Nature Offbeat

By Hannah Phillips

 

A pair of free divers dubbed The Litter Mermaids have turned underwater litter pickers to rid the Lake District’s water of rubbish – with surprising results.

Free divers Angus Hosking, 20, and Declan Turner, 18, decided to start tackling litter in the beauty hotspot last year after seeing tourists destroy the area with rubbish.

The eco duo can hold their breath for up to four minutes underwater and have dived into three lakes to date armed with only fins, masks and a knife to cut themselves free from netting.

Images show the bizarre hauls they have discovered to date – including dozens of mobile phones, wallets, wedding rings they’ve been able to reunite with their owners and even a £3,000 camera – as well as milk cartons and Pepsi bottles from the 1960s and 1970s.

Watersports instructor Angus, from Coniston, said: “Our original aim was to clean up as much rubbish as we could, but we couldn’t believe what was down there, wheelbarrows, bikes, shoes and phones.

“We always get such a good reaction, people always say they can’t believe someone as young as us doing such a positive thing in the area.

“We find lots of rings, bracelets, necklaces, phones and lots of sunglasses like Ray-Bans and Ralph Lauren and even Tiffany and Co jewellery – as well as so much rubbish.

“Windermere was so popular in the 60s and 70s so we even find old rubbish like old milk cartons and Pepsi bottles dating back to then, we just recycle it all.”

Pals Angus and Declan met while working at the Low Wood Hotel in Windermere.

They started diving after they dropped a cord from the marina and decided to hold their breath to go under and find it themselves.

The pair clean take to the water five times per week for two hours, cleaning up iconic hotspots including Lake Windermere, Coniston and Derwent Water to date.

Now, the pair have even begun reuniting lost items with their owners, years later.

Angus said: “A few weeks ago I found a wallet, it had a business card in it so I contacted the guy and he’d lost it over a year ago, he wasn’t expecting that.

“Recently a woman lost a wedding ring so I went to find it after work, it only took me around 10 minutes.

“Once I found a phone, took it apart, took out the SD card and there was a photo of some contractors working.

“I contacted them and managed to track down the original owner and get it back to him.

“He had lost it a week before but wasn’t expecting to see it again.”

Sailor Declan, from Ambleside, added: “When we went down there we thought it was quite cool, it’s not something you see every day.

“It’s bliss, peaceful and quiet and we fell in love with it.

“We all see the amount of rubbish that’s down there, we started thinking ‘this isn’t right, it shouldn’t be there’.”

Angus and Declan say that as well as cleaning up the environment, free diving helps them to relax after a hard day.

But their fundamental aim is to clear the stunning environment of the trash they claim is left by thoughtless tourists every day.

Angus said: “I work on the lake and when I see people throw stuff in, I make a conscious effort to ask people what they are doing.

“They do it intentionally, they throw bottles and crisp packets and they come here and say they care about the lakes.

“What do they think they are doing?

“People have got to be aware, they want to come here and expect it to be amazing but then don’t look after it. It’s a world heritage site.

“We have so many tourists, and the more that come need to be aware that the litter they throw has a negative impact on the fish and the lake bed.

“We feel like we’re doing something that has a positive impact.”

But the divers admitted cleaning their beloved lakes can at times be quite dangerous, especially without breathing equipment.

Declan said: “We’ve been in situations where you realise it’s not a safe situation to be in but you have to remain calm because when you get scared, that’s when your heartbeat starts racing.”

Angus added: “There are so many fishing ropes you don’t realise are there. We had a close call the first time Declan got caught, he freaked out but as long as you know where your knife is you should be fine.

“We had to invest in gloves because you don’t realise how much glass and metal is down there, you’d reach in a crack and slice your fingers, we were always getting cut.”