Interview with paddleboarding enviromentalist Lizzie Carr

Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion, Lizzie Carr, is on a paddleboarding mission to map plastic pollution in England’s canals and waterways. Here she tells Carys Matthews why she has taken on the challenge – and why the British countryside is the perfect place for an adventure... 

 

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What do you love about the British countryside? 

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People generally underestimate the challenging terrain and unpredictable conditions this country throws at you. It’s by no means a soft option – it’s got landscapes that rivals almost anywhere in the world and is so beautiful. 

Is there anything you’d like to change?

The amount of litter polluting our countryside – the canals, river and mountains aren’t going anywhere, so it’s important we look after them. 

Where’s your favourite place in Britain? 

The Isles of Scilly has to be my favourite. It’s a true hidden gem and has got everything you could want in terms of terrain and weather mixed with quintessentially British charm. With its own unique, subtropical microclimate that allows rare flora and fauna to thrive and flourish it’s hard to believe you’re still in the UK. I’ve spent a lot of time on the island and it’s a place I never tire of. 

Favourite view? 

That’s tough one, but I’d say the top of the The Garrison on the Isles of Scilly. Its panoramic view of the sea and off islands – St Agnes, Bryher and Tresco are stunining. It’s so remote and isolated – a great place to go when you want to get away from it all. 

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Photo credit: ©Gettyimages/DU BOISBERRANGER Jean

Seaside or mountain?

Both – depending on my mood or the type of activity I’m doing.  

Who is your outdoor or rural hero and why?

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Photo credit: ©Gettyimages/Eamonn McCabe
 

Everything David Attenborough has done to inspire people to become custodians of the natural world is incredible and he’s been a fantastic spokesperson for the problems around plastic pollution so he’s a hero to me. On a more personal level, my good friend James, who introduced me to climbing and took me on my first traditional crack climbing, has been a big influence of mine. His adventurous spirit is contagious and he’s always pushed me to better myself on adventures and has shown me what I’m capable of achieving. 

What inspired you to take on this challenge? 

Almost 80 per cent of plastics in our ocean stem from inland sources, but the issue isn’t being addressed on a local level. 

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Photo credit: ©Gettyimages/Cate Gillon

Plastic pollution is a global problem, but it’s important to highlight the impact locally, so people understand the scale of the threat we’re under from it – and that’s what SuperSUPEngland is about.  Our canals and rivers are largely neglected, but are iconic pieces of history that we should treasure and protect. If people start thinking about the environmental impact of plastic on a local level then hopefully we can begin to see a change in globally. 

Why paddleboarding? Any tips for first timers?

It’s low impact, environmentally conscious and accessible to everyone. I don’t think many people are aware that we can SUP (Stand-up Paddleboard) along our waterways, but if more people enjoyed them in meaningful ways I think they’d fall in love with them and want to actively protect them in the same way I have. I only started paddle boarding a couple of years ago – it’s looks harder than it is and what you need more than anything when starting out is confidence. 

In regards to the environmental mapping you will be carrying out – what do you expect to find?

There’s immense power in seeing something in an entirely new way and sharing it to make a positive change. I’ll be plotting all my plastic findings along the way on an interactive, real time map to highlight the issue up and down the country and bring it together in one place for the very first time. Although I expect to find a lot of waste and debris, I also know are sections of the network that are simply stunning.

The ultimate goal is to change attitudes towards plastics so all our waterways are places to be enjoyed and the wider problem of it filtering through to oceans is addressed at the same time. I’d love people to share their plastic findings along the waterways as well using #PlasticPatrol so we can start to build an even bigger picture. 

How can people follow your journey?

As well as tracking the environmental journey, I will also be tracked on my website www.lizzieoutside.co.uk, so you can follow me real-time.

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If people live near the canals on my route it would be great to see some friendly faces joining #PlasticPatrol. I’m also posting regular updates on Twitter @Lizzo010