Every cleanup day brings its surprises, and this month’s was no exception. In February it was a gun in Croydon, in March we were rewarded with a pot-of-gold style rainbow, and this time round it was a giant goldfish in Wandsworth. Sadly it had already gulped its final gulp of the Wandle by the time we found it, quite possibly having died suddenly, goggle-eyed in shock at seeing the extent of rubbish facing it as it rounded the corner at Trewint Street.


Not so much the case with the eels though – we found a good six or seven of them, living quite happily amongst the submerged tyres and washing machines. You always feel slightly guilty evicting them from their urban habitat. After all, what might seem a rusting hulk of metal to us could be a watery penthouse to them. It would be nice to think they understood that our efforts were for their own good in the long run, but I suspect they eye us do-gooders with a certain lingering resentment. It was encouraging to see them alive and well though after September’s pollution incident, when some reports had them desperately wriggling from the river to escape the chemicals.

The riverfly monitors amongst us could be seen getting very excited with all the olives hatching around us. We were cleaning up on Adrian and Andy’s monitoring stretch, where they’d counted a good 500 or so nymphs from their 3-minute sweep in the morning. Theo and I hadn’t had so much luck up at Shepley Mill with just the one nymph – and curiously this was upstream of where the pollution had occurred. (It’s interesting to see how dramatically the river’s make-up can change from one stretch to the next). Theo did follow up his stone loach catch with an out-of-season stickleback though:


And our second site, Goat Bridge, yielded our second ever Blue Winged Olive – not exactly a Mayfly nymph, but as far as this urban chalkstream is concerned, pure Wandle gold.

By the time the 50-strong gang of volunteers had finished, there was a record breaking haul of rubbish. So much in fact that on turning up to cart it away, the boy from the council was heard to utter a string of expletives and had to call for back-up.

As for our poor goldfish, he ended up with the indignity of being carted off with the industrial lock boxes and mattresses. But I’d like to think that some of his last memories were happy ones of swimming free beside the Ravensbury Avenue industrial estate – a good three seconds’ worth of them anyway. And who knows what next month’s going to bring up. According to some reports, there are some pretty sizeable toothy critters lurking around the Wandle…

Wandle Rubbish Collection April 2008

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