Getting to know: Till the Coast is Clear

Getting to know: Till the Coast is Clear

Having grown up on a peaceful island in Norway, known for its crisp Arctic air, stunning fjords and magical skies, Gary developed a passion for looking after our natural world from an early age. 

After moving back to the UK and regularly witnessing the scarring destruction that pollution was having to our coastlines whilst sea kayaking and trail running, Gary decided to take to the water himself to make a much need change. 

Till the Coast is Clear was born, an innovative plastic pollution recovery organisation. The aim is to reduce impact on wildlife and the environment by collecting otherwise impossible to reach plastics and debris from creeks, caves and tiny beaches on the South West’s coastline using volunteers to try and encourage as many people to get out and fall in love with nature as possible.

Having grown up on a peaceful island in Norway, known for its crisp Arctic air, stunning fjords and magical skies, Gary developed a passion for looking after our natural world from an early age. 

After moving back to the UK and regularly witnessing the scarring destruction that pollution was having to our coastlines whilst sea kayaking and trail running, Gary decided to take to the water himself to make a much need change. 

Till the Coast is Clear was born, an innovative plastic pollution recovery organisation. The aim is to reduce impact on wildlife and the environment by collecting otherwise impossible to reach plastics and debris from creeks, caves and tiny beaches on the South West’s coastline using volunteers to try and encourage as many people to get out and fall in love with nature as possible.

 

Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Gary, I run a South Devon based community interest company focused on plastic pollution recovery and nature regeneration.


Have you always lived by the sea?
Actually no, I was born in Kent and can only recall occasional seaside holidays when young, which all changed when I was about 8 years old and I was incredibly lucky to move to Norway with my family where we lived on an island called Ormoy. It was brilliant, I had to catch a ferry to school with my sister. It was a paradise to me, freedom to roam, loads of fruit trees, den building and fishing trips.


Have you always worked in conservation?
I wish I could say that I had, in fact, despite having always been very conscious of a deep love of the natural world, in the ignorance of youth, I worked in one of the very industries that is most damaging to it, namely the mass market cruise ship business. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge anyone a well earned holiday, it's just that it has become a phenomenally polluting way to relax!


What is ’Till the Coast is Clear’ all about?
We specialise in recovering plastic and other pollution from inaccessible parts of South Devon's Coastline, we have two special boats and four double kayaks made from recycled plastic and fishing nets to enable us to get to locations that are otherwise impossible to clean up. We use volunteer crew members and try and encourage as many people to get out and fall in love with nature as possible.

 

Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Gary, I run a South Devon based community interest company focused on plastic pollution recovery
and nature regeneration.


Have you always lived by the sea?
Actually no, I was born in Kent and can only recall occasional seaside holidays when young, which all changed when I was about 8 years old and I was incredibly lucky to move to Norway with my family where we lived on an island called Ormoy. It was brilliant, I had to catch a ferry to school with my sister. It was a paradise to me, freedom to roam, loads of fruit trees, den building and fishing trips.


Have you always worked in conservation?
I wish I could say that I had, in fact, despite having always been very conscious of a deep love of the natural world, in the ignorance of youth, I worked in one of the very industries that is most damaging to it, namely the mass market cruise ship business. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge anyone a well earned holiday, it's just that it has become a phenomenally polluting way to relax!


What is ’Till the Coast is Clear’ all about?
We specialise in recovering plastic and other pollution from inaccessible parts of South Devon's Coastline, we have two special boats and four double kayaks made from recycled plastic and fishing nets to enable us to get to locations that are otherwise impossible to clean up. We use volunteer crew members and try and encourage as many people to get out and fall in love with nature as possible.

 

What inspired this fantastic initiative?
Simply an absolute need to be doing something practical about a problem that drove me to distraction, I still find it bewildering that we can treat our planet and the creatures that we share it with so appallingly. The remote places that I would see when trail running and sea kayaking were always inundated with pollution and it was clear that a boat would be the most efficient way of reaching them.  


Do you work with any education programmes to help people understand the roots of the issue we face?
Yes we have visited many schools and we attend events and shows to interact with the public and always take a huge pile of recently recovered plastic pollution which many find quite shocking and unacceptable. In my experience quoting big numbers and even showing graphic images has no long term effect compared with seeing it for real.


Although there is still a lot of work to be done, are you seeing a more proactive approach to clearing our beaches?
There is undoubtedly something very special going on, more and more people are getting hands on and tackling the strandlines of the beaches they love on a daily basis and think it is fair to say that our coast is probably in the best condition it has been in for years. We alone have removed an estimated 12 tonnes of pollution from our South Devon shores, there is still a lot of work to be done however!

 

What’s the most common debris you find on the South West’s shorelines?
Commercial fishing gear is clearly the most prevalent find, there is also significant amounts of recreational angling kit and lots of leisure derived litter.

 

Do you offer any other services aside from organising beach clear ups?
We generally leave the standard public beach clean ups to the many other fantastic organisations and charities that do amazing work in this area, we like to focus on the inaccessible places that require a bit of an adventure to get to. We are also involved in some fantastic large scale community engagement projects that will also deliver real world benefits for all, The Brixham Litter Frees Seas Project is a good example of this and we are currently in the middle of building a huge whale sculpture and a special litter boom for the harbour that will be both artistic and educational. The Dolphin Project is another example and we hope to transform an old wooden motor cruiser into a community owned and operated electrically powered vessel.

 

 

What inspired this fantastic initiative?
Simply an absolute need to be doing something practical about a problem that drove me to distraction, I still find it bewildering that we can treat our planet and the creatures that we share it with so appallingly. The remote places that I would see when trail running and sea kayaking were always inundated with pollution and it was clear that a boat would be the most efficient way of reaching them.  


