Northern Ireland

Carlingford Lough battles plastic scourge

Oil drum washed up in Carlingford Lough

When CS Lewis was creating his best-known work in the 1940s it's said he took inspiration from a very particular location.

"That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia," he is often cited by locals as saying, proud of the place in County Down that they call home.

But like many coastal locations, it's battling a beast - rubbish and plastic in particular.

Gloves from the fishing industry, plastic bottles, glass bottles, drinks cans and even footballs are common on its shores.

Image caption Both sides of Carlingford Lough are popular with tourists and day-trippers

Fire extinguishers, advertising hoardings, insulation panels and even a Rubik's cube are less so - but they are still there.

Shay Daly, a volunteer with Love Your Lough, was not always an environmentalist but the need to do something has grown on him after returning home from years living in Australia.

He is an advocate of the "two-minute clean-up", which urges the public to spend two minutes at the end of a visit to a beauty spot cleaning it up.

After just two minutes working the area outside Narrow Water Castle, near Warrenpoint, his bag was filled with everything from a gallon drum to crisp packets.

Shay wants the public to do more but also thinks local government should play its part by providing water fountains so that people do not have to buy plastic bottles of water.

Image caption A tiny minority of Carlingford's visitors continue to throw rubbish into the sea

"Things have to change - we're looking to change the mindset," he said.

And it seems that there could be some progress on the horizon.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has said that it will install free water dispensers in all of its buildings while exploring the feasibility of installing water drinking fountains throughout the council area - a provision that would have familiar to CS Lewis.

Across the lough in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland, campaigners are fighting the same battle.

Image caption Richard Lewis says the problem is caused by a tiny minority

Every week Carlingford attracts thousands of tourists and a minority leave a mess behind.

Richard Lewis, of Carlingford Tidy Towns, said some people are constantly throwing things into the sea.

"Only two weeks ago the whole community came out and did a beach clean and I look today and we need to do it again," he said.

"I feel that it is a classic case of a tiny minority... some people don't seem to realise that litter washes up somewhere.

"It really seems to be a losing battle but it's not a battle that we are prepared to lose."