River Clearance April 2009 by Paul Carpenter

BEDSAC goes “Wild” for “Rivercare”

By Paul Carpenter

It was back in January 2009 that the Club was contacted by Bedford Borough Council “Community Partnerships Officer” Deborah O’Regan. She was looking for a “Dive Club” that would like to participate in the “Rivercare Events” put on by “The Pride in Bedford” Campain run by the Council.

These events are community based, with volunteers from the local area’s all working together to improve the enviroment along the River “Great Ouse” at various locations selected by the “Rivercare” team.

The first event for 2009 was arranged for the 25th April and was named; “Queen’s Park Goes Wild”. This event was put on with help from BTCV, the Park Ranger Service and local “In Bloom” groups.The plan was to clean out the River at “The Slipe”which is an access road leading from “Queen’s Park” to “Kempston” via a footbridge over the river.There would be Divers in the water removing rubbish ,as well as “Viking Kayak Club” and members of the public picking up litter from the embankments and river banks

along the same stretch, add to this the other craft activities happening at the same location and it all seemed too good an event not to take part in.

I arrived on site early at 7.30am and was the only person there, so I decided to take a walk down the road to have a look at the site. As I walked past the “Gurdwara” Mosque, towards the river I thought what a lovely location this was, with lots of open spaces and stunning Weeping Willow trees lining the route.Eventually I reached the footbridge, a Wood and Iron structure, again very impressive, blending perfectly with its surroundings.

The weather had been fine all week and the colour of the water and visability looked great, I went down to the river bank to assess the “entry and exit “ points, which all seemed ideal as there were concrete abutments right next to path, perfect for divers to access the water.

I had a quick look from the centre of the bridge and from the river bank, all I could see was an “office chair” and an “oil drum” in the water, not much here I thought to myself.With this in mind I made my way back to the entrance, to see who else had arrived.The next person to arrive was “Wendy” from the Park Ranger Service, I introduced myself and we chatted about how the day would go, until 8.00am when the “Bedsac”dive team all turned up suprisingly all on time! Even Rebekah!!

We had Tim Hunt, Inger Jonrup, Anne Bracey, Rebekah Kilpin, Joanne Dickenson and myself, from the club, but Anne had thankfully voluntered her husband Mike and son Chris as extra shore cover, which was great as we had lost Paul Wogan, Pete and Steph Coleman to work commitments at the last minute. Mike Banner a diver, who used to do the river clearance events also came along to give us the benefit of his experiance and help out on the shore cover.

Everything started to arrive on site even the “portaloo’s,” so we all drove down to the embankment and parked together right next to the footbridge. As we kitted up the Ranger Service put together their stalls and marquees and prepared for the litter pickers and pond diggers to turn up. As soon as we where all ready we had a short briefing, then Tim and Inger went into the water first. Within minutes they were passing bicycles , the office chair, the barrel, shopping trollies and a rucksack, from the river, I couldn’t get in fast enough, the anticepation and excitement where overwelming, what else where we going to discover on the river bed ?

Rebekah and I were soon in the water too, the first thing you noticed was the slight current, gently pushing you away from the area near to the bridge, we swam back and then decended to the bottom.This too was not as easy as you would think due to the shallow depth, about 1.8 metres in the middle, we both definately needed more weight. Once we sorted out this problem we went down again, straight away I found a cash register, with the cash drawer empty except for silt and stones, we recovered this and attached a rope for the shore cover to pull it out. Next we found a Mountain bike, this one had not been in the river long and was in reasonably good condition. On the next decent we came across two shopping trollies embedded deep into the river bed, they seemed to have formed a catchment area for numerous items, I couldn’t believe my eyes, the mound was huge with everything tangled together, from here we recovered several bike frames, wheels, a chair , childs trike, a scooter and more.This was achieved with the help of Mike and Chris, throwing ropes from the bridge for us to tie off the items and them to haul them out and pile up the rubbish ready for DSD to collect later.As we returned to the side we came across another cash register, this one was a big heavy one with a steel drawer and base with a plastic top and key pad. I decided we would have to put a “lifting bag” on this one, as the shape together with the weight would be impossible to pull out on its own.As Rebekah and I attempted to do this we had to ascend due to loss of bouyancy, which meant we lost the till in the process, we decided to go for a break and look for it again later.

We went back over to the exit point and a Photographer from “The Times and Citizen” was there taking photo’s of us in the water.She asked Rebekah and I to pose for some shots, which we did, passing out items from the water. We climbed out and went for a well deserved break.

As we had our break we watched Inger and Joanne recovering more items from the water, the funniest thing I saw was when Inger surfaced waving an metal crutch above her head, what ever next? I thought.

We kitted up and went back in search of the cash register, after a while we managed to locate it again, this time I tied a rope cradle to to base and inflated the lift bag , which brought it to a couple of feet above the bottom, I also fully inflated my jacket and held the lift bag at the surface.Chris threw me the rope and I tied that on, then both Chris and Mike pulled me and the cash register to the river bank and we all hauled it out.

By this time “Anglia TV News” had turned up and were set up filming on the river bank, they filmed an interview with Deborah O’Regan, who thanked us for our help and gave them the background info about the day.

The river clearance continued until about 11.45am by which time we were all getting low on air, and DSD had to be cleared up and away by 12.00pm.We all packed up our kit and changed into dry clothes,then went over to the food tent , where there was lots of lovely samosas and sandwiches to help yourselves to.We stayed and chatted to people about our finds and looked at the other stalls on site.Finally we said our goodbyes and I spoke to Deborah who thanked us again for our help, she informed me that there are to be two more “Rivercare” events this year , and that every body that attended would recieve “Pride Points” that can be exchanged for various leisure activities in the Town.We should also recieve a copy of the “News” report filmed by Anglia TV.

I would like to say a very big thank you to all those people that volunteered to take part in this event, it really was a huge public relations success for the Club and showed that not only are we a pro-active club in our community but we care about Bedford, the river and the enviroment.

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