2020 was without doubt the worst year for pollution incidents affecting waterways and wildfowl in the West Midlands area that I have ever known in nearly 25 years of rescue.

It ended with two appalling incidents, on the Titford canal in Oldbury, and at The Bumble Hole Nature Reserve in Dudley. The former has yet to be fully dealt with and both required many hours of volunteer work over the Christmas and New Year period when everyone else that should have dealt with it had gone off.

Financially, we spent around £100 of our own booms and pads at Titford, which we have had to buy as a result of the slow action shown in other incidents earlier in the year. This is obviously not going to be recovered, but I have approached the CRT asking them if they can do this, given that we were effectively doing the work of their employees over Christmas, as well as rescuing the birds. Baz from Scared Animal Wildlife Rescue deserves special mention for his time and indefatigable work.




Many people have asked about making a donation about the response to this incident, and although he doesn’t like asking for any, I am giving the link  if anyone would like to donate to replace the booms and pads please follow the link  HERE.  

In the case of Titford pools, we know who the polluter was, and I will name and shame them here as




The canal and Rivers Trust took pictures of the spill from containers in their yard, which backs directly onto the canal near to Uncle Bens Bridge, a yard from where the spill clearly emanated from. The pollution went all the way along the canal and underneath the motorway and pools which are in the ownership of Sandwell council.


I was shown the pictures and apparently this firm claimed to be unaware of the spill until it was pointed out to them, which had obviously taken place over a period of several days. I have however now been informed by the CRT that they had recently visited this site prior to this pollution incident in relation to this exact same problem, due to complaints from local residents about the pollution coming out of this business.  I understand that they will be visited again, but let us hope that more than a verbal warning is given here, as obviously their management did not give a shit about previous warnings given what happened over Christmas. WE NEED MORE THAN WORDS HERE, WE NEED FINES AND CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS THROUGH THE COURTS. 


A sea of oil on the Titford canal


In the case of the Bumble Hole, I firmly believe the culprit who spilt the diesel to be a firm based on a trading estate in Netherton. Be in no doubt, and this goes to anyone else in this area who handles red diesel, your businesses are being watched, and will be reported now for any transgressions however minor. I would like, and will aim to put the business responsible for this incident out of business by whatever means. It affected over 30 birds, some of which have died as a result of these cowboy arseholes. 

I have written to my MP Nicola Richards with regard to these latest problems caused by rogue businesses, and the Environment Agency’s abysmal “Common Incident Classification Scheme” which has once again so far failed to act or prosecute the polluter largely due to it ignoring issues related to birds being affected by pollution events such as these. The attendance or not of the environment agency is based upon this flawed reporting system, by telephonists who cannot see the issue themselves, but are prompted by answers given to them by the callers on a checklist.

I have given more info on this scheme in a post link in this communication, but in summary it reads as


birds covered in oil are not regarded as being involved in a “serious” or “significant ” impact in this scheme, even though they most certainly are, which is totally wrong!

Dear Nicola,

I would be grateful if you could raise this matter with the appropriate channels.
As I am sure that you are aware with previous correspondence, and also press reports, there have been an unacceptable number of pollution incidents within the last year involving industrial releases of diesel and similar hydrocarbons into water courses. This has resulted in near impossible difficulties for wildfowl, which along with the RSPCA, we have had to rescue, wash and rehabilitate.

We have spent a great deal of money on booms and pads. Incidents dealt with at sites within the last year are
#Hydes Road pool, Wednesbury
#Sheepwash nature reserve and River Tame as far as Perry Barr
#Park head locks, Dudley
#Smethwick Hall Park, (as well as the ongoing sewage issue)
#Titford pools

and the latest, as I am sure you are aware at The Bumble Hole.

In the majority of these cases, the EA have been notable by their absence. Dudley council now appear to have the task of paying for clean up of Bumble Hole, which as with the rest of these incidents come through the private water company hands of Severn Trent. My views on the environmental performance of this company, and total failures, are well known, but I think the EA performance now has to be taken up with Government Ministers, as they are failing woefully to address the issues.
The worst part is that their classification system, The Common Incident Classification scheme is not fit for purpose. This classifies incidents according to fish distress and deaths, and never anything else. We have had incidents as above where we have had to catch over 40 birds covered in oil, yet the EA derisively class this as 3 on their pathetic scale. If some fish had died it would have been level 1. They only attend incidents at category 2 and above, and therefore call either Severn Trent or the CRT to deal with anything else.
I would like you to take up this matter with a view to you and your colleagues attempting to reform this classification scheme into it bearing in mind the impact on wild water birds, which it currently is not.
I have detailed some of the issues I am talking about in the following blog posts.

Environment Agency responses | What Lies Beneath Rattlechain Lagoon?

Diesel everywhere! | Save Our Sandwell Canada Geese
There need to be far tougher fines imposed on rogue companies, and jail sentences for directors of these failing companies.

It is perhaps also important that local authorities have specialist equipment on standby to deploy in these situations, as has probably been learnt at Dudley with the latest incident. We have to stop these incidents becoming as frequent as they are, and part of this is the way in which they are dealt with theoretically as well as practically after they happen.

Regards and Happy New Year,
Ian Carroll swanwatch

Reply so far……

“Dear Mr Carroll,

Thank you for getting in touch with me about this important issue, and I hope you had a happy Christmas and New Year.

I will write to DEFRA to ask ministers whether they have any plans to reconsider the Common Incident Classification system to encompass the incidents which you describe and we can take our enquiries from there. I will let you know when I have received a reply. 

I note as well that my enquiry to the Environment agency regarding the water levels in the lake at Brookvale Park has not yet been replied to. I have written once again to the EA as a follow up to ensure this matter is investigated.

If there’s any other issue I can be of help with, please go get in touch and I will do all I can to be of assistance. 

Kind regards,

Nicola Richards MP
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

I do hope that a positive response from Defra will be forthcoming, but on previous experience, I am not holding my breath. My advice to people reporting such incidents currently if you care about birds is to state that there are some dead fish in the water, even if there are not.  😉 

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Severn Trent Water “improving” – yet fined over £1m for pollution in the last year- Wat-er load of crap!

As we continue to see total apathy from Sandwell council regards taking action about the problems involving serious water pollution in its pools via Seven Trent Water’s failed monitoring and abilities to prevent this, it appears that those at the helm in Oldbury are content to splash the cash on another white elephant statement building to be built in West Smethwick park. A report presented to cabinet states that  “the sum of £581,000 currently in the capital programme and a sum of £92,777 of existing Section 106 monies be allocated for the use of West Smethwick Park DC/12/55069 & DC/08/49405 to fund the increased capital cost of the development of the new pavilion, landscape improvements and heritage works at West Smethwick Park. “

11 – West Smethwick Park – Heritage Lottery Funded Restoration Project

Incredible how they can find this money for yet another hair brained scheme, like the aquatics centre’s costs which just continue to swallow money and leave the tax payer in at the deep end.

The shite jacuzzi a stones throw away in Londonderry Lane aka “SHP” however continues to be a monument to inaction, and personally I don’t believe that anything will be done here, even though , for the moment, it remains in the council’s published revised budget for 2020/21.


