Case study:Cardiff Rivers Group

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Location: 51° 31' 9", -3° 15' 16"
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Project overview

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Status In progress
Project web site
Themes Environmental flows and water resources, Habitat and biodiversity, Social benefits, Water quality, Urban
Country Wales
Main contact forename Hugh
Main contact surname Kettle
Main contact user ID User:Cardiffriversgroup
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Project summary

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Cardiff Rivers Group (CRG) was formed as a result of Keep Wales Tidy organised events around the River Taff as part of the Tidy Towns initiative. A small number (6) volunteers formed the group to primarily tackle the build up of rubbish and litter in and around the Taff running from the Cardiff boundary down to Cardiff Bay. This was chosen initially because of the amount of rubbish that needed removing but also because it is such an important river and amenity running through the centre of the capital city of Wales, with the Taff Trail running alongside it and includes Bute Park. What should be an icon was in danger of being an eyesore. Following the success of our group and increasing numbers of volunteers – we carry out projects at least every 3 weeks on watercourses in Cardiff and surrounding areas. The events are individually risk-assessed and since 2009, we have undertaken over 120 events. We have a fully formed committee which is totally independent with limited financially self-sufficiency. We have a strong partnership with Cardiff parks Services, and it is a true partnership. They often identify a site for us in desperate need of attention where they don’t have the resources to cover. We tackle it and then Parks collect the bags and whatever we drag out of the water for disposal. They supply bags and other bits and pieces for us, as well as saving scrap metal which we collect and sell. As well as Cardiff parks we have a number of partners, some of whom support us, and some we support. Examples include KWT, Welsh Government, BT, Arriva, Associated British Ports and Waitrose who have provided us with some funding. Others have given funding and assistance in kind such as European Metal Recycling, Pontcanna Allotment Society, Porthkerry Park in Barry to name a few. Our core clean-up events are organised every 3 weeks. The weather and time of year dictates where we go and the scope of the activity. We generally target an area that has water –perhaps along the River Taff, Rhymney or Ely, or a park with a pond or lake such as Hendre Lake in St Mellons, or streams that flow throughout Cardiff such as at the back of the sorting office in Llanishen. The activities we do then are tailored to meet volunteer’s abilities and appetite. Many people will litter pick the areas, others will don a pair of waders and get into the water removing trolleys, motor bikes, road barriers etc. We also now undertake regular habitat management in Forest Farm and Grangemoor Park, such as reed clearing in the ponds, Himalayan Balsam pulling, and building dead hedges.

Monitoring surveys and results

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Our project is open ended with events being held every 3 weeks. Although the amount of rubbish we clear from the waterways is reducing in terms of large items, we still get a lot of plastics swept down from further upstream. We know we have made a difference and changed habits of people in Cardiff who used to use the rivers as an alternative rubbish bin, we have not been able to influence those further upstream. We have over 350 volunteers on our database and each event attracts between 20 and 30 volunteers, even in the depths of winter and irrespective of weather.

Since 2009, we have held 121 events and worked approximately 4930 volunteer hours, collecting the following :- 3307 bags of rubbish, 157 trolleys, 187 car tyres, 144 traffic cones, 57 bicycles, 13 motor bikes and an estimated 22 tons of rubbish and 7 tons of scrap.

Lessons learnt

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The cleanliness of our rivers is down to human education. By being highly visible in the events we undertake, we show people how pristine their rivers can be. When we leave areas clean, this discourages people from using the waterways as a convenient rubbish dump. Cleanliness breeds cleanliness.

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