I originally produced this blog on the Cornish Seal Sanctuary blog on 01/02/18

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We were barely out of the car when Wayne Dixon headed for a nearby stream to retrieve an old bodyboard. “These are a nightmare,” he explained in his soft Lancastrian accent, “places sell them for five or £10, so for some people its easier to just leave them behind at the beach rather take them away”.

Wayne is currently nearly halfway through a 7,000-mile journey around Britain with his Northern Inuit dog, Koda. The pair have undertaken the challenge of walking the coastline picking up litter in memory of Wayne’s late father and Koda’s first owner, John, who loved walking. Raising money for the charity MIND and for the Northern Inuit dog rescue, the pair have raised over £12,000 so far and covered 2,700 miles. Official Ambassadors for Keep Britain Tidy, Wayne is armed with a litter picker and bin bags, even Koda has his own mini backpack, as they walk around 6 miles per day, clearing as much as they can.

In order to support Wayne in his challenge, members of the Cornish Seal Sanctuary team joined him and Koda for a beach clean at Kennack Sands yesterday, accompanied by artist Rob Arnold and local wild swimmer Denise Gent.

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At first glance, the stretch of golden sand and designated nature reserve appeared to be clean, but on closer inspection, the beach clean team found it had a lot of micro plastics; nurdles and bio beads. Nurdles, sometimes nicknamed mermaid’s tears, are tiny plastic pellets which are melted to make plastic products. Bio beads are similar sized plastic pellets but are used in filtration in sewage works. Both have been found in their masses along our coastlines and can release toxic chemicals and be eaten by marine animals. There was also a very large amount of polystyrene, as well as the usual pieces of fishing litter and discarded dog bags. Some of these finds are daily occurrences for Wayne, who has also found a flymo in the middle of a woodland, washing bowls discarded down quiet country roads and spare dog bags; in fact he finds so many on his travels that he never has to buy any.

Despite walking largely around the coastal paths, Wayne was quite keen to stress that beach cleaning wasn’t the only thing we need to consider, “We need to focus on land litter. A large percentage of litter starts on land and makes its way into the sea. I find a lot of paper cups and crisp packets that have been thrown out of car windows that kill small animals.”Wayne’s main focus is to change people’s mind set’s when it comes to litter; encouraging everyone to pick up at least one piece “I find it frustrating when you see a dirty beach and you know 100 people have been on that beach. If they all just picked up 1 piece, it would clear the place up”. As part of his tour, Wayne has been popping into schools to teach children about litter picking, including not dropping litter and taking action when they do see it, explaining the impact that litter has on wildlife, something we see regularly at the sanctuary when our seals and pups become trapped in discarded nets and plastic bags.

After cleaning up the beach and returning to the sanctuary with sacks of litter and pockets full of nurdles, Wayne and Koda visited the seal sanctuary for the first time to visit the pups in the hospital and following the rescue stories, as well as enjoy a coffee and a pasty. At the convalescence pool, Koda was by the seals and Wayne saw his first ever real-life otters; the sanctuary’s very own Apricot and Harris!

After spending the day with the sanctuary team, Wayne and Koda headed back to Henry’s campsite, the Lizard, where the pair spent the night before continuing their journey up the South Coast of Cornwall. Wayne encourages people to join him when they can, so if you would like to join him for a clean-up, follow his journey or donate to his incredible cause, check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WayneDixonwalkingtheUK/

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