£342,000- show us the money!


Still waiting for an answer……

Another absolute disgrace are the Environment Agency’s latest assessments of the performance of water companies for 2019.

Last years published 2018  EA report into water company performance revealed that Severn Trent had been docked a star from their rating by the EA- from 4 to 3.

Dave Throup, EA manager for H/W said in a tweet

“Generally woeful environmental performance by English water companies during 2018 highlighted in our annual report. Our local company @stwater performance has deteriorated and it failed to meet targets on discharges or ceilings on pollutions.”


Severn Trent had 287 confirmed pollution incidents in 2018, but how many went unreported because of the open to fraud self reporting system?



Open to total serious fraud

I put in an FOI request to obtain the 2019 report, and have to say, as I will explain, the figures for this are dubious to the point where the Environment Agency’s method of calculation appears to be another fraud, and disingenuous of water company performance, because of the way in which they are only compiling figures for what they term “Category 1″ and “Category 2″ events.

I have outlined this abysmal common incident classification system in this post, but basically it means that where fish are reported to have died following a pollution incident, this gets a prompt EA and higher response. But in incidents such as the sewage pollution carnage and subsequent bird deaths at Smethwick Hall Park last year, caused by Severn Trent Water’s incompetence,  this incident was only recorded as a “category 3” , meaning that fines and a prosecution would not be pursued by the environment agency! As I have said before, and will again, the EA’s “environment” is one of fish economy, and any other form of wildlife , particularly water fowl, are worth nothing to them. 


The deaths of over 50 birds and continuing at this site was NOT a “minor” fucking impact, you dickheads!


The iconic picture of Severn Trent Water’s sewage pollution impact at Smethwick Hall Park in 2019

It is important to understand this flawed system in light of the bullshit and subsequent comments made about Severn Trent water’s apparent “improvement” in the EA table for 2019- a complete fraud.

In the FOI request, the EA had not published the report for 2019 at the time, but just days later it came out, and can be read HERE.

The table below shows this company have gone back up to 4 stars.  👿 How that is possible, I do not know.



“Last year’s report made clear that performance was unacceptable across the sector, this report shows performance deteriorated for the second year in a row. This comes soon after England’s shocking water classification results showed just 16% of water bodies meet the criteria for Good Ecological Status against 25 Year Environment Plan’s target of 75%.” 

Obviously the Environment agency are winning here then.  😆

As for the comments of the Chair of the EA Emma Howard Boyd holding up this serial Midlands polluter as one of good practice, I can only say Luv, you are living in bloody cloud cuckoo land if you think they they are an example of “industry leaders” and need to get out more in this area to see for yourself sites like Smethwick Hall park and what has not happened there from last year, because it does not say very much about the privatised water industry when you hold them up as the stars FFS!

Not mentioned conveniently in this report are the fines that were dished out in the last year, and this is where it gets very interesting regards Severn Trent Water, and in contrast the absolute joke of how this relates to their “improved” performance.

I would suggest anyone interested in environmental matters reads the ENDS report , which gives an excellent fines and prosecutions monitor of water companies and others causing pollution incidents. You can sign up for a free 2 week trial here. 


Oh look which water company comes TOP OF THE SLOPS!

What can be seen here, is that in June, Severn Trent were given two fines of £400,000 plus costs for allowing 3.8 million litres of sewage from a treatment works near Shrewsbury to be discharged into a stream for a year and a half.

The full report even appears on the .GOV website as an EA boast! 

The EA officer is quoted as saying

“Water companies are aware that their activities have the potential for serious environmental impacts, and they know that we will take appropriate action when they cause pollution.”

Yeah sure, so long as it involves fish! It is interesting to note in the Shrewsbury case that STW had been unaware of a longstanding failure of monitoring and serious length of discharge, and this reminds me of the failures at Smethwick Hall Park, where it is quite apparent from NIRS reports, that the issues of sewage entering this pool had been going on for a long time as well before it was dealt with- and only it appears AFTER the EA had been there themselves.

It is important however to report pollution incidents regarding water companies promptly and to the EA first, as the eagle eyed dog walker had in the case above, as at least this will screw over the water companies performance of “self reporting” and lower this statistic.  😉

But there’s more, because Severn Trent were also penalised with other past pollution offences last year. Another ENDS report article reveals

“Severn Trent Water agreed four undertakings, totalling more than £359,000. All were for failing to meet permit conditions, contrary to regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016, and again related to incidents at sewage treatment works. £158,000 went to the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, £100,000 to the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. £60,892 to the Severn Rivers Trust. £40,500 to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.”

These so called “Environmental undertakings” are explained in the forward of the 2019 EA report as

“An EU is a voluntary agreement offered by those who have committed a less serious offence that becomes legally binding once accepted. It funds local environmental improvements but also requires that steps are taken to put right what went wrong and to prevent it happening again.”

I have to say that I find these a complete joke, as do I the receiving top table charities who appear to benefit, and I would ask:


How do the beneficiaries of these payments manage to get to that position? I would also comment that they do nothing to care for, rescue or rehabilitate water birds that suffer as a consequence of sewage contamination, such as that seen at Smethwick last year.

The wildlife trusts do not rescue or rehabilitate ill wildfowl that have been poisoned by these shite merchants , and nor do they clean up the mess. What exactly has any of this money gone towards for the criminality of private water companies; admin costs or self promotion, as appears to be the case with most large charities?

I think the EA seriously need to look at giving smaller organisations such as The Linjoy wildlife sanctuary , who have cared for and rehabilitated birds made ill through Severn Trent Water’s actions some cash, because I am sure as one drop of water follows another that there will be more cases to come due to the unresolved issues in this part of the world.

Only a couple of months ago, another Severn Trent water failure in Walsall lead to the deaths of several hundred fish at Barnes Lane Pool– so I guess they will not get away with that one 😉 .

It was quite apparent that the contraption shown below had overloaded and spewed out unmentionables which then headed for the pool. Visible evidence was left behind, despite Severn Trent’s clean up guys trying to remain tight lipped about what had happened.




Several pumps were put in the water, but by now, most of the fish were already dead.

I had to chase another related incident, earlier this year, concerning the Nature Reserve at Stubbers Green through an FOI where the EA had originally appeared to try to cover this up with a pretty vague response, as did Walsall council unfortunately with a “blocked inlet” story revised to “vandalism of a sewer pipe”. I think the story about “vandalism” is highly dubious to say the least, though it is clear to see once again sewage pollution from a Severn Trent Water asset killed fish in this “category 1” incident. . The final EA NIRS report can be read HERE. 

This incident was also caused by pollution into Barnes Lane pool, and I have no doubt via the same source.


This is therefore further evidence that the apparent “improvement” by this water company is nothing of the sort, and that statements made by the head of the Environment Agency  are totally false and a fabrication of the truth. It is also correct to point out that the fines themselves are chicken feed to companies like STW, especially when they are also actively selling off pieces of land formerly in public ownership for housing schemes, which will no doubt ultimately deliver more “misconnections” to contaminate the environment. Bear in mind the salary of CEO Liv Garfield is reportedly over £2M per annum. 

