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My River My Amazon part 2: The Bear Gryll’s of river restoration he said…


After my first visit to the river Cray with Coca-Cola in December, I decided five months on it was time to see how the river was getting on in Sidcup.

Our friends at North West Kent Countryside Partnership (NWKC), our local partner that is leading this vital field work to protect the Cray, were able to help us with some more restoration work.

Water daisies, River Cray, Kent © Hugh Mehta / WWF-UKWater daisies, River Cray, Kent © Hugh Mehta / WWF-UK

I turned up and felt inspired to see even more Coca-Cola volunteers raring to go and we all just could not wait to get our waders on. After a quick health and safety talk we were off. I must admit I could not stop looking at the river. Was this the same river I saw five months ago? It looked so much clearer, the bright green water butter cup, I could see the different coloured stones at the bottom of the river, I was happy again I could actually feel a river bed under my feet. No concrete, brilliant!

However it then came to light that out of all of us I was the only one with a hole in my wader and the hard work was about to start! I slowly felt the cold water rise up my leg, then I realised, I didn’t care I was on a river getting stuck in with the Coca-Cola volunteers….lets do this!

Members of the Coca Cola team working on the River Cray © Hugh Mehta / WWF-UKMembers of the Coca Cola team working on the River Cray © Hugh Mehta / WWF-UK

Mark Gallant from NWKC had all the tools ready for us. We had several pre-planted hessian mats to secure in the river banks. The mats had sedges, flag iris, rushes and other river plants sewn in. The mats would colonise the banks and help the river flow …..it also made it look much prettier.

As I lifted the first mat and headed up stream, I must say, it took all our strength (and I was being helped by a 6ft tall factory worker)! The sweat was dripping and I fell over a few times….this is when Mark told me; “This is the Bear Gryll’s of river restoration Becky”! We held the mats in place and used big wood sticks to hammer it in. I may have had trouble lifting the hammer but with the help of many friends at Coca-Cola we got there.

It seemed like it took forever just to get one river mat in place. 15 mats later, we were tired, wet, and our arms and legs were aching. However, we felt so happy. Our river is just starting to take shape. I could not be happier and the men and women at Coca-Cola Enterprises are taking this restoration work so seriously and the laughter and fun we have makes it even more worthwhile.

WWF and Coca Cola employees working on the River Cray, Kent © Hugh Mehta / WWF-UKWWF and Coca Cola employees working on the River Cray, Kent © Hugh Mehta / WWF-UK

I did say to Mark “I want to see watervole poo next time I come”. Why oh why, I hear you shout? Then I know nature has found a new home and has signalled approval to all our hard work on the river.

We cannot do this without local business’s, such as Coca-Cola, who take responsibility for the nature and life that is around them. Coca-Cola is going beyond the factory lines – literally the other side of their fence! They’ve looked extensively at what they can do to reduce water usage inside the factory and are now giving back to the freshwater environment that surrounds them. I hope others follow.

What do you think of Becky’s blog? Leave us a comment.

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