This cleanup was also the annual Wandle Trust picnic which they organise as a thank you to us volunteers - much appreciated. It was also the last cleanup for Erica who has been the Cleanup Coordinator for as long as I've been going and, apparently, since very nearly the inception of the Wandle Trust.
This was advertised as mainly a balsam bashing event but within five minutes I had hauled the first of several shopping trolleys out of the river.
Himalayan balsam is not the only invasive species here; there were also several Giant Hogweed - best steered clear of as the sap can burn the skin.
We use half barrels as floating trugs to gather our harvest.
It is breeding season for many birds and we do our best to avoid the wildlife. Hopefully the mother will return to this nest once we have moved on.
By lunchtime we had the usual collection of rubbish.
One unusual item was a cloth bundle that had been weighted down by a brick attached with cable ties and a crucifix attached. Of course we had to investigate just in case it was something reportable.
As I had found it I got to snip the ties and unwrap the cloth. The smell was pretty rank as I revealed a white rat! Phew, at least it was not human. Whether it was a much loved pet or some Satanic ritual we will never know.
It was a lovely day for a picnic and we were able to relax in the sunshine after an earlier passing shower.
Gideon gave a speech of thanks for all Erica's work for the Trust over the years. Theo, Chairman of the Trustees, presented her with a card and gift vouchers.
Then a surprise presentation of a coconut. We often find half coconut shells in the river because of offerings from the nearby Ghanapathy Hindu temple. They can be used to mark new beginnings so it was an appropriate symbolic gesture for Erica.
Then another presentation this time of a collage showing various aspects of the river done by one of the other regulars. A really beautifully done piece of art and a wonderful, personal gift.
A great day all round.
More pictures on Flickr.