Do you work with any education programmes to help people understand the roots of the issue we face?
Yes we have visited many schools and we attend events and shows to interact with the public and always take a huge pile of recently recovered plastic pollution which many find quite shocking and unacceptable. In my experience quoting big numbers and even showing graphic images has no long term effect compared with seeing it for real.


Although there is still a lot of work to be done, are you seeing a more proactive approach to clearing our beaches?
There is undoubtedly something very special going on, more and more people are getting hands on and tackling the strandlines of the beaches they love on a daily basis and think it is fair to say that our coast is probably in the best condition it has been in for years. We alone have removed an estimated 12 tonnes of pollution from our South Devon shores, there is still a lot of work to be done however!

 

What’s the most common debris you find on the South West’s shorelines?
Commercial fishing gear is clearly the most prevalent find, there is also significant amounts of recreational angling kit and lots of leisure derived litter.

 

Do you offer any other services aside from organising beach clear ups?
We generally leave the standard public beach clean ups to the many other fantastic organisations and charities that do amazing work in this area, we like to focus on the inaccessible places that require a bit of an adventure to get to. We are also involved in some fantastic large scale community engagement projects that will also deliver real world benefits for all, The Brixham Litter Frees Seas Project is a good example of this and we are currently in the middle of building a huge whale sculpture and a special litter boom for the harbour that will be both artistic and educational. The Dolphin Project is another example and we hope to transform an old wooden motor cruiser into a community owned and operated electrically powered vessel.

 

 

  Do you see the impact this has on wildlife?
Yes, everyday you see creatures great and small trying to live amongst our filth, the most distressing is the large marine mammal entanglements which thankfully we have not encountered many of, if you look closely under the weed on any beach strand line you will see the smallest of creatures battling daily with polystyrene and other micro plastics.

 

What’s the most rewarding aspect of the job?
Arriving at an otherwise beautiful wild place that is blighted by plastic pollution and leaving it better than you found it and keeping it that way. Closely followed by the amazing transformations I have witnessed people go through once they understand what nature has to offer them, that is simple and free to all.

 

In terms of mentality or behaviour, what do you think could have the biggest impact on reducing littering?
A criminal record should do the trick!

 

How can people help, day to day?
Take responsibility for our actions, if we all did that, we would have very little to worry about!

 

What’s the vision/mission of Till the Coast is clear and how can people get involved?
To continue to clear up the mess we have made of our most beautiful and inspiring places in order to give nature a fighting chance, ultimately though we need to encourage as many people as possible to get hands on with the challenges that face us all, to fall in love with nature and to value all that is already around them. We regularly put up events on social media that volunteers are welcome to get involved with, there is also contact information on the web site www.tillthecoastisclear.org.

 

  Do you see the impact this has on wildlife?
Yes, everyday you see creatures great and small trying to live amongst our filth, the most distressing is the large marine mammal entanglements which thankfully we have not encountered many of, if you look closely under the weed on any beach strand line you will see the smallest of creatures battling daily with polystyrene and other micro plastics.

 

What’s the most rewarding aspect of the job?
Arriving at an otherwise beautiful wild place that is blighted by plastic pollution and leaving it better than you found it and keeping it that way. Closely followed by the amazing transformations I have witnessed people go through once they understand what nature has to offer them, that is simple and free to all.

 

In terms of mentality or behaviour, what do you think could have the biggest impact on reducing littering?
A criminal record should do the trick!

 

How can people help, day to day?
Take responsibility for our actions, if we all did that, we would have very little to worry about!

 

What’s the vision/mission of Till the Coast is clear and how can people get involved?
To continue to clear up the mess we have made of our most beautiful and inspiring places in order to give nature a fighting chance, ultimately though we need to encourage as many people as possible to get hands on with the challenges that face us all, to fall in love with nature and to value all that is already around them. We regularly put up events on social media that volunteers are welcome to get involved with, there is also contact information on the web site www.tillthecoastisclear.org.

QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS...

Describe Devon in 3 words...
Green, Blue, Home

One thing you’ve learnt the hard way...
Straying from my path

What job would you be terrible at...
One that required no creative input or hands on problem solving

Tea or coffee?
Both at the right time of day

What are you reading at the moment...
The Old Ways - A Journey on Foot - Robert MacFarlane

Best piece of advice you’ve been given...
Just do it!

Favourite beach...
The one, if it exists, not covered in plastic!

Favourite sea creature...
Not strictly a sea creature but The wandering Albatross is like us, utterly dependent on our seas & oceans

3 people you could invite for dinner...
Sir David Attenborough, Jacinda Ardern (NZ Prime Minister), Simon Reeve (Journalist)

QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS...

Describe Devon in 3 words...
Green, Blue, Home

One thing you’ve learnt the hard way...
Straying from my path

What job would you be terrible at...
One that required no creative input or hands on problem solving

Tea or coffee?
Both at the right time of day

What are you reading at the moment...
The Old Ways - A Journey on Foot - Robert MacFarlane

Best piece of advice you’ve been given...
Just do it!

Favourite beach...
The one, if it exists, not covered in plastic!

Favourite sea creature...
Not strictly a sea creature but The wandering Albatross is like us, utterly dependent on our seas & oceans

3 people you could invite for dinner...
Sir David Attenborough, Jacinda Ardern (NZ Prime Minister), Simon Reeve (Journalist)

Find out more and get involved with this fantastic cause here. 

Find out more and get involved with this fantastic cause here.