Word of God stirs wrath of walkers

STEPHEN PULLINGER For centuries missionaries have travelled the globe to spread the word of God, but one self-styled Norfolk pastor thought he had hit on an ingenious short-cut - by putting his religious messages in a bottle.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

For centuries missionaries have travelled the globe to spread the word of God, but one self-styled Norfolk pastor thought he had hit on an ingenious short-cut - by putting his religious messages in a bottle.

The one big snag was that Leslie Potter failed to calculate the tides properly when he blessed nearly 60 large plastic drinks bottles and launched them into the waves at Gorleston.

Almost as soon as Mr Potter left, confident his uplifting messages would be picked up on shores around Europe, strong easterlies blew the bottles straight back on the beach - littering the resort's prized blue flag sands.

While well-meaning Mr Potter, who runs a Free church group in nearby Cobholm, may have escaped the wrath of God, and even the council's environmental rangers, he faced what many might regard as a worse fate - the fury of two dog walkers.

Linda Phelps, of Lower Cliff Road, Gorleston, and her friend Alison Corey, of the town's Pier Road, were horrified when they made the discovery as they were walking their dogs, mongrel Tilly and labrador Bailey, on their beloved beach.

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All the bottles were within 20m of each other and contained carefully rolled up, printed sheets with messages under such headlines as, “Are you satisfied with your life or would you like a new one”.

Mrs Phelps said: “We were disgusted and so were all the other people coming down to the beach to walk their dogs. I picked up two and put them in the bin and others were doing the same.”

Mrs Corey, who works locally as an Avon lady, said: “Enough is said in the press about dog walkers not picking up dog mess and holidaymakers leaving their rubbish on the beach, but it is about time people who deliberately discard rubbish, like Pastor Les Potter, are fined by the authorities and named and shamed in the press.”

Communicating her anger in an email to Mr Potter, who included his email address with the message, she received the hasty reply: “Oops, Sorry! The wind changed. The messages in the bottles were not intended for England. Due to unforeseen changes in the weather conditions they ended up on Gorleston beach.

“They were intended for foreign destinations and there was no intention to dump rubbish or foul the beach. Hope you read the message, God bless you, Les Potter, pastor.”

However, still seething yesterday, Mrs Corey retorted: “I would be interested to know which intended foreign destination these bottles were bound for, and whether he had asked the authorities there for permission to discard non-biodegradable plastic bottles in large numbers on their beaches.

“Has the pastor not heard of the phrase used on beaches throughout the world, 'leave nothing but footprints'.”

The EDP tried to contact Mr Potter, who is well-known in the area for sending charitable goods to Eastern Europe, but he was unavailable for comment.

Borough council environmental health officer Peter Astle said Mr Potter's actions had been misguided rather than malicious but they would encourage him to spread the word in a more environmentally friendly manner. Deliberate flytippers, on the other hand, would face prosecution.

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