Volunteers make a clean sweep

EMMAKEEPING IT CLEAN: volunteers hit the streets in Hereford [PICTURE: Andrew Wood]

COMMUNITY websites CAN make a real difference when it comes to getting local people to change their littering habits, it seems.

It’s almost a year since Emma Jones and Andrew Wood set up their online community in Hereford dedicated to clearing up local areas, following a community litter pick the friends took part in last Easter organised by Keep Britain Tidy.

That initiative tied in with a local Herefordshire Council campaign called Stop the Drop launched in January 2016 – and a year on, the community clean-up website now boasts more than 1400 members and has its own website too.

“There’s a new national feeling that we have become recycling conscious and getting people to join was relatively easy,” says Andrew, who used local buying and selling websites to put out an appeal for volunteers to get involved.

The council stepped in with litter pickers, high-visibility vests and rubbish bags. From the start, the aim was to encourage individuals to clean up local streets around their homes on a very small scale – and that seems to be having an impact, he believes.

“You need enforcement officers to be fining people to change habits,” he said. “But it has been working very, very well.” Sponsorship from local companies has helped to make the group self-sufficient and the group liaises with those companies on the ground too.

“We will work with Asda to do the area surrounding the car park, for example,” he says. “And we will name and shame too. Companies don’t like the bad publicity if they are not clearing up their own property.”

As well as retrieving supermarket trolleys from the river and notifying the council of fly-tipping incidents, the group has launched a new project to tidy up the flower beds at the main station.

It has also forged links with other groups performing similar roles around the country – from Michelle Medler and her team in Kidderminster to the Dorset Devils in Bournemouth.

The group has increasingly developed into a social group too, as well as entering a float in the Hereford River Carnival, sprucing up the town for Hereford in Bloom and prompting a major county council campaign against dog fouling.

“We are making a difference,” insists Andrew. “It takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight. But things are changing for the better.”

ASDASUPERMARKET SWEEP: salvaging trolleys from the river

Artists stage final flourish

JAY NOLAN-LATCHFORDINTO THE NIGHT: Jay Nolan-Latchford creates a mystical mood

SOME 300 artists and craftspeople across Buckinghamshire open their doors to the public today for the last day of this year’s Bucks Art Weeks displays.

The three-week programme began on June 9 and features open studios and displays from across the county, ranging from north of Milton Keynes to Maidenhead and Henley in Berkshire.

Many of the artists have joined forces to create local art trials around key centres like Princes Risborough, Amersham and Chesham.

In the Chalfonts, seven artists and makers have been featuring their work over three venues. Working from her gorgeous garden studio in Chalfont St Giles, Julie Rumsey has branched out into mixed media work using acrylic as well as her eye-catching collagraphs, many of which have been inspired by ancient naïve artefacts.

AN-EPISODE-OF-SPARROWS-websiteSENSE OF HISTORY: An Epsiode of Sparrows by Julie Rumsey

She exhibits alongside contemporary fine artist E J England, who often uses damaged vintage books as a canvas.

Her works are inspired by the landscapes, cityscapes, flora and fauna of the British Isles and this year her collection also features large, mixed-media paintings alongside her more intimate Lost Books collection.

dscf4633_0LARGE SCALE: a mixed-media work by E J England

Not all venues are still open for the final weekend, but many local artists have their work featured at other events in the run-up to Christmas. Jay Nolan-Latchford, for example, only exhibited during the first half of the Art Weeks event, her eclectic body of art and home decor ranging from watercolour illustrations with embellishments (see above) through to large mixed media canvases.

Her website name, Johnny Johnstone Art, is in memory of her grandfather who, like herself, was “an avid collector of intriguing things, a lover of rare orchids and a huge influence in my formative years”.

But if you missed Jay’s display this time round, her work will be on show at a number of shows and fairs in the run-up to Christmas at Thame Town Hall and Broadmoor Farm, Haddenham.

Over in Amersham at St Michael & All Angels Church, the Simpatico art group have been delighted to be doing a flourishing trade during the three-week event, selling many of their original works.

