The primary objectives of Get On Board 2019 event, organised by Be Richmond, were to highlight the problems with plastic pollution in our waterways while creating a great community event involving residents, businesses, workers and charities both on the water and on the towpath. SWLEN organised the litter pick, representing local charities including The Poppy Factory and the Vineyard Community Centre.

The event, however, had a much bigger impact from what was anticipated, exceeded all expectations!

Approximately 250 people jumped on their paddle boards, paddle in hand, to navigate the Thames from Kew to Richmond, collecting all kinds of rubbish on their way. By the end of their journey, it became a competition of sorts regarding who had the most bizarre litter balancing on their board. Traffic cones and tennis balls were just some of the outrageous objects that were found polluting our river.

Meanwhile, another 150 walkers helped clear the towpath on both sides along the river. Our SWLEN team lead the litter pickers on foot who divided into four groups that walked along various paths, covering Teddington Lock to Ham, Kew Bridge to Richmond, Isleworth to Twickenham Lock and Twickenham Riverside to Richmond Bridge, while Councillor Pamela Fleming led a group around Petersham Woods. At points, the walkers and the paddlers were side-by-side, demonstrating that whether on land or water we all had the same goal in mind.

This spectacle of paddlers floating along beside those walking the towpath, understandably, brought forth a lot of inquiry from passer-by. Luckily, the explanation seemed to generate an overall positive response, with many thanking the groups for their involvements. Some even helped point out where litter was prone to accumulate.

After the routes were completed, and litter bags delivered to their proper locations, everyone headed back to The Bingham Riverhouse for well-deserved drinks and barbecue. Spirits were high as those holding litter pickers and paddles alike joined forces in cleaning our river and its surrounding area.

The picture was, without a doubt, a huge statement of the commitment and level of care that people have with their borough and the environment.

The overall feeling of the day was of friendship-a friendship that took ownership of the area you live in and love. As Erick Kervaon, Chairman of Be Richmond said:

“This great event brought together people from all aspects of Richmond life; businesses, workers, residents, schools and visitors, to show that not only do we care about our environment, we are prepared to do something about it.”