Guest Blog: Helen Aldcroft, Take Your Pick.

Community spirited, magnanimous, humble… a few of the compliments that have come our way over recent months. Why? Living locally to the Ogden Reservoir area, and having two dogs, my husband and I spend a good part of each day walking the paths, lanes and old pack horse routes around the Ogden, Kitcliffe, Piethorne reservoirs and beyond. But recently, we have stopped calling them dog walks, and refer to them more as “litter picking sessions”.

10 years ago we chose to live in an area close to beautiful countryside and wonderful wildlife. We wanted greenery on our doorstep; we wanted to be able to walk from the back door without having to get in a car. And we have met wonderful people here, some that live locally and some that love to visit. As lockdown began people were encouraged to take daily outdoor exercise, many took to bikes, some dogs didn’t know what had hit them… and litter began to pile up. As things got worse we could bear it no longer. Back at the beginning of Lockdown, on the first day that we set out armed to tackle the issue we filled a bin bag and a half on our normal 5 mile walk. We now carry litter pickers and plastic bags each day and every day we fill a carrier bag with bottles (plastic and glass), cans, sweet wrappers, tissues, crisp packets, the remains of picnics and take-aways, face masks, antibacterial wipes and the occasional full nappy!

Just think about it – a carrier bag full of rubbish every day for the last 3 months. That’s a whole heap of rubbish. Yes I know we shouldn’t have to pick up other people’s litter, but if we had not picked it up, all you other people who want to walk there would be wading through the detritus of those that simply do not care. And because we love the area in which we live, care about the environment and the health of wildlife etc. then we choose to do this. However, within society we community-spirited people appear to be out-numbered by those who cannot see that there may be an issue to wildlife in leaving the remains of an Indian takeaway lying by the side of a Nature Reserve (kebab wrappers, polystyrene containers, plastic boxes with the remains of curry and rice – enough to feed about 10 people). There are people who will, without thought, walk away from bottles and cans, throw them into reservoirs, toss them over a fence into the undergrowth or launch them into a flock of sheep. Clearly, there are a number of folk who cannot walk more than a couple of miles without the aid of a chocolate bar and can of energy drink, or pre-mixed gin and tonic. And there are obviously children that have to be bribed around a walk with sweets, MacDonalds and toys!

I worry about society.

So there is the problem? As a lovely friend constantly reminds me “you cannot fix stupid!” And she is correct. There is little we can do to change the behaviour of those who do not even engage a brain cell to think that what they are doing might be unacceptable and are now teaching their children that this way of living is ok.

So what is the solution?

I do not believe that providing more bins is a solution. As we have seen, people will leave a full nappy on the side of a path 20 yards away from a very obvious bin. Rubbish should simply not be left around.

I do not believe that it is the job of United Utilities staff to pick up litter.

I do not believe that there is anything to be gained by sounding off on social media, ranting at people who do not and will never listen. It is a waste of breath and energy.

I DO believe that if a “Take 3” campaign around the coastline of the UK can raise awareness of an issue; help to clear rubbish from our beaches; share the workload by everybody just doing a little bit (i.e. picking up 3 items of litter) and perhaps shock and shame some into changing their ways; then why can we not do the same on our hills and in our countryside?

So all you folk that have complimented us on our actions, asked us if we are part of some group responsible for litter picking, spoken in outraged terms about how terrible it is, told us “we just don’t understand the mentality of some people” – get yourself a pair of litter pickers, pop a plastic bag in your pocket and HELP US OUT! Surely the two of us cannot be the only people prepared to take action and get their hands “dirty”. And like we do, stop families with children, show them the rubbish you have collected that day, explain to people what you are doing, compliment people that you see using a bin correctly and spread the word. And then perhaps the two of us will feel less as if we are wading against a constant tide of rubbish, we might be able to lift our eyes of the floor again and enjoy the countryside that we chose to live in and return to “dog walks”.

TAKE YOUR PICK was the best tag line I could think of!

Take your picker with you on a walk…

Take your pick of the litter you see – perhaps just plastic bottles one day and then put them in a recycle bin.

Take your pick of the compliments that you may be given – we are happy to share!

You can get involved with Take Your Pick by joining the Facebook Group.