At the weekend I went for a short walk down the canal towpath in Stoke-on-Trent with my dog and camera. It amazes me how little time I’ve spent seeing my own city this way, a way which takes you off the beaten track and past places you couldn’t see from the roads. Having spent a week on a barge this summer, I know now how incredible our waterways are in the UK – they are a work of art and genius. Granted, the heart of Stoke-on-Trent probably isn’t the first place you think of for a nice Sunday wander, but I had a bit of a plan in mind. I wanted to see the types of litter in and around the canal itself and how much there is in a built up area such as Stoke.
I began at bridge 126 of the Trent & Mersey Canal and walked in the direction of the Steelite factory and Middleport Pottery. Before embarking on this walk, I discovered a young environmentalist called Lizzie who runs a blog at http://www.lizzieoutside.co.uk and she is particularly passionate about tackling the issue of litter and plastic debris. This year she paddle-boarded 400 miles of our canals collecting every plastic bottle along the way. She found that Stoke-on-Trent was one of the worst contenders for plastic rubbish. Although this didn’t shock me, it spurred me on to go and see it for myself.
Did you know that around 40% of ocean litter has come from our inland waterways e.g canals and rivers? I learnt that fact the other day and I couldn’t quite believe it. Unfortunately since parts of the canal networks are hidden away, they have become a hot spot for fly-tipping and general littering. I saw a variety of things on my walk, yes, even a drowning shopping trolley. Some bottles I could tell had been floating about for months if not years. As part of her clean up project, Lizzie Outside had revisited Stoke in September to collect more rubbish with a little help from volunteers. Otherwise, I think I would’ve seen a lot more. I am proud to be from an area with such a rich history and interesting link to canals, but we really need to keep an eye on litter in these inner city stretches.