Inspired to raise awareness and money after cleaning up after ‘covidiots’ who descended on the Dorset coast during the early summer heatwave and caused chaos, plasterer Oly will take on the challenge during August and expects to complete the swim in just 10 days.
The 35-year-old will be joined by fellow waste warriors Roy Beal, Jake Sculthorp and Rosie Bailey who will support him on kayaks.
As well as raising awareness of the blight of litter, the swim will raise money for two voluntary organisations – Clean Jurassic Coast and Gopladdle – that help look after Dorset’s beaches.
A former competitive swimmer, Oly will leave from the Jurassic Coast’s most western end in Exmouth, Devon, and will pass Sidmouth and then into Dorset.
After swimming past the tourist towns of Lyme Regis and West Bay he will continue along Chesil Beach. At Portland he will take on the famous ‘Race’, a deadly tide that has claimed many ships and sailors’ lives over the years.
He will then swim through the Durdle Door arch, on to Lulworth Cove, Kimmeridge and Swanage before finishing at the most eastern end of the coastline – Old Harry Rocks. He said, “I swim in the sea as often as I can but I have been putting in extra training preparing for this challenge.”
Oly, from Upton, who is engaged to NHS worker Tess, voluntarily cleans Dorset’s beaches on a weekly basis.
He was appalled by the litter dumped along the coast when the lockdown rules were eased.
“I’ve been helping to clear up litter in Dorset for a long time,” he said, “but I have never seen scenes of destruction like that before.
“There were two occasions after lockdown measures had been relaxed when the world and his wife seemed to descend on Dorset.
“Bournemouth and Durdle Door in particular were rammed because we had those spells of very warm weather.
“As soon as I saw the scenes on the news, I knew I had to get to Durdle Door and clear the inevitable mess these visitors would leave behind. Even I was shocked by what I saw.
“On this precious World Heritage site there was litter strewn as far as the eye could see.
“There was rubbish everywhere including disgusting items like soiled nappies, used sanitary products and human excrement in plastic bags just left on the beach.
“We had a few unpleasant encounters with people when we pleaded with them to take their rubbish with them – they just could not understand why they were not entitled to dump everything there. It was shocking.
“If volunteers like us don’t pick it up then it ends up in the sea and kills wildlife. I just find it unfathomable that people cannot understand that.
After spending all evening clearing up the beach at Durdle Door, Oly and his fellow volunteers travelled 23 miles to Bournemouth, which had seen similar destruction.
The exhausted volunteers, many of whom were driven to tears by what they had seen, were there until after midnight clearing up the mess hundreds of thousands had left behind.
During the two-day heatwave at the end of June, BCP Council had to declare a major incident when 500,000 people visited its beaches in Bournemouth and Poole – and left behind more than 50 tonnes of waste.
In Durdle Door the car parks and nearby villages were overrun, and Dorset Council was forced to close the roads into these tiny Purbeck villages on two occasions.
Volunteers marshalling the roadblocks were even spat at by people who had travelled from as far as the Midlands for a daytrip to the south coast.
The Lulworth Estate, which owns Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, is now operating a booking system on its car parks to avoid such overcrowding and chaos again.
“I get why people want to come here,” said Oly. “I love living here. All we ask is that visitors respect this beautiful coastline and take their rubbish home with them – it’s not a big ask.
“There’s only so much we, as volunteers, can clear away and so we really need to drive the message home to people about the harm plastic and litter left on our beaches does.
“I was privileged on a recent swim to be joined by a seal; it was such a wonderful moment, but I fear for the marine life with all the litter.
“It is beautiful creatures like this that are being endangered by selfish, thoughtless and lazy humans.
“If my swim helps hammer that message home then every one of those 96 miles will be worth it.”
To support Oly’s Swim Jurassic mission go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/swimjurassic
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