National Beach Clean Week 2021: Checking In With Helen

Every September thousands of people take to the beach all over the UK to take part in the Great British Beach Clean.
The Great British Beach Clean, a Marine Conservation Society initiative, is a week-long event where hundreds of volunteers take part in beach cleans all around the UK. Litter data is collected to gauge the state of our beaches and the level of pollution. 
The data has been used to make a positive impact on our ocean - including the introduction of the plastic bag charge, banning microplastics in personal care products, better wet wipe labelling, and supporting a tax on single-use plastic items.

We check in with Gumbies Ambassador Helen to find out more about local beach cleans and how to get involved.


Hi Helen, how was your summer?

Summer was fun! With the Covid restrictions easing, it meant I was able to organise the Big Beach Cleans on Gower on a monthly basis; people have been so keen to get out and about to help, which has been so heart warming. I have also had the joy of running some beach cleans with local school children groups – they are so knowledgeable and passionate about all things beach clean! I have been working with local Gower businesses who have been supporting the events which has been wonderful to be able to promote both their businesses and the beach clean message wider. The generosity of businesses has been staggering – for example one lovely shop gave out at least 200 ice-creams to beach clean volunteers, plus we had another event where free sausage and chips were the reward; we also have yoga and music too so a real social vibe which helps get the volunteers engaged.

So, National Beach clean week - an important week raising awareness for all the good work volunteers like you do to keep our beaches clean?

Yes! I am organising my next Big Beach to be on Saturday 2nd October, which just falls outside of the week (good reason for that as I am co-ordinating it with my birthday – a birthday beach clean!) However, there are lots of other beach cleans happening in the Swansea and Gower area that week so I’ll be popping along to support some of them – we are so lucky to have a fabulous community of individuals who organise events in this area and we all support each other.

You have been involved with the 2 Minute Beach Clean movement for a while now - an amazing organization which has local communities right the way around our coastline. The movement is way more than just picking up litter, can you tell us why you got involved and how others can too ?

I have been running beach cleans for almost 10 years, but the 2minute message really resonated with me and the ethos that if everybody took two minutes to pick up, what a huge impact that could have. The 2minute Foundation use social media and direct action to empower, educate, inspire and enable individuals, groups and businesses to make simple changes or take part in simple actions that will contribute to the planet’s wellbeing, as well as their own. I am also very interested promoting wellbeing and feel that this kind of activity can really promote positive feelings of wellbeing; be it a mindfulness practice of simply walking along picking up rubbish, or the feeling of achievement that you have done something good in a selfless act of kindness, the chance to get outdoors in the fresh air and being active, to meeting new like minded people. My involvement really accelerated when I started to fundraise for 2minute beach clean stations which I thought were a genius idea – basically they are stations holding the equipment and messaging required to enable passers by to do a quick clean up; my dream to have 2minute beach clean stations around the coast of Swansea Bay and Gower is very soon becoming a reality as with the help of donations from individuals and businesses, I have been able to order fifteen stations which will soon be arriving! As my role of 2minute Angel, I will ensure the stations are being looked after and used to their potential plus continue to raise awareness through events etc. You can find out about the foundation and all they do at #2minutebeachclean | Home.

Apart from the obvious, tell us from your experience what beach cleans mean to local communities ?

It’s that sense of pride in what we have on our doorstep – Gower is a relatively small peninsular which has a really diverse landscape – I think of it as similar to a mini version of Cornwall. People come to my beach cleans because they love where they live and feel passionate about keeping it beautiful and keeping it safe for those who use the beaches and of course the wonderful wildlife that inhabits it. Local businesses are beginning to recover from really tough times through the lockdowns and they are keen to give back and support us too which really does sum up the community spirit of Gower, we have so much to celebrate. I’ve also seen friendships blossom where people have met on events – I’m waiting for the first beach clean wedding though....!

It's not just the 2minute beach clean movement that helps keep our beaches clean, there are many local organisations doing wonderful work. If this appeals to you, why not get involved. See below for Beach Clean organisations up and down the UK.

The 2 Minute Foundation

Marine Conservation Society

Surfers Against Sewage

Litter Free Coast & Sea