Mark and Hugh on the litter pickers of the New Forest

Who remembers the Wombles? 

The Litter Pickers of the New Forest

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Ed Note: This week's story from Mark and Hugh is a wonderfully told tale as always. The upsurge in litter picking following the initiatives described below is brilliant but we should add that there have also been litter clearing champions across the New Forest for a number of years - including beach cleans like Durlston School's. Peter Armstrong who represents Keep Britain Tidy and has been organising group litter picking in the New Forest for the last 8 years said that it was good to see so many more people involved in litter picking and taking pride in where we live and has also asked us also to mention the very useful website https://cleannewforest.org.uk/. If you'd like to join a group when these are permitted again we can put you in touch with pleasure with the right people, just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..uk and mention which part of the forest you live in.

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Who remembers the Wombles?

These charming pointy nosed characters were created by Elizabeth Beresford. The name Womble was gifted to us by her daughter Kate who had the habit of mispronouncing Wimbledon Common as Wombledon Common. Elizabeth invented a family of shy burrowing creatures that lived beneath Wimbledon Common and acted on their motto of Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish. In a way this was one of the earliest environmental messages that was specifically designed to target children. The characters were all loosely based on members of her family, how wonderful it must be to have such an imagination.

Fifty years later and many humans still haven’t got the message, we leave our rubbish wherever we please.

The Litter Pickers of the New Forest

It is often the case that it takes just one person to change things. As an example, let me tell you about what happened in the country of Romania a relatively short time ago. President Nicolae Ceausescu had organised a gathering in order that he could speak to his people. Microphones and loudspeakers were arranged; secret police were implanted in the huge crowd. Party officials handed out banners and little flags for the obedient citizens to hold and wave. State television duly recorded events as it had done for the last forty years. He spoke from a third-floor balcony with his wife and senior officials in attendance. From time to time the crowd was prompted to chant ‘long live Ceausescu’ or similar. Suddenly one brave man, thought to be a drunk (I feel he is a brother) started shouting ‘down with Ceausescu’ again and again. He did this despite knowing that the crowd was infested with secret police and party officials. Guess what? The crowd, suddenly emboldened by this incredibly courageous man, joined in! The state police were no match for this huge number of people and, in no time, they had smashed through the gates and broken into the palace. Like all bullies that are found out he and his wife ran, but they weren’t quite quick enough. In a matter of weeks both this obnoxious man and his equally vile wife were caught. They both met a sticky end. All this as a result of the actions of just one man.

Meanwhile, back to litter. A close friend of mine called Nicky who reads this column (I must find the other reader) told me about a fellow called Stephen Green. He hates litter and prefers to pick it up rather than leave it. He started the movement called Litter Pickers of the New Forest in June 2020. There are now seven hundred members who, to date, have taken seven thousand bags of litter away from our forest. These are impressive statistics! At the same time these figures are a sad reminder of how badly some of our number can behave. The group can be found on Facebook where they detail the dirtiest roads, the most interesting finds and generally discuss their superb efforts. I asked Stephen what happens to the many thousands of bin bags of rubbish. He told me that the volunteers try to use bins close to where they have been working but that if they were full, they simply took them home. I feel that there is a case for formally recognising these volunteers for the wonderful work that they carry out.

Suffer the little creatures.

Something that shocked me deeply during the research for this topic was just how much animals suffer because of lazy selfish people. Apparently badgers and foxes die because discarded tin cans that they were licking become jammed on their snouts. Foals and calves die because they ingest plastic bags which block their internal passages. Is it me or does this all seem rather cruel and selfish? Is it really so hard to take a plastic bag home in the boot of the car? What goes through the mind of someone who thoughtlessly tosses litter out of a car window? Very little I suspect.

Well done to Phil Tarrant.

Stephen was kind enough to give us time for a phone conversation and he told me about Phil Tarrant of Tarrant Tree and Garden Services who has been good enough to supply yellow tabards and picking sticks. Dear reader, if you return to the start of the article and look again at the sheer number of volunteers, this is an expensive gesture and should be applauded.

We need more of the likes of Stephen Green and Phil Tarrant.

New bins please.

Stephen has been asking those responsible for spending our hard-earned tax money for more bins. To most of us this might seem logical. If there is litter then the people need a bin in which to put it. The responses to his wishes have been less than adequate to say the least. Stephen’s favourite is.

“If we put more bins out, people put rubbish in them.”

Yes, my dear, this is how bins work. It’s called an amenity. The elected officials are always in a tricky place in that they have tight budgets and are unwilling to spend where they don’t have to. Presently, because of the efforts of Litter Pickers of the New Forest there isn’t a huge problem with litter. I suppose that it just doesn’t sit easily with me that volunteers who do such magnificent work are ignored.

The answer?

The answer is family, children are the product of their parents. Their behaviour, views, even their sporting preferences are formed by parental influence. If a child sees a parent tossing a wrapper out of the car window then that becomes acceptable. So, what is the answer? For me it can only be punishment. Not financial but something far more shameful. Give them a bag and a picking stick. As things stand there are more saints than sinners and as a result our Forest is a pleasure to visit. However, if we don’t start to educate certain people, we could end up with more sinners than saints and where would that leave us?

mountains of waste



More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

A roof over your New Forest head
Richard St Barbe Baker

Our star, our sun, our salt!
To Lymington or Cuba
The Auld Mug

Seeds of success

Moonlit meeting with cetaceans 

Trees and what they tell us
Cartography and trig pillars

Pony drifts and pannage in the New Forest
A journey from the New Forest via Lymington
The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...



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