Knickers, bikinis, under pants, sunglasses, dog leads and babies’ dummies. These are just a tiny number of the items I’ve found walking (sorry jogging) around Cheddar Reservoir in the early morning. Yes there is also litter which is mostly dog poo bags, bottles and cans of booze and the odd empty crisp packet but the litter pickers of England and the chap from the council pick these up periodically.
Litter pickers. They are one of the positive upshots of the lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Across the country people have been forced to work from home. With their lunchbreaks and saved commuting time they’ve been out and about in their neighbourhood walking and cycling and discovering the beauty of their immediate area and er… all the litter.
There are Facebook groups, websites and videos all extolling the benefits of litterpicking with shops stocking the essentials: hi-vis jackets, litterpicker sticks, plastic bin bags and gloves. And our new found desire to pick up litter has been a boost for the charity that used to advertise on TV: Keep Britain Tidy.
All the interviews I’ve seen with people engaged in bagging discarded rubbish have been about improving their mental health, taking a pride in their neighbourhoods and the contradictory notion of putting something back. Exercise, fresh air and a sense of having done something good to make the litter picker feel good are also included but for me it was guilt. I’ve walked past rubbish on footpaths and pavements and have gone tut-tut but rarely bothered to pick it up. Then in Axbridge a couple began to clean up the streets and posted their activities on the community’s Facebook site. The musical duo of Barry and Louise Walsh have been picking clean the highways and the byways of the town to such an extent I began to despair there would be anything for me to pick up. They gave the details of where to get your free litter picking kit so I quickly sent off an email to the district council and within days it arrived.
Instead of a long evening walk I set out as soon as the FA Cup final ended on telly to a place where I knew there would be trash: the A38. Just half a mile or the length of eight thousand packets of Monster Munch from the town I had noticed on my cycle rides to Brent Knoll and Churchill that the verges were covered in unwanted wrappings. So off I went in a steady drizzle and actually rather enjoyed it. It was a bit like train spotting or collecting rare sea shells: I wanted to bag all the obvious items that you would expect to find. A Coke can, five points, cider bottle 10 points, a used condom 20 points and a nappy 50 points. In fact the commonest items were empty packets of Walkers crisps (no particular flavour). Next came Thatchers Cider cans (Autumn Gold), plastic water bottles, sandwich wrappers (Tuna Mayo being the most common) and that modern ubiquitous piece of rubbish: the white cotton face mask. And as a sign of the times I failed to find any empty fag packets or even a cigarette end.
Apart from stuff that was chucked out of the windows of passing cars and vans were parts of cars and vans. Bits of smashed headlights, worn tyres and lumps of metal which I’m sure were vital to the vehicle passing its MOT. If you walked the entire length of the A38 you could assemble an entire car by picking up all the bits.
It’s hot work so I stopped for a pint of Otter in the gathering gloom and thickening drizzle at The Cross Inn and downed what I can only say was one of the best beers ever – due to my efforts and a sense of elation: I hadn’t put something back I’d taken something out. A lot of things. And I bought a packet of Walkers crisps which I munched as I walked back up the road – and casually discarded the empty packet on the verge. After all – I’ll need something to litter pick next week.
To get your free litter picking kit in the Sedgemoor District of Somerset email: Clean.email@example.com nationally see the website https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/get-involved/volunteer/litter-heroes and this item is on the BBC https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3876150365846420
Note: I didn’t really discard my crisp packet.
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