Monthly Archives: July 2020

Volunteering During Lockdown – Litter Lifts

Volunteering During Lockdown – Litter Lifts

Volunteering During Lockdown – Litter Lifts
Blog by Lisa Critchley

As environmental organisations are beginning to dust off their equipment, sanitise their gloves and get new procedures in place to take their valuable volunteers back out, volunteers need not necessarily wait to get back to action. There are some simple volunteer tasks you can do whilst we are sorting ourselves out! One important task is litter lifts. These are straightforward and can be done anytime you head outside.

The Problem

I have noticed a significant increase in litter since the lockdown restrictions lifted. There are more people about, enjoying the great outdoors, maybe taking a bottle of water with them or an energy drink. Fast food chains have re-opened, flooding with eager customers, desperate to get their teeth into their favourite food after months of no access. Many other food and drink services have opened their doors as well, offering takeaways in order to adhere to restrictions still in place. It is good news that we can now head out and support our local restaurants and cafes or eat our desired fast food again. However, it is terrible that this supposedly positive story of restrictions lifting, places re-opening and things getting back to normal, comes hand in hand with utter disregard for the natural environment and irresponsible behaviour. The majority of litter I see when out and about is takeaway cartons, fast food chain packaging, single use coffee cups, bottles of water, energy drinks cans, drinks cans and cigarette butts. It is very disappointing that some people are so careless and disrespectful of their local area and scenic spots. They come to these locations, consume their purchase and simply discard it on the ground, in the bushes, on the verge, into the rivers, on the Lough shore. No doubt they chose the location to enjoy their food, drink or exercise for its beauty, so why not keep it that way and take the empty cartons, bottles and cups home? They are lighter anyway!

Litter Lift

Litter is a big problem for a number of reasons. It is unsightly and can be smelly, spoiling our enjoyment of walks, scenic areas and parks. It contaminates and pollutes soil and water causing issues for wildlife and plants. It is dangerous to wildlife who can mistake it for food and eat it or become caught in it, both of which can lead to fatalities. It blocks our drainage systems, which can cause flooding. It can be washed into rivers and streams meaning it eventually ends up in our loughs and the oceans, which is again, detrimental to our wildlife and plants.

Lots of litter takes a very long time to break down, for example, even a seemingly harmless orange peel can take 2 years to decompose or a cigarette butt can take up to 12 years. This means that all our irresponsibly discarded rubbish stays in the environment for a very long time, affecting many different wildlife, plants and habitats.

Litter Lift

How Can You Help?

If you, like me, are frustrated by the litter you see when enjoying your local walks or visiting a scenic spot, you can do something about it. I know it is not your litter, but it is your world so you can definitely help by picking it up.

All you need is a pair of gloves (these are essential for health and safety) and something to collect the litter in like a bin bag or shopping bag. If you have a litter picker, you can also use one of these. They are not essential but do increase your reach and help if you have a bad back and cannot bend down.

Health and Safety

Before you start picking up litter there are a few things you must take note of:
– Don’t pick up broken glass or other sharp objects. You will put yourself at risk of being injured.
– Don’t pick up dog poo bags with dog poo in them. This is a health risk and disgusting. I have never understood why someone would go to the trouble of picking up a dog poo and then leave the bag. If they are not taking it away again, it is better to leave the poo as it will rot away, unlike the plastic bag!
– If you are working close to a river, as tempting as it is, please don’t reach for litter close to the water if it puts you at risk of falling in.
– Take extreme care if you come across single use gloves or face masks. These hold the risk of being contaminated with Covid-19. Never touch these directly, use a litter picker if you have one and remember to sanitise it after.

Litter Lift

After the Litter Lift

Once you have finished picking up litter, tie the bag up securely and put it in the nearest bin, if it doesn’t fit, you can leave it beside the bin and the council will collect it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me how much litter can be collected in a small area, having led litter lifts for years, however, it may come as a surprise to you how much you find when you start to look. It certainly surprised my boyfriend how much I collected when making the video – in about a 20-metre stretch I lifted enough to pretty much fill a bin bag.

Litter Lift

Thank YOU!

