James Elliott

May 3, 2021Grimbarians - People

The Canoe River Cleaner

The River Freshney is an historic waterway, an integral part of Grimsby’s maritime heritage and home to diverse wildlife. Throughout the coronavirus lockdown, a Grimbarian has taken it upon himself to take to the water in a canoe and give the river a much-needed clean up.

James Elliott, born and raised in Grimsby, was placed on flexi-furlough from his job in December 2020 and began walking along the River Freshney to the town centre. Like many, he noticed the amount of rubbish building up in the river, seeing a Kingfisher land on an upended trolley that had been carelessly dumped in the water.

“I like walking and thought I’d spend my time walking along the river, and I saw how bad the litter was. We have this river on our doorstep but all you can see is the rubbish. On Boxing Day, I wanted to give my head a rest after Christmas and called up a mate, got my canoe and headed out onto the river, right up to the Riverhead and just had a big clear out.”

Grimbarians exhibition, July to October 2019, Grimsby. Copyright Grimbarians 2019.
Grimbarians exhibition, July to October 2019, Grimsby - copyright Grimbarians 2019

James, who has always enjoyed being in the outdoors and is a keen but amateur wildlife enthusiast, says he inherited his tidiness from his dad who worked on Grimsby Docks: “He was known for tidying things up and I suppose I got the tidying gene from him. When he retired, he was given a golden broom just because he was known on the docks for cleaning up and taking care of things. It’s like when you see a bright red drinks can in the middle of a reed bed, it spoils the landscape and I want to pick it up and put it in the bin.”

“I started to think about where it’s all coming from. It’s not just about cleaning up what’s been dumped there but finding out why it’s there in the first place, and that’s what we need to start concentrating our efforts on.”

Since he began, James has become known locally as the Canoe River Cleaner, growing his mission into a pilot scheme for the year ahead in order to make long-lasting, sustainable changes that will not only provide a clean habitat for wildlife, but be an area that residents can be proud of and enjoy. Already, James and his volunteers have lifted hundreds of bags of litter from waterways in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, as well as bikes, traffic cones, a car bonnet, and several shopping trolleys.

“It’s a continual job. Yes, the River is looking better but from the amount of rubbish we pull from the river every time, it’s clear that this needs ongoing maintenance. It’s important that people take their litter home with them, or just take a carrier bag with them to put litter in. There are plenty of bins for people to put their litter in to.”

Grimbarians exhibition, July to October 2019, Grimsby. Copyright Grimbarians 2019.
Grimbarians exhibition, July to October 2019, Grimsby - copyright Grimbarians 2019

The Canoe River Cleaner has been supported and sponsored by several companies and organisations, including Tri-Pack, Brianplant, Black Row Engineering, Ocean Fish Bar, and Navigo to name a few, and has been blown away by the continuing support of local people who are volunteering their time, donating to his JustGiving campaign, or sometimes simply bringing a coffee when he’s out in his canoe.

“I’ve always wanted to do something to help the environment and when I was made redundant in March, I had the opportunity to turn the Canoe River Cleaner into something and to keep it going.”

Donate to The Canoe River Cleaner’s JustGiving Campaign, which will help to fund James’ cleaning efforts for the year ahead.

Grimbarians exhibition, July to October 2019, Grimsby - copyright Grimbarians 2019
Grimbarians exhibition, July to October 2019, Grimsby. Copyright Grimbarians 2019.