Skip to main content

Mud, eels and treasure

Tonnes of mud, wedding rings, Go-Pros, eels and broken glass… If you’ve ever wondered what’s under the water in Clevedon Marine Lake, now you know!

Twice a year Clevedon Marine Lake volunteers open the sluice gates to drain out the water to remove tonnes of silt build-up. With the second-highest tidal range in the world, the Bristol Channel around Clevedon moves too much to let the silt settle on the river bed. Every time the tide tops over the lake’s wall, it deposits the mud that sinks to the bottom and builds up over time. To keep the lake deep enough for swimmers, canoeists and paddle-boarders, we need to get the digger in.

On March 19th we opened the penstock and sluice gate, letting the water in Clevedon Marine Lake slowly drain out.

Then, on Saturday 21st, a working party of around 60 volunteers trawled the lake bed to remove debris, rescue sea creatures and search for missing treasure. Among the treasures found were two GoPro cameras and three rings.

Caspar Clarke was our youngest volunteer to find a ring using the metal detector that he got for Christmas. After his mother posted a photo of 9-year-old Caspar holding the ring on the swimmers’ Facebook page, we managed to reunite it with its owner, Andrew Mitchard.

“I lost my wedding ring while paddle-boarding somewhere in Clevedon Marine Lake last June,” said Andrew. “With the help of a nine-year-old with a metal detector and a bit of social media assistance, it’s only gone and turned up! Nine months at the bottom of the marine lake, and it’s still in reasonable condition. Rumour has it my wife is planning to talk to me tonight! I would like to say thank you to Caspar and all at Marlens.”

Caspar with the ringA lot of people don’t realise that Clevedon Marine Lake is run by a charity and a dedicated team of volunteers. These volunteers don’t just organise clear-ups when the lake is drained; they also litter-pick, clean, mend and even pick up dog poo pretty much every day. They also clean, catalogue and store all items found in the lake with the hope of returning them to their owners.

“Cleaning up the lake was quite fun, especially when we found cool things like eels and rings! I felt really excited and surprised that I actually found something,” said Caspar. “The man was obviously very happy for me to find it, and I was happy because he got his ring back.”

We are now working hard to prepare for what we expect to be a busy summer. We’re putting in two sets of new steps, adding extra water quality tests and redesigning the website and lake signage. This will make it easier than ever to enjoy the lake, keep it clean and safe, and observe social distancing for as long as it’s in place.

We know that fresh air and exercise support our immunity and is good for our mental and physical health, so we don’t want to discourage visitors. But we would ask that people help us keep the lake clean by not bringing their dogs, taking home their litter and that they donate £2 every time they visit.

To donate, please click here or find the white donation boxes around the lake (emptied daily). To become a volunteer, please email volunteer@marlens.org.uk

Get stuck in!

Every year, we drain the lake to remove the silt build-up. But this is also our chance to clean seaweed and algae off the steps, fix broken or worn fittings, add new features and facilities… and search through the mud for lost property!

All this work is done by a team of volunteers. And you can help too. On Saturday 20th March, we will meet by the lock-up on the upper-promenade near the coastguard’s hut from 9 am. Or, you can turn up at any point and ask a volunteer in a turquoise tabard what you can do.

The drain down timetable

Friday 19th March:

  • Open penstock, 9-10 am and put out barriers.
  • Close penstock, 7 pm.

NO SWIMMING AFTER 9 am

Saturday 20th March, 9 am to 6 pm: 

  • Open lower lake penstock to drain out residual water, then close it
  • Search lake bed for lost property and bring anything of value to the shuttered
    shelter to be recorded
  • Remove debris from lake bed. Check the edges carefully for broken glass
  • Scrub weed from steps and handrails, using wire brushes
  • Tighten bolts
  • Pressure wash splash pool and slipway

Monday 22nd to Friday 26th March:

  • Digger to remove silt from the lake bed. No public access during this time.

Friday 26th March 6 pm onwards (after digger finishes):

  • Re-position any buoys which have been disturbed by the dredging.

Saturday 27 March 9 am-12

Note: High tide (6 am, 6.15 pm) may start to refill the lake depending on the weather.

  • Clean mud off the lower promenade
  • Remove mud left by the digger on the ramps and upper promenade
  • Put up flags on all the remaining flagpoles
  • Remove barriers

The lake will refill from the overtopping tide at 7.30 am on Sunday 28th March.

Voluntary work is allowed under government guidance. Please make sure that you keep socially distanced, bring your hand sanitiser and your own gardening or rubber gloves. Please don’t come if you or anyone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus, or if you have been told to self-isolate.

All ages and abilities are welcome. Volunteering work is done at your own risk.

Can’t help this time?

Please consider donating to Marlens, the charity that looks after the lake.