The privatised water industry is not delivering good environmental performance, and the victims of its actions and incompetence get no reimbursement from a regulator that is supposed to enforce the law. It’s time for a major overhaul of the Common Incident Classification Scheme, as we can clearly see it is protecting only the serial environmental polluters like Severn Trent Water PLC. 

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Smethwick Parks update- Sandwell council’s changing statements

Back in August, I gave an update on what little was happening about the situation with the contaminated pools in Smethwick. Essentially this is Victoria park and Smethwick Hall park. The latter of course we know to be contaminated with raw sewage, and that in essence is the cause of the problems related to ill and dead birds which unfolded there. The further pollution incident involving diesel/oil of some sort that largely was dealt with by volunteers was not traced.

Victoria Park on the other hand has remained a concern for the last two years, and we appear to be no nearer finding the root cause.

It is however fair to point out that I am now aware that this pool is fed by The Thimblemill brook, and that on August 10th, a pollution incident was reported by volunteers to both Severn Trent and The Environment Agency- reference number 183 5767 grid ref SP00559 86467 nearest post code B67 5PB.   Apparently this was grey misconnection type issues, but this was just the observation made by the volunteers at the time.

brook pol 1

We recorded ill and dead birds at this park a few weeks  later, following heavy downpours which presumably washed the issue through into here. The outlet from this park appeared to be also blocked, and the pool has also been laced with duckweed for some months.




Some of the birds received treatment at Linjoy wildlife sanctuary and made a full recovery, but only as a result of timely action in identifying and rescuing them.


A goose on Victoria Park with suspected botulism



Added to this, I undertook a basic ammonia test on water at this lake at the inlet to the pool, taking two tests which showed exactly the same result of high levels of ammonia. Of course, this would have been higher in the submerged sediment, which of course the birds are feeding on.

Video of this real time test is shown by clicking this link.

It is apparent from this photo of a swan which we caught at this lake in February, which sadly died and was suffering from the effects of botulism, that ammonia scalding was present on the tongue of this bird, and I had also seen it bottom feeding in this general area where the water levels are fairly low.

ammonia scalding

I again contacted a range of officers in SMBC, including the current acting leader of the council, Maria Crompton as to what was going on. I asked for a set of things to happen, some of which I have been chasing for over a year, such as removal of vegetation in the water which is identified as a source of botulism production in the APHA guidance literature, which SMBC have seen many times, and have even referred to me!

avian botulism

I had to chase this response, and this is what I received from Alan Caddick, “Director Housing and Communities.”

“Dear Mr Carroll

Firstly, thank you for highlighting these issues with us and thank you for the work that you and your volunteers do to protect and care for birds in Sandwell. Cllr Crompton is very supportive of the work you do and is keen for us to work together with you.

Below, I have responded to your issues and whilst you asked that things were done within two weeks, much of it wouldn’t have been possible to do in that timeframe. What we need is a long-term approach to the issues you have raised, here and on all our water courses, and I would like to work with you and your volunteers to put a plan together that allows us to put solutions in place that help to prevent birds becoming ill or dying. If you are up for meeting with me and officers we can discuss issues and start to develop a plan which we can then monitor on an on-going basis. I believe that this will enable us to be more preventative and proactive in our approach and less reactive, which is very much the case now.

Also, in a separate email you mention the damage caused by anglers and rather than treating this issue separately I would like to include it the plan referred to above, so that we have one plan for everything. I think this would make more sense, but happy to get your views on this.

Unfortunately, I will be away from work for the next few weeks, but if you can liaise with Jayne Weaver we can get something in place for when I am back; or you could meet with Jayne and others in my absence. By working together I think we can improve our approach, which will benefit the bird population in the borough. Having a healthy and thriving bird population is something we all want to see.

Regards Alan

Alan Caddick

Director Housing and Communities”

To this I would state that a plan was supposedly already in place before apparently being derailed by the now thankfully, ex leader of Sandwell council where the matter of approval for a decent report was deferred. I am still none the wiser what the plan is with this now.

I am not sure what “long term approach means”, but we don’t need this, we need a short term set of actions to prevent another year of problems that will undoubtedly resume at some point unless things are drastically altered. This is just another stalling tactic, and I do not see another meeting achieving anything when there have already been meetings that have resulted in little.

The issues concerning angling, are separate completely to this issue, except regards bad management of it in parks, and I do not believe that linking the two are helpful. I have still to get any formal response from the acting leader of this council to the lockdown litter campaign, that was sent in July!

This is the rest of the response regards the action plan that I set out below- no meeting needed.

I would therefore ask that the following is implemented within the next two weeks, but fear that this will be too late to save the many birds who will perish.


  1. Remove the dead trees and branches in the pool and attempt to remove the duckweed.The arboricultural team have arranged meetings with all of the council’s appointed tree contractors to evaluate the work required. Once the quotes have been received the order will be placed, with the priority being aimed at the Smethwick Parks. The most effective way of reducing duckweed is by aeration, unfortunately at this site the introduction of aerators at this moment in time could disturb the silt accelerating the botulism. The removal of duckweed by hand at this site will only be a temporary measure and would be very time consuming and costly.                                                                                                                                                                                                     COMMENT   Once again we are back to the stalling tactic of quotes, waiting for them to come back  and no action being taken to address the issue. I am sick of this, it’s all the council appear to say, and nothing gets any further.                                                                                                                                                                     
  2. Remove the litter in the lake.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This will be done and we will be using the contractors who have recently assisted with the clearance at Smethwick Hall Park.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   COMMENT    On posting a facebook post about the appalling latest situation with birds at the park, and the unkept appearance of litter in the water, a number of local residents pledged to get together to clean it up themselves. One of these approached the council and alleges that he was “warned off” doing it.  Where as I  cannot verify this, it was apparent that two council workers , one of them from drainage were sent out pretty quick to do what Serco et al should have been doing for the last several months following the social media shaming, and after several councillors were contacted. How difficult is it to remove litter by opening a gate and walking around the edge of the pool? I am not sure as to why the contractors concerned with the clear up at Smethwick Hall park cannot remove the tree debris as described above?                                                                                                                                                                            
  3. Give us a key to open the padlock to the pool gate.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We will arrange for a key to be supplied                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     COMMENT  The council appear to have changed the lock, and I have a type of key which opens it.                                                                                                                                                          
  4.  Acquire a water testing/laboratory company to test the water and sediment at this lake to determine the conditions that are present and pathogens present. I still believe that this lake’s issues arise from the adjacent housing development on the old college, as it was never producing outbreaks like this, even in hot summers where the lake had dropped due to the collapsed drain. We only found out confirmation of human excrement present at Smethwick Hall park when the EA tested these parameters.We will ask the Environment Agency to carry out tests on our behalf.                                                                                                                                                                                                 COMMENT   It is apparent from the results I took myself, that this pool has water and likely sediment which contains elevated levels of ammonia. I think it very unlikely that the EA would carry out tests at this pool when it contains no  fish. I have had this conversation with them before. Once again, the council could procure a company or a laboratory to undertake testing, on all its pools, but this would again no doubt result in the same “getting quotes and waiting for them to come back in” drivel that I have now become accustomed to in this saga.    I also sent an email to the director of public health in Sandwell Lisa Mcnally asking if she knew of any possibilities of testing , especially given the covid-19 links with detecting it in sewage , but I have not even had the courtesy of a reply.                                                                                                        
  5. Seal off the feeding area with fencing to prevent feeding in this area. Put up more signs asking people to not feed the birds for the reasons of preventing bird illness. Attempt to cleanse or cover with fresh gravel, the area where feeding has occurred to potentially break the link with any harmful bacteria present that the birds could be ingesting from submerged food. Sometimes I have seen pure mould thrown into this area!                                                                                                                                                                                        We will consider options about the best way to deal with this and look at the merits of putting up signs. Work needs to be done to educate people and for them to understand that what could be an act of kindness in providing food could make the birds ill or could kill them. We would like to work together with you on this and identify solutions jointly.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  COMMENT      More time wasting, what options? This area is regularly plastered in food which is not appropriate for wild birds, and is mouldy.                                                                                                                                                              
  6. Consider the potential of filling in this lake and what is required to do this. We are in agreement with this proposal, however this needs to be designed by professionals in this field. There is also the issue of the 2m brick built sewer that runs under the pool and has collapsed a couple of times that would need protection from machinery. We will do some work on this and get some costs.

