all the way to the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London.

We were greeted by the team at Thames 21 and jumped on board for their Big Count event. The aim of the morning was to not only pick up litter from along the Thames waterfront but collect much-needed data on the health of the river.

After a quick safety briefing, we wellied-up, grabbed some gloves and got stuck in.


We got stuck in that mud. It was like quicksand in some places!

After leveraging our wellies free, we were off.

Picking litter along the Thames was certainly a different way to spend a Sunday morning. We wandered along the banks, eyes peeled for rubbish and filled up our bin bags with waste. We mostly found an inexplicable amount of plastic. Food wrappers and carrier bags were the main culprits, with wet wipes coming a close second.

It was a far cry from the Gili T clean-ups we are used to – primarily the lack of sun, sand and Bintangs, but it was such a nice clean up to be a part of nonetheless. I loved getting that close to the Thames, combing plastic out of her muddy hair, and leaving the area substantially cleaner than we found it.  Walking away from it all mud-free (after washing the wellies and removing the gloves) was an added bonus.

Seeing the city from that angle, right down on the waterfront, was refreshing. And there’s something about being close to water that soothes me, no matter how dirty and brown it is.

Being up and out that early on a Sunday was a nice change too. We spent the rest of the day riding Boris bikes, drinking coffee in cool places, eating eating eating, and wandering through St. Paul’s cathedral like the touristy Londoners we are.

Tips For Attending a Clean-Up:

  • Do arrive on time to get wellies and gloves – an absolute must considering how muddy that Thames is
  • Don’t put dirty gloves near your mouth/eyes/ears – you could get Weil’s disease
  • Don’t google what Weil’s disease is after getting some mud on your face. Just don’t. You don’t need that stress.

I wrote an article about the day that motivated me to join this clean up, you can check it out here.

Thames 21 are a great charity to keep your eye on if you’re interested in making a difference to London’s waterways. Outside of London, check out the Marine Conservation Society and Ocean Conservancy who do great work with waterways worldwide.


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