If you do decide to pick up some litter next time you are out, thank you so much for helping to keep our beautiful countryside, and urban areas, clean! I would love to hear about it if you have picked up litter, so please let me know by emailing me.

We are hoping to get small groups of volunteers up and running again very soon. If you would like to volunteer for Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership, please email me and I can add you to our mailing list.

Volunteering in Lockdown – Litter Lift

Over lockdown, the practical side of our Litterless Lough project had to come to a stop, meaning many sites that we would normally target for litter lifts have been left unchecked. I have noticed a disheartening increase in litter with the opening of takeaway services and knew I could still do something about it by making this video. We are almost ready to take volunteers back out again but in the meantime or if you cannot join volunteering sessions, you can still make a difference! Watch this video to find out how.If you do head out and lift some litter, thank you so much and please let me know!

Posted by Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership on Saturday, 4 July 2020

Engineering Water and Land Around Lough Neagh

Engineering Water and Land Around Lough Neagh

Blog by Dr Liam Campbell

There is a lot of civil engineering around the Bann and Lough  Neagh. I will return to this soon.

Our second youngest daughter wants to be a civil engineer. She loves reading about natural features, such as water and engineering and  we have  a profusion of old mills near where we live to interest her.  There are many moves to help and encourage women into this ancient profession but it historically hasn’t been easy for women to break into this job. But I have been doing some research. Women according to archaeological evidence throughout Europe and further afield, were primarily responsible for the collection of water from the wells  for domestic purposes – the archetypal ‘water carriers’. This iconic image connects with their reproductive role as literal and metaphorical ‘bearers of life’ .Women generally were responsible for the management of water resources. The worship of many female deities at that time suggests that they also enjoyed considerable  political and  religious equality and with more collective forms of resource ownership, greater economic parity as well. Much of the early water management was transferred to male monasteries and women become disenfranchised from the control of water. Although the invention of the water pump saved time – it was the beginning of the transfer of water management into the hands of male engineers : a process that led to the piping and culverting of water into more individuated domestic spaces whereas wells had been social spaces owned by everyone. People become consumers of water and the environmental relationships change. Nature is more associated with the female and the culture of controlling it becomes more male.

In 1795, Oliver Goldsmith wrote:

God has endowed is with abilities to turn this great extend of water to our own advantage. He has made these things, perhaps for other uses; but he has given is the faculties to conveet them to our own….Let us then boldly affirm, that the earth, amd all its wonders, are ours; since we are furnished with the powers to force then into our service.

We have made the earth simply a subject of our control and are reaping the consequences of this. History shows that the great empires such as China and Egypt were built upon central control of the waters of the great rivers and even in modern democracies the control of this vital resource is a powerful political position.


Coming from a household of females, I may be accused of bias but I will now return to the engineered landscape of Lough Neagh.  It is the largest fresh water lake in Britain and Ireland and draws water from five counties in Northern Ireland and one in the Republic of Ireland. Lough Neagh contains over 800 billion gallons of water. It is 15 kilometres wide, 25 kilometres long with a shore line of 125 kilometres. The catchment area for which the lough acts as a central reservoir is over 1,500 sq miles and it receives the flow of many major rivers, including the Blackwater, Ballinderry, Moyola, Upper Bann, Six Mile Water and Main.  The only outlet is by the Lower Bann river entering the sea below Coleraine. It has always been a holder of these waters but despite its size it is relatively shallow and therefore its capacity is not as great as might be expected.

The Lower Bann valley especially  is given to flooding. Prior to the mid19th century ‘lowerings’ some 25,000 acres was subject to regular intuition.  Shoals or submerged banks along the riverbed, especially at Toome, slow down the river’s flow.  In prehistoric times flooding was good as it enriched the land for the hunters and gatherers.  However, as people settled and started farming it has been seen as a threat. From the 1700s several schemes were proposed to deal with flooding and navigation, but with little success.

The Bishop of Down and Connor, Francis Hutchinson said

…..the waters which flow from so many sources can not possibly be discharged by the single outlet of the Bann but must, unless steps are taken to discharge the waters by clearing the obstruction of the river, be annually accumulated to the great detriment of the lands around.