COMMENT I am not in favour of filling in the pool at all, but the lack of any action by this council to determine what the issues are make it a certainty that this cyclical issue will continue unless it is broken. We cannot allow more birds to be lured to their deaths every year because a council fail to act. 

I also copied in my MP Nicola Richards about this issue, and she sent me the following response from SMBC CEO David Stevens. As can be seen here, his very brief responses appear to differ from the statements made earlier by Mr Caddick, so who in fact was briefing him?

Scan_20201101 (3)

I am not sure why it is unsafe to pick litter around a lake, or that is within easy reach. I am not sure why Mr Stevens states that keys cannot be issued at this time, when Alan Caddick said that they could. The idea that we should contact parks officers who would probably not even be there, and not able to send anyone out in a “timely manner”, means that this statement is ridiculous. “Convenient times” are not something that ever occurs with wildlife rescue.

Scan_20201101 (4)

I am not sure how further forward we are when they keep “looking into” these measures, instead of acting and actually doing something.

Added to this, Chris Adams also contacted her MP Shaun Bailey about the matter, and once again Mr Stevens from the council responded, but here is the story he gave to Mr Bailey.



I can only state that we have been removing dead and ill birds from the lakes, and NOT Serco or Sandwell council. For some reason, the council appear to have suddenly stopped using the boat they were using, and the people who were using it. Obviously this is a management decision, and has meant that we have had to do the council’s work, as well as that of the Environment Agency I would add.

The statement about improvements at the parks are a lie. No action has been taken at Victoria park, and none at Smethwick Hall park. Obviously the issues have not reduced, given the spate that prompted mine and Chris’s letters. 

The issues are not “rectified in a timely manner”– as the string of delays which Alan Caddick mentions to the action points which I asked them to take prove.

This “pandemic” has once again forced volunteers to take action, and with the ridiculous and unnecessary lockdown, forged out of falsified data, we once again have a situation where we will have to act where others whose job it is don’t. I think that the public sector love working from home, and manufactured crises, where they can pretend they care, whilst also pleading poverty like Oliver’s at the workhouse table. I don’t really see what work the council are doing at the moment, or councillors come to that. Time for a pay cut I think , to reflect the easing workload.



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Lockdown litter leaders- Dudley’s recurring fishing problems



As part of our lockdown litter campaign, we wrote to the four leaders of the Black country local authorities. The letter can be read here.

This is the second formal response that I have had from the four borough leaders, the first being a largely positive one from Wolverhampton’s Councillor Ian Brookfield.

This post deals with one that I have had to chase I would state from Dudley’s Councillor Patrick Harley. I have also been supported by my MP Nicola Richards in this regard, and have also made contact with some councillors in some of the problem areas.

Before I get to the response to our letter, I think it fair to state that Dudley at one time did lead the way with championing environmental issues. It published several wildlife leaflets which I have scanned below. They pioneered what I believe was the first “swanwatch” in the area in the mid 90’s with the help of then wildlife crime officer PC Dave Fridays , though I would like to think in Sandwell that we defined it.  😀

This leaflet gave several contact numbers (most of which no longer exist), as well as offering some useful information on swans and their habits etc.

Scan_20201018 (4)

Scan_20201018 (5)

It also outlined some of the main threats to mute swans, (as well as all the other wildfowl), and many of these are sadly still threats.

Scan_20201018 (6)

There was also a leaflet for badgers, but one of interest to this post specifically concerned angling and wildlife.


Information about fishing techniques and practice, including what to do if birds became tackled was given, as well as the message regards litter being lethal, and not just discarded line and hooks.

Scan_20201018 (2)

There was also an angling code of practice, which we would endorse and some of these are repeated in our leaflet.

Scan_20201018 (3)These were therefore positive moves, and it can be evidenced from this leaflet , as stated that

“In 1996 Dudley’s wildlife watch team and the RSPCA were called out to help dozens of wildfowl caught in discarded tackle. In the worst incident, a swan died in agony with a triple pike hook in its throat with its insides literally (having) been (ripped) to pieces, and on another site, all four cygnets had to have surgery to remove hooks in their gullets. “

It is clear that someone in the council at this time realised that the situation was just not acceptable. I believe that the sites referred to here were The Donkey Pool at Wrens Nest, and The Fens Pool Nature Reserve in Brierley Hill. 

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with these “nature reserves”, they are sited next to council estates which can generally be referred to as being “feral”. Off road bikes and horse and carts appear to be the main sources of attraction, as well as fishing, giving the unemployed something to do. The “reserve” part of such sites is largely lost therefore for NATURE. Dudley council were very slow to act to stamp out the cruelty to horses being practiced at one site with illegal fly grazing, (“tradition” my arse), but thanks to campaigners they have now been removed. 

There are some people who try to do their best with picking up litter, but I feel they are not getting the full support they deserve, such as The recently formed Friends of Fens pool Nature Reserve. 

Myself and other rescue groups have actively been involved on these two sites, as well as that at Parkes Hall Pool and areas along the canals since the production of this leaflet, and things have not improved. As I have stated in an email to Councillor Harley, Dudley this year has been the worst by a country mile for angling related incidents in the four Black country boroughs, with Donkey Pool and Fens Pool nature reserve pools being the worst by far. This is not just my observation, but one which was apparent then from this leaflet, and also one I know having spoken to the RSPCA whose job it is professionally.

This leaflet is not displayed anywhere on any Dudley site, and is also not present on the council’s website. This information however about fishing is on the website, but “recommends” is not really good enough. The rules appear to be totally confused, as ALL FISH SHOULD BE RETURNED ALIVE TO THE WATER! 



The message about the angling code from the former leaflet has therefore been lost….. 😥

Let us look at the evidence of this that I have sent to the leader of Dudley, and also one of the Wardens at The Fens pool.