SEASCAPESTORMY WATERS: a seascape by Jenny Thompson

Simpatico is a group of self-taught artists living in the Chilterns who paint in a variety of mediums and styles. The amateurs all belong to the Beechwood Artists Group and paint together on a regular basis whenever they can.

Cecile Gallina, Liz Grammenos, Beverley Parkin and Jenny Thompson joined forces with Candida Hackney to host this year’s exhibition at the church, running daily throughout the whole three weeks and forming part of a larger Amersham Art Trail featuring 20 exhibitors.

 

Beyonder holds litter ‘audit’

THE BEYONDER is holding a ‘litter audit’ across South Bucks to help assess the best way of planning a clean-up campaign in the area.

Editor Andrew Knight has written to local parish and district councils asking for information about the scale of the litter and fly-tipping problem and for information about how current resources are organised.

The initial area covered stretches from Marlow to Denham, Beaconsfield, Gerrards Cross, Chalfont St Peter and Chalfont St Giles. It includes the whole of South Bucks District, along with parts of Chiltern and Wycombe district council areas.

Mr Knight said: “It’s a beautiful part of the Chilterns which includes three country parks but there are some through roads which are badly affected by littering and some tiny back routes which suffer from occasional fly-tipping.”

The issue has been getting increasing national exposure, most recently on this year’s BBC Springwatch series, when Michaela Strachan spoke to a number of groups in Bristol about their efforts to combat plastic pollution.

DfFhmjFXUAEZuoW.jpg largeCOTTON BUD CRACKDOWN: Michaela Strachan meets Natalie Fee in Bristol

Meanwhile Michelle Medler  in Kidderminster recruited hundreds of helpers from youngsters to pensioners to join her Facebook group litter pick-up squad.

MICHEELECLEANING UP: Michelle Medler and fellow volunteers in Kidderminster

Now, to work out the scale of the problem in the Chilterns and the best way of tackling it, The Beyonder has contacted a score of parish councis asking what they are doing to cope with litter and fly-tipping, what problems they are encountering and how much it all costs.

Approaches will also be made to the three district councils in South Buckinghamshire, which are responsible for waste collection, and the county council, which looks after the highways and deals with fly-tipping complaints and waste disposal.

The survey follows consultation with campaign group Clean Up Britain, which recently launched a pioneering year-long anti-litter project in Leamington Spa, and Peter Silverman, whose Clean Highways website has long campaigned for the Highways Agency to do more to tackle litter on local motorways and motorway slip roads.

Mr Knight said: “Although our circulation area stretches over quite a large area it made sense for us to start off by assessing things on our doorstep, where we can see the scale of the problem for ourselves.”

The online magazine hopes to speak to countryside rangers, ramblers and dog walkers as well as campaigners and the relevant councils, with the aim of drawing up detailed plans for the best way of volunteers being able to play a part in tackling the problem.

For more information, contact editor@thebeyonder.co.uk or via the Facebook group, The Beyonder.

Council hails litter ‘heroes’

MICHEELEVOLUNTEER litter pickers in Kidderminster have been hailed as local heroes by their district council for organising a series of litter picks around the town.

More than 300 members of the Facebook group Keeping Kidderminster and Surrounding Places Clean have been getting out and about their local streets and neighbourhoods picking up litter and disposing of it in litter bins around the district.

The idea stemmed from local teacher Michelle Medler’s new year resolution to pick up a bag of litter a day while walking her dogs – and mushroomed into a community supported by hundreds of volunteers.

Michelle said: “I’m amazed at how many people care and want to make a difference, which is great to know, and the positive comments from the public make it all worthwhile.”

After launching the group in January, she was surprised to see it grow into a 400-strong group after she initiated a number of communal litter picks in different parts of the town. Membership has since doubled to more than 800.

She soon won plaudits from councillors and council officers too. Youngsters and retired pensioners have been among the groups taking part – and Wyre Forest District Council, which has street cleaning reponsibilities in the area, praised Michelle and supplied volunteers with litter pickers, high visibility jackets and gloves, as well as advice about safely disposing of any dangerous items they came across.

