On Friday night my mum and I were down by the Medway River at Motney Hill. We lost my dad recently to Coronavirus and this was the first time we had spent together since the funeral.
As we were enjoying the last of the sun, a large party of people came down to the river, each carrying a helium filled balloon to release across the estuary. There was something about this gathering that made me feel they were also there to remember a loved one recently lost.
I feel a kinship at the moment with anyone who is going through what my family has gone through but I can’t understand how you would choose to celebrate the life of someone by releasing plastic litter into a wildlife sanctuary.
I have fished more of these balloons from remote rivers and untangled them from hedgerows than I care to remember. They are an incredible menace to wildife, the strings entangling themselves around birds and fish and slowly strangling them or severing limbs. The plastic swallowed by unwary chicks and filling their guts until they starve to death.
Balloon releases are banned in Kent on council owned land and so the actions of these people were not only very thoughtless but illegal.
Did I challenge them? No. On this occasion I didn’t. It was not the moment either for them or us to deliver a lesson but clearly more needs to be done to raise awareness of the harm balloons can cause and encourage people to find more positive symbols to celebrate the life of those so many of us have loved and lost.