Donkey pool 23/6/20 Caught cygnet- caught and anchored in reeds from leg, hook in beak and line removed. This was the first time in over 20 years that a pair of swans had bred successfully on this pool , and a total of 9 cygnets hatched- the most I saw anywhere in a single brood in The West Midlands county this year.

Parkes Hall pool 23/6/20 Male swan with hook in bill and weight on end, caught and removed. This was only the second year that a pair has also bred on this pool in a generation.


Fens pool nature reserve V. pool.  21/7/20.   Caught cygnet with chin strap. One other cygnet dead on pool, suspected vandalism.

Parkes Hall pool. ?/8/20 Male again with hook and weight from beak. On returning next day this had gone. Suspected RSPCA attended.

Fens Pool Nature reserve 26/8/20 Ravens rescue and Scared Animal Wildlife  Rescue called out to Grove pool, male swan with line and hook in beak. This incident received widespread social media following and reporting. Male was caught and line removed.





Donkey Pool 2/9/20 Male with nose strap around beak. Again SAWR involved. Rescued with use of boat. Removed line and weed and released.






Fens pool nature reserve- middle pool. 11/9/20.   Female swan of pair with line around leg. Caught and removed.


Fens pool nature reserve Grove Pool.  17/9/20 Called out by member of public to cygnet with hook and line in beak. Could not catch.


Returned next day 18/9/20 and caught and removed line


Donkey pool     10/20

Cygnet observed to be not eating, and suspected to have fishing related issue. Caught by SAWR and taken to Wychbold swan rescue, but died. X RAY confirmed that this young bird had swallowed this hook , and it had most likely been pulled causing serious damage to the oesophagus. The angler who caught this bird killed it and left it to suffer. 


Initially, before the last horrific incident, I received a rather meaningless response from a warden at the Fens pool, who stated that

“I know the situation at Fens Pools can be distressing however the wardens do try to engage with anglers whenever possible regarding disposal of tackle and other litter. Please feel free to call me regarding this issue.”

After the latest Donkey pool incident, I sent another email to Councillor Harley, in what I would describe as my usual “sandwell” council style.  😀

This is the reply that I received from his PA

“Dear Mr Carroll, thank you for your email to me and recent correspondence with my teams based at Fens Pool Nature Reserve.

As the team have explained, we are very grateful for you sending incidents you have recorded in the Dudley area as we are only as good as the information we have and I can confirm our staff are continuing to patrol the pools on a twice daily basis following the concerns you have raised.

In accordance with our duties under the Wildlife and Countryside Act I can assure you we are committed to improving the welfare of all animals, plants and habitats under our control on our parks and nature reserves and will do all we can to prevent environmental crime and anti-social behaviour.

The incidents you have provided are vitally important as they enable us to build up a picture of incidents and identify any possible patterns in terms of times and locations which helps us when we liaise with the West Midlands Police and Environment Agency on these matters. I understand the team at Fens Pool have contacted the Environment Agency to request additional visits to the site to check rod licences and advise on angling best practice.

We will display the leaflet you have provided on noticeboards around the site to raise further awareness, and I would also ask that you do continue to keep the teams based at our nature reserves informed of any further information you have.

Kind Regards,

Julie Dunn on behalf of Councillor Patrick Harley, Leader of Dudley Council

PA to the Leader of the Council

Chief Executives, Executive Support Team

It is fair to state, that on my last visit to the Fens pool, one of our lockdown litter leaflets is on display, so that is a positive and welcome step, as at least the anglers on this particular site are being reminded visibly of the damage that litter and poor angling can have.


But that is where my optimism ends I am afraid. It transpires according to the local councillors, that Parkes Hall pool is under the control of Severn Trent Water 😡

There are no bins of any substance at the Donkey Pool at poolside, and no mention of siting any more at the location at this pool which is part of The Wrens Nest “national nature reserve” site in the reply, which I had asked for.  😥  Quite honestly I do not think this pool should be fished at all. It is too small, and has also seen idiots ripping out reeds, (anglers again), as well as magnet fishing taking place. The status to me makes this site, incompatible with fishing. Wrens Nest has also just been awarded a green flag, though I can’t help feeling that as with pools in Sandwell, that Keep Britain Tidy , the awarding body never appear to look very closely at waterside areas when dishing out the fabric.


I really do hope that the wardens and council DO start to report these matters to both the police and the EA, as it is quite apparent for some time that things have got out of control at these sites, and little to no regulation is going on. As far as I am concerned, Dudley council are far from “locking down litter”, but hopefully our campaign and raising the plight of the affected wildlife suffering as a direct result of angling, has challenged them to do better, and again highlighted that this “sport” has devastating effects when practiced by mindless thugs. If you live in the borough, I would urge you to contact your local councillor and MP to put pressure on them to do more, and please reference the evidence in this post to justify your concerns.



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Birmingham’s “National Nature Reserve” shame

This post reveals two things. That Birmingham City Council do not care about wildlife in its parks, which I knew already, and that angling in this area is uncontrolled and results in the death of wildlife, which I also know from several years of past experience.

I have previously detailed my issues with this authority and its incompetence, negligence and lack of interest or caring in the deaths of wildfowl from “botulism” and also lead poisoning at a park in Erdington. This is not a very prosperous area of the city to put it mildly, so you would perhaps expect the senior management who live in far more pleasant surroundings to not give a shit. But on their literal own doorstep of the Mecca- Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield- (now going by the truly preposterous “Royal Sutton Coldfield”)- well you might think that they would. I can however report also from past experience and a very recent issue that there is nothing any different about this so called “national nature reserve.”

This place has a long history, and there are seven pools in total , some of which can be fished, and some which cannot.

One of the main problems that I have seen at this site are the absolute scum of the earth  carp anglers, or “The three day eventers” as I also refer to them as. Day 1 consists of turning up in their tent and consuming as much alcohol and illegal drugs as possible. Day 2, sleeping this off alongside 2 or 3 other sweaty blokes in very close proximity. Day 3, defecating in the bushes and leaving behind a pile of rubbish, destruction and fishing related litter. The matter is particularly bad on Blackroot pool and Powell’s Pool. You will find them there.

Yet if you go on Birmingham City Council’s official website, here is what they claim are the rules about fishing in Birmingham’s parks. There are also it is claimed, byelaws.




Note rule 11, and that there is supposedly a bye-law about this.



It is interesting to note that there is no specific mention of taking certain measures in order to reduce risks to wildfowl from this activity.

Further info about fishing in Sutton Park comes from the Sutton Coldfield  Natural History Society.


Once again , night fishing is not allowed and neither are the erection of tents.

It’s quite apparent from observation that these bye-laws are not being enforced or adhered to at this site.

I have rescued and heard of many fishing related issues at Sutton Park involving tangled birds over several years. But one in the last week has really angered both myself and Baz from Scared animal wildlife rescue.

Unfortunately, we only heard about the issue after several hours where the following facebook post was made on a group which I am not a part of.


Unfortunately, this is one of the big problems that I have with social media in that it produces a usual glut of people wanting to help by posting various numbers and contact details of organisations, none of which are based anywhere near to the area in question. The person requesting advice or help is then bombarded by different numbers, and yet there is no indication of which one they may have rang, or any at all. There is also no indication for those different rescue organisations who may be tagged into the post, if other organisations have said that they have or been notified and are going out. “Help” unfortunately, is very often no help at all.