( 1884 –  cited in the Report on the  Drainage of Lough Neagh by Robert Manning – Chief Engineer of the Board of Works, Dublin. )

In 1812 Thomas Townsend, an engineer with the Bog Commissioners in Ireland, suggested that river navigation could be improved by building canals and removing the shoals along the river.  The Drainage Act of 1842 was passed by the government to ease flooding and improve navigation of the Bann.

 McMahon’s Scheme

In 1844 canal engineer John McMahon was commissioned to create a navigation scheme for the Lower Bann.  His challenge was to help drainage, improve navigation and support fishing.  He proposed to build locks and weirs to lower winter flood levels and also store water to help with navigation. Nevertheless, in the degree of flood control and water storage existing in the Lough Neagh Basin, even in its natural state, McMahon recognised the great benefits bestowed by a large expanse of inland sea which was

…… placed by nature at a point of convergence of several powerful and turbulent rivers and streams, it receives and calms the impetuosity of these waters, rendering them fit for man’s use, and is almost without a parallel as to value amongst his industrial resources.


The most glowing anticipations of the benefits to be derived from the scheme in 1846  were conjured up as W. A. Mc Cutcheon the author of The Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland says. Doctors reported that there would be probable benefits in abating epidemics of fever; professors of geology discoursed on the economic value of the deposits of clay which would be exposed neat Toomebridge, and further south between Ardboe Point and Portadown – diatomite, peat, lignite and coal, sulphate of lime and sulphate  of iron; the Drainage Commissioner, Robert Harding, envisaged a vast improvement of the land that was liable to flooding. In short he felt everyone would benefit.

The five locks were created at Toome, Portna, Movanagher, Portna, Carnroe and the Cutts. They all had standard sized chambers, 130ft long by 20ft 6in wide (39.6m x 6.2m).   McMahon estimated the cost at £163,486.  He planned to make money with increased trade, more reclaimed land for farming and water power. Stone used for the various weirs, locks and banks came from excavated material and nearby quarries at Tamlaght, Movanagher and Toome.  Brick from Coalisland was used for the lock and lock-keeper’s house at Toome. Over 1500 men worked on the scheme at any one time. The Board of Works approved the scheme, known as the Lower Bann Navigation, which was implemented over 13 years (1847-1859).   The total cost came to £264.000 – over £100.000 more than the original estimate.

The scheme lowered the level of Lough Neagh by approx. 6ft (1.8m).  It reclaimed up to 30,000 acres of land round the shoreline for agriculture. It opened up river traffic between Lough Neagh and Coleraine. However, railways had started to overtake river traffic.  Belfast and Newry were also better placed for the shipment of goods along the canals to cross channel ships. In 1862 the Lower Bann Steamship Company started a service along the Lower Bann.  The Harland & Wolff built steamer Kitty of Coleraine offered a twice-weekly passenger and goods service between Coleraine and Toome.  But the service never took off and stopped in 1869.


Shepherd’s scheme

In 1929 the Ministry of Finance took over responsibility for the Lower Bann. They employed Major Percy Shepherd to address the issue of flooding along the Bann. Work on Shepherd’s scheme began in March 1930. Almost 4 million cu. m of non-rock material was dredged.  Sluice gates were installed at Toome, Portna and Cutts to regulate the flow of the river and control the water level of Lough Neagh. There were five gates at Toome with a fish pass in the centre.  A footbridge was also built to access them from the Co Antrim side.  The level of the river was monitored at water gauge stations at Toome and Camus. Three sets of flood gates and five sets of locks on the Lower Bann control the water level of Lough Neagh. Today, Lough Neagh is 3.6 metres lower than it was in 1847.

Back to the role of the female or not in all of these schemes to ‘control nature’. One wonders would or could these engineering changes  happen today?  There are many debates about flooding and flood defences. Is it good to try and culvert, control and embank water ? It is not easy if you live by a coast, a river or a lough that is prone to flooding but what are the long term answers ? Is hard engineering and ‘controlling nature ‘ (still mostly by men !) the answer?  In the Netherlands, Room for the River,  Ruimte voor de Rivier, is a government design plan intended to address flood protection, master landscaping and the improvement of environmental conditions in the areas surrounding the Netherlands’ rivers. We might have to make way again too!