Worcester Evening News - May 2007

A THREE-DAY fishing expedition to clean up the Worcester & Birmingham canal netted 22 rusting bicycles, two motor cycles, a shopping trolley and half a computer among a mountain of other rubbish.

It took more than three days to fish out the massive catch of junk from the waters of Lowesmoor Wharf marina.

The clear-up was carried out by staff from narrowboat hire company Viking Afloat following comments from their customers who had spotted a bike being thrown off the marina bridge.

Marina manager Darren Mather , who only took up the post three weeks ago, took immediate action to retrieve the bike, but was surprised with what else he found.

“We went down in a boat to hook the bike out but then we discovered all this other stuff with it.

“There were 22 bikes in total, a shopping trolley, eight shopping baskets, five council signs, three scooters, two motorbikes and half a computer.

“The opening of the marina has no more than 12ft of water so any obstruction could cause us major problems. I definitely didn't expect to find all this.”

It is unknown how long the items had been submerged, in the canal but one of the motorbikes had been reported missing to police back in 1995.

And in another surprise, some of the rusting hulks has freshwater mussels living on them. A fact that has surprised some observers who thought that they could not survive in the canal conditions.

Between March and April this year, British Waterways carried out a Towpath Tidy campaign in the West Midlands and collected a staggering 109 tonnes of rubbish from canals and towpaths.

Waterways spokeswoman Sally-Ann Parton said it was astonishing what lurks under the surface.

“We have found clothing and even locked safes with the backs blown off them.

“It would be impossible for us to search the entire system so what normally happens is someone will bump into something, contact us and we have a customer service team which removes it.

“The amount of rubbish is an issue. In filtered areas, which Lowesmoor is, it is quite difficult to see these items because the silt covers it. Unless you know the exact location of something it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Mr Mather said despite the big problem with waste and the amount of toxic silt in the canal, the waterways are becoming more popular. “We've taken a huge number of bookings for this summer. And although all of this debris would suggest there is little life down there, fish are thriving.”

A police spokesman said one of the motorbikes found had been reported missing back in 1999, and at the time it was valued at £1,200.

He said “After 10 years in the water it is going to be difficult to identify the items. However, we are interested to find out where they have all come from.”

MUSSELS FACTS

FRESHWATER mussels (Unio tumidus) are actually very common in canals.

The molluscs, which can grow up to 150mm (six inches) in length, are found in many freshwater habitats, including slow moving rivers, lakes and ponds and particularly canals.

They feed on debris and micro-organisms, and can lay over 200,000 eggs a year.

While freshwater mussels are generally unpalatable, marine mussels are a popular food and can be smoked, boiled or steamed.

The largest British freshwater bivalve is the Swan mussel, found in slow-moving rivers and streams – it can grow as big as five inches across.

The smallest variety is the Pea mussel.

Zebra mussels are found in great abundance in canals and marinas, attaching themselves to underwater objects.

Sadly, thousand's perished when Worcester 's Diglis basin underwent major renovations recently.