Averaging sixty people per pick, the Hilly Fields and Tuckers Park litter picking group generates an incredible community spirit that includes all ages and abilities. They’ve cleared over six hundred bags of rubbish in two years. Even a pandemic couldn’t stop them cleaning up. Danielle, an environmentalist and mum of three, is the group founder.
“The team are phenomenal. We’ve survived storms, snow and Covid. Our group have given me hope. People do care about the environment, our local community and teaching future generations the value of these things.” says Danielle
With young kids, Danielle visits her local park Hilly Fields, most days. It’s her local place of sanity, it’s where she grew up, and it’s where her kids are growing up. She was looking for a way to contribute to the community when the idea struck her “ I could start a litter picking group in Hilly Fields and make a real difference to our local area!”
She got in touch with Cleanup UK and they provided her with all the kit she needed – pickers, tabards and gloves as well as advice on how to get set up. To spread the word about the new group, Danielle set up a FB page and Whatsapp channel. Then she made a flyer and put it in some shops to attract people outside of her existing friendship groups. She was astounded when thirty people turned up to the first pick. Since then, the group has gone from strength to strength, continuously expanding its area and impact on the community.
“It is satisfying to know that we are taking action and not just moaning about the problem! The group has shown me that if people in a community work together, we can and do make a difference!” Lynn Group Member
They cover an enormous two-mile radius in North London, including three well-loved green spaces (Hilly Fields, Whitewebbs, Tuckers Park) and all the streets, roads, laybys, hedges and ditches in between. The committed community of pickers include dogs, children, nannies and granddads. It’s an inclusive, intergenerational group, welcoming people of all ages and abilities. There’s one family that comes with all three generations, and when the group is out picking, there are always people who approach and end up joining in.
“It’s so lovely to meet up, make new friends, and see beautiful local spaces all clear. It’s always my favourite Sunday morning in the month.” Oscars Mum
Lockdown Litter picking
Last year, during lockdowns, there was a massive increase in rubbish. The weather was good, and people were using the green spaces, but bins were overflowing, and rubbish was left all over the parks.
At the same time, Enfield council started charging for collecting bulky items, and household rubbish collection changed from weekly to fortnightly collections. Much larger items, like mattresses, highchairs and even broken lawnmowers started turning up in the park.
Danielle did a risk assessment to work out how the group could keep going safely. She sanitised the pickers before and after use and didn’t use the shared tabards or gloves. At the beginning of each pick, she did a short talk to make sure people were reminded of the rules and picked in bubbles.
Volunteers kept coming. A massive team effort got all the lockdown rubbish, big or small, cleared. To say thankyou to the group, Father Christmas visited the last pick in December. Handing out sixty handmade gift bags that Danielle and some of the volunteers had put together. It was magical for the families in the group and brought a smile to everyone’s face.
“The sense of wellbeing and pleasure from clearing just one bag of litter is immense. Meeting of neighbours and friends joining in together has been really uplifting. There is a tremendous sense of community” Andrew.
The community clean up spirit of the group is contagious. They’ve even inspired a local estate agent to set up a sister group that share their equipment. But Danielle’s dream is to get schools involved.
“There’s huge potential to get secondary schools involved. They could do it as part of PSHE. Instilling good behaviours early is essential, so that when the kids turn into teenagers, they know to put their McDonalds packets in the bin.”
CleanupUK asked some of the younger members of the group how litter picking made them feel.
“It’s fun. I like it because it stops all the animals from getting caught in it and eating it” Charlie, age 5
“It’s lots of fun and allows lots of people to get together, and it’s good for the environment” Johnny, age 8
“I like litter-picking because I am very enthusiastic to keep the environment clean whilst still having fun with my friends” Oscar, age 9 ¾
“I like to help the wildlife and animals keep their homes clean” Jackson, age 4
“You should do litter picking as it’s so much fun!’ Lola, age 4
The Hilly Fields and Tuckers Park group is making a massive difference to the community, one pick at a time. They save the council money, look after the environment and wildlife, make public places safer, educate people and support mental health by getting people outside. The group offers purpose, friendship and community, as well as cleaning up the local environment.
If you’re thinking of starting a litter picking group, Danielle says
“You get to know your neighbours, and those friendships have got me through big personal issues I’ve had in my life. To anyone thinking of starting a litter picking group, I’d say get out and do it.”