Cabinet member for operational services Councillor Rebecca Vale said: “It is truly remarkable to hear about the positive impact these volunteers have had and I’d like to thank every one of them. We spend a lot of time, effort and money cleaning our streets – this just goes to show what a huge difference we can make to the look and feel of the district by working together.”

The Kidderminster model is one The Beyonder is keen to explore further. Beyonder editor Andrew Knight said: “The Kidderminster group are doing an amazing job and seem to have a real community spirit. They can also see the impact they are having on making the town cleaner – and it’s great that the district council has been so supportive.”

The Beyonder is carrying out a local audit before deciding how to pursue its anti-litter campaign in the Chilterns. It is in the process of contacting local parish, district and county councils to find out more about existing waste collection activities across south Buckinghamshire from Marlow to Beaconsfield, Gerrards Cross, Chalfont St Giles, Chalfont St Peter and Denham.

 

Campaign has ‘killer’ warning

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ANTI-LITTER campaigners Clean Up Britain have published a hard-hitting second video in their drive to spell out the danger posed to animals by discarded plastics, cans, cigarette butts and chewing gum.

Launched as part of Now or Never, a ground-breaking year-long behavioural change project in Leamington Spa, the four-minute Litter Kills video graphically spells out the impact of discarded litter on wildlife and pets.

Clean Up Britain founder John Read said: “We understand the images are upsetting – that’s the point. We need to give people a reason to react strongly to seeing others litter and make those who do think twice. We have to shift attitudes and behaviour.”

The video provides more detail about the type of problems encountered by the RSPCA, which receives 5,000 calls a year about animals injured by litter. It explains how bones from discarded takeaways can kill – and how chemicals in chewing gum and cigarette ends can be poisonous for animals.

Even onions can be toxic to cats and dogs, which can also be made ill by mouldy food or choke on balloons released to mark a celebration. Likewise, wild birds can be killed or injured by plastic rings and  the sharp edges of discarded cans.

The video is part of a year-long campaign in the Warwickshire town designed to change people’s attitudes towards litter.

The campaign includes an educational pack for schools designed for 8- to 11-year-olds designed to teach them why dropping litter is bad for the environment, wildlife and communities.

It comes on a day when the UN revealed 50 nations are now taking action to reduce plastic pollution.

The UN report reveals that the Galapagos will ban single-use plastics, Sri Lanka will ban styrofoam and China is insisting on biodegradable bags.

But the authors warn that far more needs to be done to reduce the vast flow of plastic into rivers and oceans.

Litter campaign gathers pace

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IT’s exciting to see a dynamic new nationwide campaign being launched by a small group of professionals united by a shared passion for looking after our environment – and growing concerns about litter.

Clean Up Britain (CLUB) has been lobbying hard for a national litter campaign as well as inspiring and enabling communities and businesses to tackle a range of recycling and environmental issues, from reducing single-use plastics to clamping down on fly-tipping and roadside litter.

Founded by John Read, who has extensive experience in campaigning, corporate communications and public affairs, CLUB launched its Litter Kills initiative last month with the following message:

The UK has a serious litter problem. Take a look around you – every village, town, city, beach and roadside is blighted with the lazy leftovers of our daily lives.

We’ve been wrestling hard with how to properly ignite the conversation about litter and the damage it does.

In particular, we need to get to young women and men, age 16-30, who don’t even think about litter. This age group, while outwardly professing a love of the planet, recycling and other green issues, over-indexes on littering compared to other age groups.

It’s been ages since a national anti-litter campaign ran which changed littering behaviours, the topic of littering gets no airtime with this audience, and any wider efforts to prompt thinking and behaviour change has been largely ineffective.

Litter doesn’t really figure on their radar. Yet.

We had seen the RSPCA stats – they get 5,000 calls a year about animals injured by litter. Instinctively, we knew that this must be the tip of the iceberg.

We also knew, from previous research, that talking about hurt and dead animals was one of the only ways to ignite the conversation about litter with our target audience.

And so we began looking hard at the impacts of litter on animals, and with help of  the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and the pet charity Blue Cross, we built the bigger, shocking picture. Our campaign ‘Litter Kills’ was born.

