Salt of the Earth: Meet Lisa O'Boyle who is coordinating beach cleans in Filey

When it comes to helping others, there must be a thousand ways to make a difference in people’s lives. Acts of kindness can vary from those that benefit an individual like waiting in at a neighbour’s for the boiler man, to whole community events which support a local individual or cause.

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 1:22 pm

Being kind comes naturally to those who live on the Yorkshire Coast and residents right across North Yorkshire, which is why The Scarborough News, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and sister JPI Media titles in Yorkshire, has launched a major year-long campaign called Salt of the Earth to celebrate this.

In the ninth week of our campaign we meet Lisa O’Boyle, who is making a difference on the beaches at Filey.

Lisa is one of the growing number of people who organise regular beach cleans to prevent plastic and other items from causing damage to the environment.

The beach cleans take place roughly every two week

Ana Cowie, Marine Pollution Officer at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Lisa is our Waves of Waste co-ordinator for Filey and organises regular beach cleans at both Filey South beach and Coble Landing.

“Since she took up the post at the end of 2018 she has gone above and beyond to build up a network of regular attendees and spread the word far and wide regarding the negative impact marine litter has on the environment along and off the Yorkshire Coast.

“Lisa is one of the most determined, passionate and enthusiastic people I have met and is a fantastic advocate for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and many others working towards helping our wildlife. She deserves recognition for all of her hard work.”

Since taking on the organisation of the beach cleans from predecessor Hilary Atkins, Lisa has increased the coverage area and also the number of cleans.

Lisa O'Boyle and Elaine Jacques on the beach in Filey

The group now not only hold cleans at the South beach in Filey, but also at Coble Landing in the town as well.

Lisa, 52, is often joined by a core group of seven or eight regulars, but depending on the weather, some of the cleans had almost 40 people turn up last year.

She moved to Filey after taking early retirement from Luton Borough Council four years ago. She said her husband, Derek, said it was up to her whether she worked or not, so she chose to volunteer for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust: “I can talk rubbish quite well now, “ she said with a smile.

As for why she does what she does, Lisa said: “By now, everyone must be aware of the huge problem we have with pollution, especially plastic, in our world.

The cleans often collect over 50kg rubbish

“Wildlife and the environment are being destroyed by years of littering, simply because in many cases we didn't know how long lasting plastic is, and the problems it would cause.

“I co-ordinate beach cleans because quite often people will come to an organised clean, whereas they might not litter pick alone.

“You can see immediately that you have made a difference - every piece of rubbish, be it plastic or any other material, is removed from the sea (to be recycled if possible) and disposed of.

“It will never choke or entangle any marine animal or bird. And that can give you a bit of a boost mentally - you can see all that you've removed from the sea for good.

Scouring the beach for rubbish

“Mind you, it can be addictive! You start to see litter everywhere, and many people have gone on to organise their own cleans, in and around where they live, and every piece collected and put in a bin makes a difference.

“We survey a 100-metre stretch on every clean, noting every item picked up there, and this information can be compared to similar surveys around the country.

“The cleans have a lot of support from the community, with two businesses placing 2 Minute Beach Clean Boards outside their premises, for people to do a clean at any time, and The Lighthouse Tea Room offers all pickers a free drink, for which I'm very grateful.”

The group take any reusable beach toys they find to Fresh Naturals, a shop in Scarborough, where visitors are encouraged to borrow a bucket for the day and bring it back when they’ve finished with it.

The group have received funding from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for a fish sculpture for people to put their empty bottles into.

Lisa said they have a man to make it, a company to move it, a place to put it, but there’s currently a sticking point, there’s no-one to empty it.

They are hoping this situation will be resolved in the future to encourage people to leave less litter on the beach.

Elaine Jaques, Filey resident and beach clean participant, said: "Lisa is passionate about the beach cleans and the benefits they bring to the environment and to all of us.

“She turns out in all weathers and her enthusiastic personality motivates everyone who comes along to help.

“After each event she then spends much of her own time sorting and categorising the finds and then presenting the data for recording.

“We regularly hear comments from people about how clean Filey beach is and so much is attributed to Lisa and her tireless volunteering."

If you’d like to get involved, the next beach clean takes place at Coble Landing at 10.00am on Sunday March 22. Find out more at Yorkshire Coast Beach Cleans on Facebook or email [email protected]