Volunteers will be taking to the water to clear rubbish from the River Thames as part of the big Oxford spring clean in March.

The River Thames Society, like many Oxford residents, has become increasingly concerned about the large amounts of rubbish left floating on the river and strewn along riverbanks through the city.

And the society has decided that the Thames should not be forgotten in the clean-up of the city, being supported by The Oxford Times, that is to take place on Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7.

The group has signed up for OxClean 09, which we are running with the Oxford Civic Society and Oxford City Council.

The first official spring clean, held last March was supported by almost 100 community groups, residents’ associations, schools and businesses, who all cleared a location of their choice.

A team of volunteers from the Thames society are planning to clean up a section of the river between Donnington Bridge and the University College Boathouse, and they will be led by Dr Dick Mayon-White, a familiar figure in the local health service.

Dr Mayon-White, now retired, worked as consultant in communicable disease control with the then Oxfordshire Health Authority. These days he is co-ordinator of the 40 volunteers who work as River Thames Society wardens, looking after a stretch of river from the source of the Thames to Teddington.

He said the society was planning its own river cleaning campaign in the summer, but saw OxClean as the perfect opportunity to get things going.

“We looked at the river and realised most of the cleaning is done by people on land. But there are parts you can only get to from a boat.

“The council takes responsibility for the litter on land, while the Environment Agency see its job as cleaning up pollution or removing objects that have become obstacles to navigation. But sadly, there seems to be a lot of plastic and cans floating on the water that no one takes responsibility for.”

He said repeated flooding had compounded the problem, resulting in plastic being swept into riverside bushes.

Dr Mayon-White said even parts of the Cherwell had become unsightly because of litter near Christ Church Meadow.

“We want to see a campaign to clear up the Thames. But we will have a small team taking part in OxClean.

“I suppose I’m partly interested in all this because of my work in disease control. Since the river is the source of our drinking water, it is important that it is kept as clean as possible.”

So far more than 34 groups have registered for the Oxford spring clean, including nine schools and 25 community groups, with organisers hoping to match the 1,500 army of volunteers who turned out last year.

The Oxford Times is again teaming up with the Oxford Civic Society and Oxford City Council to launch the city-wide clean-up, to be held over the weekend of March 6 and 7.

Last year, streets, playing fields, car parks, riverbanks, ditches, woods and schools across the city were cleaned up, with groups also tackling underpasses, recreation grounds and bicycle pathways.

Mountains of rubbish, the equivalent of 700 household collections, were cleared away over the two days, with volunteers collecting far more than crisp bags and litter. Tyres, rusting bicycles, supermarket trolleys, prams and gas canisters helped produce more than 3,000kg of scrap.

Anyone wishing to register for this year’s spring clean, or who would like to find details of groups taking part in their area, should go to the OxClean website oxclean.org.uk