And so it was that Baz and myself from SAWR went to find this swan in the fading light. When we got there, this is what we found, along with two adult swans , (the male of which had a hook from his mouth with line), and one cygnet.





This cygnet had drowned, with its neck and feet tied together with line. A truly shocking indictment of fishing in Birmingham. 

There was one guy fishing from a bivvy (tent) on this pool= therefore in breach of the byelaws stated above, and another set of gear that looked like someone had just arrived, or had packed up. We got the usual drivel about bad anglers, and he claimed that he hadn’t seen the swans . To be fair they were in the corner, and it may not have been him that originally hooked the swan, or left the crap behind, but who knows, not BCC that’s for bloody sure.

From the posts off the facebook one, it appears that their rangers had been contacted, and then perhaps they had contacted the RSPCA. But it wasn’t clear if any of them had actually got off their arse and tried to help the bird when it was still saveable as pictured.

The circumstances in the FB picture appear to show two cygnets, but we cannot see the one behind clearly. We assume that the drowned one was the one reported with the line and plastic sweetcorn piece visible, yet on inspection, this piece was not present on the bird. Instead it appears that this piece was in the mouth of the adult male swan instead.

We can only speculate that this was the same piece of line, and it had somehow ended up in the cob’s mouth, but that the cygnet had also been caught up in more line. Or is it the case that the male swan had been hooked AFTER the picture had been taken and the report made, with an identical rig? It seems extraordinary that two swans would have been hooked on the same day- but who knows when there is no enforcement of byelaws on such a pool?

To make matters worse, it appears that the caller was contacted by the RSPCA 20 hours later, long after we had retrieved the body. I mean, that really is just crap.

We caught and removed the hook off the male, which can be compared with the one pictured in the FB post.


This is of course is just one of many  angling related incidents that we have dealt with of late in the West Midlands, and comes in the same week that at Sandwell Valley, the prompt action of one responsible angler, who actually called the rangers, and the business manager who promptly alerted myself to a very badly tangled swan, resulted in us being able to remove the line quickly without injury. If it had been left there, the outcome would probably have been the same. Somewhere then, the protocol at Birmingham City council is just not good enough, but this is exactly the same as with the botulism issues at Brookvale Park. 

Is it the case that they just believe that “There is nothing meaningful to be done” , or at least nothing meaningful for them to do in helping wildfowl from being killed, from bye-laws that they do not enforce?



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Free fishing- no catch for Sandwell council



Three years ago, this blog revealed that Sandwell council were making virtually nothing from fishing on its pools. 

Despite stating on its website that certain pools could be fished, and that there were various charges for doing so, an FOI request revealed that between April 2012-April 2017 they had sold just 10 season tickets and just two day tickets, making a grand total of £303.

I recently put in a follow up FOI to the council , as part of our lockdown litter campaign to get statistics between 2018-2020.

I asked

“I refer to the following link on your website
“Sandwell Council issues tickets which allows fishing at the following pools:
Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich
Swan Pool, Sandwell Valley Country Park, West Bromwich
Sheepwash Nature Reserve, Tipton
Hydes Pool, Woden Road South, Wednesbury
West Smethwick Park, Smethwick
Victoria Park, Tipton.
Fishing Fees and Charges for Sandwell Pools
Type of ticket
Adult Season Ticket
Under 16s / Over 60s Season Ticket
Adult per day (maximum 2 rods)
Under 16s / Over 60s per day (maximum 2 rods)
You can buy fishing season tickets from Sandwell Park Farm, please ask in the shop. Bring a passport size photo so we can issue you with your season ticket.”
Please provide information for the last 3 years for 2018, 2019, and to date 2020.
(I) Number of adult season tickets sold for each year
(ii) Number of under 16s/over 60’s season tickets sold for each year
(iii)Number of adult day tickets sold for each year
(iv) Number of under 16’s/over 60s day tickets sold for each year
Please provide the total revenue earned by the council from fishing between 1st January 2018 -1st July 2020.”

The council responded after some delay with a breakdown of the tickets and money sold and raised.



Adult                   1              £50.00

Concession        2              £50.00

Day                      2              £12.00



Concession        3              £77.25

Day                      1              £ 6.00


Concession        2              £51.50

Total £246.75


Once again it appears that little has changed in the years since I made the 2017 request, and that the council is rudderless on policy to address the issue of managing its waters and getting any value in allowing people to use the facilities. To use many other sporting facilities in the borough, you have to pay, yet these activities are not linked to such abysmal anti- social behaviour and littering as that associated with angling. In short FREE FISHING = TROUBLE, LITTER AND HOOKED BIRDS.

The council continue to make nothing from this , yet have to spend money clearing up after litter louts. Rescuers continue to have to deal with angling related litter and bad practice. There is no management, no deterrent and no policy to issue tickets. 

I have no idea why the politicians of this borough continue to ignore the evidence and unsustainability of the issues raised, but I will continue to raise them and the problems that free fishing causes in the borough- such as these.






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#Lockdown litter leaders- Wolverhampton- “out of darkness cometh light”



As part of our lockdown litter campaign, we wrote to the four leaders of the Black country local authorities. The letter can be read here.

I am very pleased to report a very positive response from Councillor Ian Brookfield of Wolverhampton, who is the first to respond. There are some very encouraging statements from him here, and the direction that the City Council have taken is to be welcomed. 

He responded;

“Dear Mr Ian Carroll

 Thank you for your email dated 30 July 2020.

 I have now had opportunity to discuss the content of your email with my team and wish confirm to you our support for your lockdown litter campaign, furthermore we are happy to display the campaign leaflet in our notice boards at the sites where fishing is permitted.

 As a Council we are determined to tackle all aspects of environmental crime, anti-social and to uphold the protection provided to  animals, plants and habitats under our control in accordance with the Wildlife and Countryside Act and working collaboratively with our stakeholders and communities. Only last month, working with key internal and external stakeholders such as the Anti-social behaviour team, Neighbourhood Policing Team, local fishermen, RSPB and the Environment Agency, tackling several issues of anti-social behaviour, animal cruelty and illegal fishing at Rocket Pool. Our own Ranger and Countryside Service has increased the patrols around our waterbodies, including Rocket Pool and Ladymoor Pool, during COVID-19 lockdown.

 We will continue to build on this and work with our neighbouring Authorities in the Black Country and other stakeholders to share best practice and further improve our management and enforcement powers of our waterbodies.

 Kind regards


Councillor Ian Brookfield

Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council

Labour Councillor for Fallings Park”


This is a great response, and probably the best that one could hope for. It is also good to see a politician true to their word, as our leaflet is now displayed in the notice board at The Rocket pool site, and it is clear that some effort has been made in recent times to improve some of the drab surroundings.