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CLUB recognises the images are shocking, but believes that’s necessary:

We need to give people a reason to react strongly to seeing others litter, and make those who do think twice. We have to shift attitudes and behaviour.

We’re supposedly a nation of pet and animal lovers. British households in total host 8.5m dogs and 8m cats. Millions of us care about wildlife and enjoy seeing wild animals where we live, work and play.

Yet our littering habit affects thousands and thousands of animals in a very bad, sometimes fatal, way.

Tragically, the images selected for the campaign are all real, selected from countless case studies of animals injured or poisoned by discarded takeaways, mouldy food or broken glass.

The “litter kills it’s time to act” message is part of CLUBs Now or Never campaign which kicked off in Leamington Spa and received widespread local and national media coverage.

And earlier news releases have focused on issues like fly-tipping, another issue close to our hearts at The Beyonder.

Back in March last year, CLUB warned busy residents not to unwittingly pay rogue traders to dispose of their waste.

The message was simple: make a quick check with the Environment Agency to see if they have a waste carrier permit, rather than risking a huge fine for having the waste disposed of illegally.  Any legitimate trader should be happy to provide their name or registration number. The agency can be contacted by phone on 03708 506 506).

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Artists open their doors

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BLUEBELLS: Brian Robinson’s watercolours in Hastoe

HUNDREDS of local artists and makers across Buckinghamshire throw open their doors this month to showcase their work.

Rebranded this year as Bucks Art Weeks – to tie in with similar events across Oxfordshire in May – the Bucks Open Studios event offers the public a unique opportunity to meet artists, sculptors, printmakers, photographers and jewelry makers to talk about their work and see them in action.

The annual June event is run by the Visual Images Group, an alliance of artists and makers living and working in the county who open their studios or hold exhibitions and events showcasing and demonstrating their work.

Many of the works on show have natural and wildlife themes, from the watercolours of Brian Robinson inspired by local landscapes to paintings and photographs depicting animals and scenery from every corner of the world.

Brian’s Out & About collection is on show alongside work from seven other artists in the historic Hastoe Village Hall near Tring, where visitors can also sample cream teas and watch demonstrations.

Just over the Buckinghamshire border into South Northamptonshire, Louise M Thomas in Potterspury is a painter of representational and abstract works depicting water and landscape subjects in a variety of media, while in Quainton, Andrew Stock’s paintings and etchings of the natural world take visitors on a journey from the Antarctic to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

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RISING TIDE: Andrew Stock is inspired by nature

A past president of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA), Andrew is an artist inspired by the natural world who likes to work in the field wherever possible. Wildlife, especially birds, as well as land and seascapes feature prominently in his exhibition of oil paintings, watercolours and etchings.

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SUNSET: Sue Gosney’s work is on show in Rowsham

Sue Gosney also gains inspiration from the places she visits, both in the UK and abroad, working from ‘real life’ landscapes or seascapes whenever possible. She will be exhibiting with four other artists at Sunneyhill Barn in Rowsham, where visitors can also enjoy workshops, live music and home-made refreshments.

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SPRINGTIME: Karin Frieldi at College Lake

Another painter inspired by the beauty of nature is Karin Friedli of the College Lake Artists group, whose expressive style tries to capture the intensity of the light at different times of the day and explore the mood and energy of the landscape in varying weather patterns and changing seasons. She is one of a number of artists exhibiting at the College Lake Nature Reserve near Tring.

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VIBRANT: Sally Bassett’s grazing sheep

Another of the artists on show at Hastoe Village Hall is Sally Bassett,  whose vibrant paintings follow from sketches made in her small sketch book, this year capturing the wild sea coasts of the West Country and the changing seasons, from snow and ice to blossoming orchards and wild flower meadows.

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SEASCAPES: Susan Langford in Weston Turville

Meanwhile, over at Weston Turville, Susan Langford finds inspiration for her landscapes and seascapes from bisits to Devon, Cornwall and Northumberland, as well as her local area.

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JURASSIC COAST: Danny Ewers is based in Aylesbury

Aylesbury photographer Danny Ewers also turns to coastal landscapes for inspiration, working with filters and long exposure techniques around the Jurassic Coast, which runs from East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset. Wildlife photography is an equal passion, with a favourite subject in recent years being the red squirrels of Brownsea Island.

