Cumbria’s plea on coastal waste


Sir, – I write from St Bees, a village on the west coast of Cumbria, named after the seventh-century Irish princess St Bega, who fled across the Irish Sea to avoid marriage to a pagan Viking and, after being washed up on our beach, founded a nunnery here.

Unfortunately, Irish princesses and saints are not the only things which end up on our beach. A lot of marine litter arrives with every tide. Some, though by no means all, is identifiable from its labels as originating in Ireland, unsurprisingly in view of the direction of prevailing winds and currents. Because of this, I would like to draw your readers’ attention to a particular problem of which they may be unaware.

Twice a day, every day, I walk my dog along St Bees beach, picking up litter from the strand-line as I go, like many other regular dog-walkers, and many local and holidaying schoolchildren. Among the items we find most often, second only to fishing related litter, are tangles of thin, unbreakable, shiny ribbon, attached to remnants of balloons. They are usually wound around seaweed, but sometimes, sadly, around the legs of dead seabirds. St Bees is noted for its seabird reserve, as well as its priory.

I’m sure the children (and other inhabitants) of Ireland would not want their celebrations to lead to unsightly littering of beaches and injury and death to sea creatures and other animals. Can I therefore appeal to them through your pages to stop releasing balloons, or to buy only those which are completely biodegradable? – Yours, etc,


St Bees,

Cumbria, UK.