Woman wins environmental award for beach clean-up project

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Curriculum manager Nicola Beldham is on the crest of a wave after winning a top regional environmental award for a beach clean-up initiative.

 Her efforts to rid Seaham’s sands of litter saw her pick up the ‘greener volunteering’ category at the County Durham Volunteering Awards.

 Judges heard how she started The (unofficial) Seaham Coastal Clean Up Crew to tackle the growing problem of man-made debris with the help of her local community.

 Top of her hit list were plastic items such as bottles, carrier bags and fishing line that take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

 Armed with experience of participation in a national charity beach clean event with the Marine Conservation Society, she organises regular litter picks on Seaham Hall and Red Acre beaches.

 All ages of the community get involved and she has also organised two events to date aimed at educating children about this important environmental message.

 To support her efforts, the Durham Heritage Coast Partnership supply equipment and bags, and support her social media campaigns and other publicity.

 She has also volunteered at its last two Low Tide events, which celebrate the beauty of the local coastline.

 Nicola, 41, who is curriculum manager for autism and LLDD (learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities) courses and lives in Seaham, said action had been badly needed.

 She added: “Plastic bottles, fishing line, packaging, sanitary waste and some quite unusual debris were threatening to destroy habitats, kill wildlife and were making the area unattractive.

 “The beaches have dramatically improved and volunteers now meet regularly to keep them free from litter and to educate the public not to drop litter. I’m delighted to have won this award, which recognises the efforts of everyone who has helped.”

 The awards, which attracted more than 100 nominations, were organised by Durham Community Action, a charity which supports communities.