We hope that the other three leaders will also respond in a similar vein, but Councillor Brookfield has certainly led the way here. There are three other bins waiting to be locked down, but as for Wolverhampton…



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Sandwell’s troubled waters


troubled waters

It’s unfortunate that this borough has a political situation at present which rivals its many toxic swamps. In the chaos of the single infighting group and their childish squabbles, who are split into two bitter warring camps, this means that little is being achieved, and very little scrutiny apparently visible either. The situation with the pools in Smethwick , appears to mirror its elected officials.

In March, I was quite positive that the abysmal raw sewage/botulism situation at Smethwick Hall Park was going to be tackled, largely as a direct result of lobbying by park users and local residents in a petition of 400 names being submitted to the council. A site meeting was held where we were as good as told that the situation was in hand and it seemed a sure fire thing that the report that had been written recommending action would be waived through.

Then at the cabinet meeting where this was supposedly going to happen, out came a bizarre question from the now ousted ex leader of the council Yvonne Davis, of “Should we defer this item, in the light of the “crisis” we are facing?” Watch from about the 18 minute mark.

It was quite clear that both the cabinet member, and the senior officer were left quite perplexed as to what she actually meant, whatever spin they put on it, the silent pause was a clear non scripted moment.

This referred , at least I assume to the current covid-19 issue, and I read the statement as “I wonder if we should spend this money on a pool” (with a very series human health related issue, i.e human raw sewage in the lake causing illness by a direct pathway to receptors- birds and potentially people), or use it to wipe bone idle people’s arses instead in free hand outs- as this council does best?

I queried this bizarre moment, as it was far from clear as to what outcome had been arrived at in the meeting, and what was meant exactly by  “deferring” the matter, and received this response from Alan Caddick- SMBC Director Housing and communities

” Hello Mr Carroll

Please let me clarify what was approved at yesterday’s Cabinet.

 Cabinet approved the recommendations in the report, the main one being to procure a contractor to carry out the works at Smethwick Hall Park. As explained to you at the site visit we made, the works will see the silt removed from the entire pool and then being reused within the pool area to reduce the total area of open water by 50%. These works will be put out to tender in the normal way. The Leader did ask a question as to whether the works should be deferred for three months due to the current situation we are experiencing with corona virus. My response to the Leader was that it would be prudent to go out to tender and get the tenders back in; at such time we could then review the position with corona virus and agree a suitable way forward as to when the works start.

In addition, the installation of aerators in our pools and the establishment of a Pools Maintenance Team has also been agreed, and as Cllr Crompton says in her email we are going to do these things as soon as we can.

Whether you accept it or not we, and the country as a whole, are in an emergency situation and we are having to conduct our business in different ways, as demonstrated by yesterday’s Cabinet that was completely in line with the Council’s constitution.

We will continue to work with you and update you on progress, but you will have to bear with us as we have significantly reduced staffing resources at this time which may result in some delays.”

I don’t accept that we are in “an emergency situation” and never have, we are in an engineered situation, and for some people that means a much easier life and a situation where that people who want to do things are being held back by those who wail neurosis and anxiety as an excuse for doing little.

So as this so called “crisis” unfolded, and continuing as some council staff appeared covid-awol, as volunteers, myself and Baz from scared animal wildlife rescue have basically been doing the job of the water team that was also supposed to be created in the March report. We have retrieved dead birds, rescued sick birds, made a nesting raft, put in a platform to help birds back onto an island, reported pollution incidents and deployed booms paid  out of our own pocket. Oh and I also delivered some free food parcels to the birds, but didn’t feel the need to make some promotional video about it, FFS!

In summary, 2020 has been an abysmal year to date for incidents of environmental pollution, mainly hydrocarbons.

Last month saw one of the most serious pollution events at Sheepwash Nature Reserve in Tipton, where we had to rescue a whole family of swans that were laced in some form of hydraulic fluid from off the River Tame.



Severn Trent were actually on the ball with this one, and had traced the pollution back to an industrial concern in the Tividale area, but most of it had by this time done enough damage, and by the weekend had reached beyond Wednesbury, affecting wild bird along the river the whole way. A duck had to be caught at Hydes Road, scene of another major spill in February.


All these birds were fine, and have now been released after being diligently cleaned by Scared Animal Wildlife Rescue.

Then came another scare immediately after this with another pollution issue at Hydes Road. It was clear that this was a so called “misconnection” where someone has hooked a washing machine into the wrong network resulting in it gushing crap into the surface water channel which flows into the pool.



We had a testing kit which showed that there was high levels of ammonia and also elevated phosphate, consistent with these type of issues.



Once again we contacted Severn Trent and the council, and I believe that some misconnections were traced back, and that these people will be receiving letters to put right the issue.

Then back to Smethwick Hall Park and a different type of pollution to the usual in the form of diesel/turps type solution which came following a deluge of rain, and once again required over 20 birds to be rescued that had become covered in it.





Severn Trent were already aware of this and were trying to trace where it had come from, but that was all they appeared to be interested in, except putting a boom across the other side of the lake to where the main bulk was sat- which was still a substantial amount that would have covered more birds that had landed on the site. A vacuum truck that had been called for was not used because of “health and safety” , and we waited around for some time before it was concluded that not much was going to happen from the up to ten high vis jacketed phone users. They had not even informed Sandwell Council of the issue, I did.

We totally ignored their advice of “leaving it to them”- which would have been nothing and we quickly deployed the limited pads I had bought from a spill kit, after the February Hydes Road pollution, and they left behind some of theirs, and it was quite clear as to the amount of pollutant that had just settled in the fenced off “botulism” /raw sewage shallow area.


And we also put in a boom across the water. By now Severn Trent had gone, and were no seen again.


Pollution on top of pollution


The following day, an army of volunteers and local residents also acted for the sake of the birds and deployed another makeshift boom across the water in the form of straw and netting.



super snakey

This stretched right across the pool, anchored in a V shape off the island.



After a phone call to the now acting leader/ deputy leader of the council, Maria Crompton and Sunish from the Sandwell Valley, we got the most help of this situation with a massive bail of straw which we used to try to contain the area of pollution within the booms. And much Worzel Gummidgery was had by all.  😛


It basically worked and controlled and contained the worst of it. Unfortunately the botulism fence had already started to push over, and another torrent collapsed it. Once again we took to the water and put it back up, and it is now more secure than it was before.

The following week the new SMBC contractor , who seems like a can do type of guy , and the sort  that we want to work with, arranged for the removal of the soaked straw and the installation of new booms.


All under the watchful eye of “Donatello” the resident terrapin who appears to have seen it all at this pool over the last two years and was using the old one as a resting point.



The pool once again lies in situ awaiting a plan to remove the contamination.

After contacting my MP Nicola Richards about the situation, this response came from the CEO of SMBC David Stephens. There’s not much new here, but on we wait…..


One can only hope from this that something will finally happen with this pool, though I’m not sure about the others, as the countdown to The Commonwealth Games 2022 looms with the spiralling cost of the aquatics centre swimming pool being built less than 400 metres away from this cesspit. I wonder, “Should we defer this item, in the light of the “crisis” we are facing?” 

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Lockdown litter leaders?



As part of the #lockdownlitter campaign to raise awareness concerning the damage caused to wildlife by lost and discarded litter associated with this activity, we wrote to the leaders of the four Black country Local authorities, Dudley- councillor Patrick Harley, Sandwell- currently Councillor Maria Crompton, Walsall’s Councillor Mike Bird, and Councillor Ian Brookfield from Wolverhampton.

