Warleigh Weir, a popular local wild swimming spot about an hour’s drive from Bristol, has become inundated with visitors desperate to escape the heat. Local residents in nearby Claverton are infuriated by the chaotic parking and litter left, and the landowners are now threatening to close the weir for a season because there is so much rubbish.
Privately owned, the public have no legal right to use the weir, but are welcome to visit the area, as long as they are considerate. This June its management was taken over by the ambitious Warleigh Weir Project, which is promoting four core values: “Sustainability”, “Leave no Trace”, “Rubbish Free”, and “Plastic Free”.
Johnny Palmer, the leader of the project, stresses that closure of the site is “absolutely plan C,” and has already held meetings with the local community in Claverton to make sure residents feel safe and are involved in decisions surrounding the site that effect the community.
In a BBC interview, Palmer tells of how this summer several hundred people every day have been using the 200 year old site, which doesn’t have parking to cope with the swelling number of visitors, spurred in part by ‘idyllic instagram posts.’
The project has recruited twenty-five ‘Warleigh Weir Guardians’ who will help encourage the sustainable use of the site, and plant a community orchard for visitors to access free seasonal fruits. The most daunting challenge is curbing litter, and making the community of residents and visitors aware of the environmental and social consequences to their actions. Bath & North-East Somerset council have recently installed bins, but unless the visitors who litter stop, the site will be closed to everyone.
Photo: Andy Walker