Environment in association with the Mirror

Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000


Fly-tipping is a serious problem for urban rivers. Not only does it blight the landscape but it can pollute the water and damage the river environment. Rubbish dumped on the riverbed (from plastic bags to larger items such as car parts, bathtubs and arm chairs) traps silt which smothers the natural gravels on the riverbed where plants and animals live and fish lay their eggs. Other items can be directly toxic, such as motorbikes which leak fuel. Research and experience has also shown that where rubbish is present, more gets dumped on top, leading to a spiral of neglect, reduced amenity value and disengagement of the local community with their environment.

A loophole in the law means that it is no-one’s responsibility to clear up this rubbish! Whilst landowners are supposed to clear the banks, and the Environment Agency will remove rubbish causing a flood risk, the law indicates it is down to community groups themselves to clean up our rivers. The Wande Trust has grown from an ad hoc group of volunteers pulling rubbish out of the River Wandle in south London, to a formal charity which helps others to do the same. This activity makes a big difference and an increasing number of people want to volunteer. Wading in a river is not an activity most people get the chance to do in an urban environment. Our river cleanup events provide an organised and safe situation enabling the community to experience their river in a new way and give something back to help their environment, whilst meeting new people and becoming part of a fun, Wandle volunteer community.

However, there is always more rubbish to remove and the number of people who showed up to our last cleanup event swamped our resources. We have developed the system and proven the success of the events but need help from the Aviva Community Fund to enable us to continue to run river cleanups and safely meet the demand of the increased numbers volunteering.

We will run 12 monthly community cleanup events on the River Wandle in south London over the next year. The events will be located along the length of the river (which is publicly accessible through four London boroughs) empowering the local communities and volunteers to make a real difference to their local environment.

The fund will enable us to buy much needed equipment, to recruit and train volunteer Event Supervisors and to organise and run the events. In particular we need more chest waders, gloves and wheelbarrows as well as safety equipment. Event organisation costs that we need to fund include van hire to transport kit to and from each site, refreshments for the volunteers and a contribution towards staff time. We will train at least six volunteer supervisors from the local community to help oversee the safety of the events. Their training will give them employable skills and experience in supervision, organisation and event management in a public facing role. A final celebratory event will thank all the volunteers and reflect on what they have collectively achieved for the Wandle, demonstrating the powerful difference a local community can make.

Without this additional support and equipment, we will be unable to run cleanups in 2017, losing the community momentum that has built up on the Wandle. The river cleanups will be open to all and, over the year, we expect to engage >420 volunteers giving 1600 hours to clear 30 tonnes of rubbish from 1.2 km of the River Wandle. Rubbish will be responsibly disposed of by the local authorities as a contribution to the project. The river flows through 85 hectares of green space and 12 hectares of Local Nature Reserves, which will be enhanced as a vital green corridor for wildlife, recreation and the local community.

However, none of this can be achieved without the support of the local community volunteers and the Aviva Community Fund, so please vote for our project and help us and the community make a positive difference for the Wandle in 2017!

Project Video

The Wandle Trust (part of the South East Rivers Trust)

Moment of Pride

The River Wandle has had a difficult past with years of use and abuse, considered no more than an open sewer just 50 years ago. The local community set the Wandle on its road to recovery and it is thanks to their hard work over the years that we have seen the Wandle recover and bounce back to life.

Location: River Wandle, United Kingdom