Dedicated Peterborough volunteers collect abandoned bicycles, tents, cushions and needles in huge wooded areas clear-up

Rubbish which was collected. Photo: Harry Machin
Rubbish which was collected. Photo: Harry Machin
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Keep Britain Tidy have set up the Great British Tidy Up, running from March 22 to April 23 this year, but residents in the Thorpe Gate area of Peterborough have gone way beyond expectations to clear up a pollution nuisance in nearby woods.

Over the weekend a team of 12 volunteers cleared rubbish from abandoned rough sleeping sites in the wooded areas around the Boathouse pub and the Boardwalks. The clean up took 45 volunteer hours in total, split between Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Rubbish collected by the volunteers. Photo: Harry Machin

Rubbish collected by the volunteers. Photo: Harry Machin

The sites are well hidden from view and some are still occupied, so to make sure that they only cleared the abandoned sites, local volunteer co-ordinator Harry Machin walked around the area with city council officers – one from the enforcement team and one from the housing team – to agree in advance which sites could be cleared.

The rubbish included abandoned tents, sleeping bags, bedding, clothing, sofa cushions, plastic bottles, glass bottles, drinks cans, bicycles and bicycle parts, packaging and food waste. The volunteers also found and safely disposed of 23 dirty hypodermic needles, plus assorted drug paraphernalia.

City councillor Andy Coles, who was one of the volunteers, said: “These hidden sites have been home to rough sleepers who live on the edge of our community and don’t always accept the help the council offers to get them into safe places to live. 

“When they move on many leave behind really unpleasant pollution that can harm wildlife and degrade the environment.

Rubbish collected by the volunteers. Photo: Teong Lim

Rubbish collected by the volunteers. Photo: Teong Lim

“I am particularly concerned about the risk of dirty needles to volunteers, and since I have been litter picking at rough sleeper sites on both sides of the riverbank I’ve now collected up 337 dirty needles. However, I have had special training in dealing with drug waste and I would strongly advise anyone finding a discarded needle not to pick it up but to call the council immediately so they can clear it up safely.”

The litter was accumulated into two big piles as pictured, close to public roads so that the council’s contractors, Amey, could take the rubbish away on Monday morning. 

Harry said: “We agreed with the council six days ago about what could be cleared and when, so it was short notice for our volunteers and the response was excellent in the circumstances.

“We wanted to move quickly because the weather was perfect, there isn’t much vegetation at this time of year and it was an opportunity to clear the sites before the sites could be re-occupied.

The volunteers. Photo: Harry Machin

The volunteers. Photo: Harry Machin

“This shows what can be achieved when residents and the council work together to keep our city clean.”

Anyone who would like help and support in starting their own local volunteer litter picking group can contact Harry via https://www.facebook.com/peterboroughlitterheroes.