More than 500 artists are featured at venues across Buckinghamshire. Free hard copy directories are available from art galleries, libraries, tourist information centres and participating venues. The event runs until June 24.

 

Springwatch returns

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SPRINGWATCH returns in style for the May bank holiday with a special 90-minute opening show broadcast live from the Sherborne Park Estate in the Cotswolds.

Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan host, with a plethora of live cameras trained on brand new nests across the Gloucestershire countryside.

They are joined by Steve Backshall, the first in a series of special guests on the show this year, and by Gillian Burke, who spends the next three weeks travelling the length of the UK – starting at its northern tip in the Shetlands, where she hopes to see killer whales.

The show has been running since 2005 and has been broadcast live from a variety of locations around the country using a crew of 100 and more than 50 cameras, making it the BBC’s largest outside broadcast event.

Many of the cameras are hidden and operated remotely to record natural behaviour, for example, of birds in their nests and badgers outside their sett.

Springwatch is broadcast four nights each week for three weeks on BBC2 at 8pm.

Blooming marvellous

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IT’s rhododendron time again at Langley Park, which means a spectacular fireworks display of colour in the Temple Gardens.

From here you can look out over the park towards Windsor Castle – but not before spending a little time wandering along the pathways enjoying the dazzling range of different colours and blooms.

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In mid- to late May it’s a genuinely spectacular sight, and you arrive early enough in the morning or on a weekday, you may have those winding paths pretty much to yourself, apart from the odd jogger or dog walker.

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Reds, pinks, whites, yellows – each time you turn a corner there’s a bush of a different hue or blooms in new dramatic shapes. See the link above for more details about the park, and the council website for opening times and parking charges.

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Ramblers return to R4

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FANS of Radio 4’s countryside programme Ramblings will be pleased to see its return this week for its 39th series.

For almost 20 years, broadcaster Clare Balding has been tramping around the British landscape transporting listeners on another Thursday afternoon aural adventure, accompanied by enthusiastic local walkers from all walks of life.

A chaotic and lively dog-walk near Honiton in Devon kicked off the new series, with rebellious golden doodle Nigel trying to upstage Clare and her guests.

But that’s not everyone’s idea of entertainment, of course. Back in 2013 Will Self, writing in the New Statesman, hit out at the show as being symptomatic of the state broadcaster “kowtowing” to its parliamentary paymasters with an “excessive amount of mittel-Englandry of the leather-on-willow, cask-aged-bitter, spinsters-cycling-to-evensong variety”.

He sniped: “Balding is a natural for this sort of thing. She comes from that stratum of the British who seem to love their dogs and horses more than their children and certainly a great deal more than the working class. ”

However even Self recalls the show as being “a thoroughly amiable affair: the walks are usually in areas of tolerable – if not outstanding – natural beauty and the chit-chat flows like milky-sweet tea from a Thermos flask”.

Of course the very concept of pitching a walking programme on radio is an extraordinary one. Speaking to Country Walking magazine in 2016, Balding explained how the show’s long-term producer Lucy Lunt originated the idea:  “She had such a conviction and faith in it; she saw the ideas and stories that could come from putting two people together on a walk with something to talk about. ”

Balding joined for series two because the original presenter wasn’t able to do it, and proved an immediate hit.

Elisabeth Mahoney, the Guardian’s radio critic, wrote: “The finest broadcasters make you forget the medium. They sound as if they are chatting to you, off-air and informally, and are just happening to say amazingly clever, interesting stuff.

“She is quite simply a radio natural, and presenting a format that couldn’t suit radio better: a walk and a talk.”

If you miss the Thursday afternoon broadcast, more than 200 episodes of Ramblings are available as podcasts. And at least one walking group for bereaved people was set up by people who had listened to Ramblings and loved the way the series helped to evoke the best memories of time spent with their partners.

“If Ramblings never accomplished anything again, that would be success enough for me,” Balding said in 2016.

Ramblings is broadcast on Radio 4 on Thursdays at 3pm.