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Photo of Pam, a National Trust member who dedicated her life to keeping our beaches clean
Posted by Rachel, September 17, 2021

A Beach-Cleaning Legacy

This week is The Great British Beach Clean and we at Nosy Crow, along with our publishing partners at the National Trust, wanted to take a moment to reflect on the inspiring lives of National Trust members and benefactors, Gary and Pam, who together have harboured a longstanding determination to keep our beaches clean. Sadly, Pam has now passed away, but her passion for protecting our seas and coastlines lives on in the work of Gary and her friends and family.

In Gary’s own words, this is Pam’s story:

When my wonderful wife, Pam Billington, was told in 2016 that she had maybe only a few months to live, she decided she didn’t want to define the rest of her life as a battle with cancer. Rather she chose to see her remaining time as a celebration of the people, things and places that she loved.

High on the list of things Pam wanted to do was to spend as much time as possible on the Northumberland coast. We had planned to retire there, but sadly that was not to be, however it was the place she loved the most in the world.

As it turned out, thanks to wonderful help from the NHS, Pam lived for another two and a half years and we managed many more trips to the Northumberland coast to enjoy seeing the wildlife, especially puffins, terns, gannets and Pam’s favourite, eider ducks.

As the end approached, she made a plea for family and friends to honour her life by visiting a beach and spending some time picking up litter, especially plastic. It is a source of comfort to me that many people have taken up this challenge and sent me photographs of the mounds of ‘stuff’ that an hour’s effort can remove from our lovely beaches.

Shortly before she died, Pam wrote a poem called ‘I am Sunshine’. In the poem she envisaged herself paddling on Bamburgh beach (with me staying dry and carrying her towel), and the cancer as a storm that would pass while her love carried on.

I am Sunshine
By Pam Billington

I am sunshine
I am not rain
I am sunshine
I will shine again

I will shine when I choose be it day or night
I did not lose, there was no fight
For I am paddling now and the water’s warm
You were nothing but a passing storm.

A tiny part of a life lived full
A perfect love, you did not rule
You could never take all the love I’ve known
For it comes with me, you’re on your own.

I am sunshine
I am not rain
I am sunshine
I will shine again.

Photo of Pam and Gary, National Trust members who were passionate about keeping our beaches clean
Pam and Gary at Bamburgh Beach

Join a Beach Clean!
To get involved in a beach clean, all you need are two bags, one for rubbish and one for recyclables, access to a beach, and a little bit of time. By working together to care for our coastlines, we can protect wildlife and make sure our beaches stay safe and beautiful for everyone. You can find a beach clean event in your area on the Marine Conservation Society’s website, here.

If you’ve been inspired by Gary and Pam’s words, please do share photos of your beach-cleaning efforts with Nosy Crow and the National Trust via social media (you can find us on Twitter here and Instagram here) with the hashtag #BeachCleanForPam.

Photo of beach clean


For anyone who would like to introduce a young child to ideas around the importance of caring for our coastlines, and how by working together we can make a difference, The Wide, Wide Sea by Anna Wilson and Jenny Løvlie, published in collaboration with the National Trust, is a very gentle picture book introduction to the topic of plastic pollution.

You can take a look inside the book below:

See more: Nest Press