I have outlined the letter below, and inserted the pools where in my experience of rescuing birds for over 20 years, these continue to be the worst. I have also written to some local councillors whose wards cover these areas, as well as receiving the support of my MP Nicola Richards, which is most welcome. Some of these areas don’t have litter bins, so this would be a start in attempting to tackle the problem, but more is needed as issues of anti- social behaviour are what cause the problems.

I hope that the councils involved will respond positively with action, and I will publish the responses received.


Ref local authority control of angling and our lockdown litter campaign


We write to you as rescuers of wildlife, and with particular reference to wildfowl that are both resident and visitors to lakes under your council’s control. With experience of over fifty years of this voluntary work between us, we have seen many birds affected by litter associated with angling in this time, and the situation is unfortunately getting no better.

Throughout the lockdown and the current covid event, we have continued to rescue and take injured birds requiring help to rescue centres, and the time and expense of this has been funded out of our own pockets. Whereas the RSPCA have vast resources and finances to do their work, many people call us when they do not attend incidents, and this has certainly been the case in the last four months.

The main problems are angling related, which are entirely preventable and need to be tackled in partnership with your authority where it has management of the waterbodies to prevent suffering and injury to these wild birds.

Several years ago, The Environment Agency produced a “golden rules” for fishing leaflet, and then in 2003, The National Angling Alliance also constructed a code of conduct for angling. This was after a great deal of pressure and evidence compiled by The National Swan convention, (of which swanwatch was a regular contributor of data for records in The West Midlands area), which was presented to The Environment Agency, as regulators of angling. Between 1995-2001, a third of all rescue records for swans were attributable to angling related issues.

The Agency in conjunction with the NSC and the angling trades association then also produced a paper entitled “The impact of lost and discarded fishing line and tackle on mute swans Research and development technical record W1-051/TR,  Perrins, Martin, Broughton”

It produced the following major observation in that it

“…highlighted the magnitude of the danger which angling poses for mute swans. Rescue groups and the RSPCA attend over 8,000 swans in trouble each year and it is estimated that approximately 3,000 are due to angling -related incidents, either directly hooked or entangled with fishing tackle.”


Fast forward to 2020, and the following piece reveals that the situation is only becoming grimmer as a recent Daily mail article shows, reporting RSPCA rescue statistics for the last five years.

“15,183 reports relating to animals injured by or caught in angling litter”.

NB these are just the RSPCA reports and do not cover the work of volunteer organisations who attend far more incidents than the RSPCA combined.

The main problem in our experience of sites, including ones that you are responsible for managing, is that free fishing, and night fishing, which attracts antisocial behaviour and the type of people who do not care what they leave behind correlates directly with increased incidents of birds being tackled. Relevant legislation such as The Environmental Protection Act may well be being employed in your town centres and even parks, but for some reason appears to escape those sitting around the waterside. Licences supposedly a legal requirement are seldom checked by anyone, and so the situation is left to deteriorate. It has to be asked as to why fishing is free, when you are losing money from this activity, yet other sports require payment, and some kind of rules, with threat of ejection or banning if people do not abide by them? Would football teams for example be allowed to continue to leave rubbish behind on the pitch, without the council taking action if they did so? Why should a few anglers be any different?

The antisocial behaviour is further compounded by the use of “bivvy’s”- or tents where individuals squat for sometimes days with alcohol and illegal drugs. They also conceal offensive weapons like axes and knives and cause criminal damage to aquatic vegetation, fences and trees. Illegal theft of fish and poaching is absolutely rife across the region, and fishing on pools not designated for fishing is also increasing, to the destruction of natural habitat and biodiversity. The areas left behind are festooned with plastic litter, and accented by line and hooks snagged up in trees and in the water.  Why is this tolerated? If these were illegal traveller infringements, or someone went around dropping litter in a town centre, presumably action would be taken, so why are people allowed to camp out whilst breaking the law, and a blind eye is turned?

In Sandwell the main sites of concern are Sheepwash Nature Reserve, Hydes Road, West Smethwick Park , Victoria park Tipton and Warrens Hall Park. This includes illegal fishing, illegal use of traps and several hooked birds. Evidence can be supplied.

In Dudley the main sites of concern are The Fens pool Nature Reserve pools, The Donkey Pool (Wrens Nest) and Parkes Hall Pool. This includes illegal fishing, illegal use of traps and several hooked birds. Evidence can be supplied.

In Walsall the main sites of concern are Moorcroft Wood. This includes illegal fishing, illegal use of traps and several hooked birds. Evidence can be supplied.

In Wolverhampton the main sites of concern are Rocket Pool and Ladymoor Road Pool. This includes illegal fishing, and several hooked birds. Evidence can be supplied.

The issue is that a new code of conduct is needed to cover all of the Black Country authority lakes.

An example of a set of rules which appears to work well at Walsall Arboretum is attached.

We have produced a new leaflet attached, which we consider to be the main golden rules and which could prevent birds being injured by angling litter. We hope that your authority will support this initiative and we can provide these to display in your site notice boards where fishing occurs. You will also hopefully engage with other authorities, ourselves, and legitimate angling organisations in the area to produce a new code. But this is not in itself enough, as it will require enforcement to succeed, and this will require resource implications. We realise that at this time, this may be difficult, but do realise that the third sector cannot continue to sustain the time, expense and vet bills associated with what is poor management of a single activity on waterbodies in your duty of care. We need to end free angling and evict those who are irresponsibly endangering our wildlife by leaving litter behind and not adhering to the rules.


Could you please address these concerns in a positive manner by a formal response, which we will publish in the public domain as part of our campaign to #lockdownlitter.


Regards Ian Carroll Swanwatch, Barry Sawbridge, Scared Animal Wildlife Rescue.


 Walsall Arboretum fishing rules

lockdown litter leaflet

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New Lockdown Litter leaflet



This month we have been raising issues relating to angling litter and the problems that it causes every year for wildfowl and rescuers.

The leaflet below is a collaboration between Swanwatch and Scared Animal Wildlife Rescue, and shows some of the casualties that have been encountered across the Black Country boroughs. These were either as a result of negligence , or poor angling practice, and could have been avoided. Many years ago, The Environment Agency published a “Golden Rules” leaflet. There was also a code drawn up by The National Angling Association, following lobbying from organisations like The National Swan convention, (NSC).

From theNSC  statistics below (which included some of the larger rescues and those of the RSPCA),  this showed how angling issues related to around one third of total recorded rescues of wildfowl, not counting lead poisoning which is also largely attributable to the same source. “Ill” , “injured” or dead birds, could have course also been victims of the same activity.

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Unfortunately, as anyone who rescues these type of birds know, the situation has only got worse. Most reasonable anglers would be horrified at these statistics, but there are a few who simply do not care, who need to be rooted out, and part of this involves better management and enforcement of fisheries owned by local authorities and an end to free day ticket fishing.

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The EA Golden rules leaflet



Our leaflet summarises four main rules, these being



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lockdown litter leaflet


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