I don’t always watch Dragons’ Den, but on the occasions when I do, I like to think I’m watching for mainly educational purposes rather than just pure entertainment.
Sunday evening’s programme (24th July) just happened to coincide with having a late meal, so I watched the second half of the show and was left thinking about the final item and how it had a relevance to my own work. The Boot Buddy is a great product with a really nice story behind it. For anyone that didn’t see the show it is worth visiting the Boot Buddy website and reading the About page.
The Boot Buddy is an imaginative and effective way of cleaning dirty boots before taking them home. If you want to see how it works, just click on the right hand side video on this page. The strapline “Leave the outdoors outside” aptly sums up what it does.
By the time three of the dragons had invested in the business, I was already commenting to my partner – “there’s a biosecurity angle to this”.
In the course of my own work I often deal with issues relating to biosecurity, including communicating the message to walkers, climbers and canoeists about not taking any hitch-hikers home with you after a day on the hills or out on the water. I don’t mean hitch-hikers in the traditional sense of someone thumbing a lift, I’m referring to plant and animal species, possibly in the form of seeds, spores and eggs, as well as microscopic diseases, that can end up being inadvertently picked up in one place and deposited many miles away.
When the plant or animal in question is an invasive non-native species (INNS) then the amount of damage that can be caused by that alien species, and the potential cost of its eradication, can be pretty staggering. That’s why it is vital for us all to raise our awareness of INNS and start taking precautions to stop their spread.
I’ve been involved in the promotion of the Check Clean Dry campaign, which targets people who use inland waterways for their work and leisure activities. The message is to check your clothing and equipment for visible signs of animals, plant material and mud, and to thoroughly wash your gear before leaving the area, and then to make every effort to dry your gear before using it on a different water course. Watch this video aimed at canoeists.
Thinking about that Check Clean Dry message, the Boot Buddy encourages you to check your boots for dirt and then to clean them. Having cleaned your boots, you are far more likely to dry them when you get home. You wouldn’t take a pair of muddy boots into the house and stick them on a radiator, but you would do that if they were damp, but otherwise clean. As well as being an effective way of disinfecting your boots, drying them also ensures that they will last longer, so in the long-run you should save money.
Young people getting into the habit of cleaning their football boots before leaving the playing field is a great help when it comes to asking them to clean their walking boots before leaving a mountain or emptying water out of their canoe before loading it onto a roofrack or trailer. We all need to think more about biosecurity and INNS, as well as developing some good manners and decency when it comes to not taking muddy boots into our homes.
So, as a result of watching Dragons’ Den last Sunday, I’ve now ordered my Boot Buddy and it will be part of my next Art of Guiding in the Great Outdoors presentation on Outdoor Access. In that respect, this simple invention should help me to communicate the message about biosecurity to a number of outdoor instructors and guides who will go on to take thousands of people of all ages into the great outdoors and pass on the facts and skills they pick up from the course.
All that from watching Dragons’ Den whilst munching on a bowl of pasta. Wow!
A couple of further points to think about
Washing facilities at popular recreational sites, such as mountain bike centres, are becoming increasingly common, but for the vast majority of days out in remote places the ability to clean our gear before heading home for tea is going to rely on us carrying our own cleaning tools. Thinking about that in advance and having the means to clean your boots will eventually become the accepted norm. If we are to prevent the further spread of INNS, and diseases like ash dieback, then checking, cleaning and drying is going to be a key part of the solution to the problem.
Dog wash facility at Worcester Woods Country Park. Photo: © Stephen Jenkinson www.sjacm.co.uk
All Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) plants are clones and it only requires a few grams of stem material to establish a new plant. Japanese knotweed is therefore one of the easiest plant species to inadvertently transport to a new site. What harm can a 1-centimetre-long piece of plant material on the bottom of your boot or stuck to the inside of your canoe possibly do? Well, actually, quite a lot, which is why it is so important to be aware of the dangers and leave such items close to where you picked them up, rather than transporting them to the other side of the country.
Japanese knotweed. Photo: © GBNNSS www.nonnativespecies.org