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Peak District Lee’s quarter-of-a-tonne lockdown litter pick

Wednesday 3 February 2021

When Hulme End resident Lee Spensley set out to take on a regular local litter peak a year ago, he couldn’t have anticipated the difference his efforts would make 12 months on.

Countless bin-liners and long walks later, Lee has recently calculated that he collected over 250kg of rubbish from his one corner of the Peak District throughout the constant lockdowns and turbulence of 2020.

Originally aiming to simply improve his local area, an influx of visitors to the Peak District National Park following the lifting of the pandemic’s first lockdown found Lee having to unexpectedly step-up his efforts.

Everything from coffee cups to electronics, clothing and vehicle parts and even ‘whole picnics’ found themselves in Lee’s hands, eventually leading to a haul that weighs in at more than one of the National Park’s mighty red deer stags.

Focusing on a radius area around two miles from Lee’s home, the late summer saw the biggest efforts, but as Lee puts it, ‘It’s the right thing to do’.

Aiming to keep up his efforts during 2021, Lee added: “It's exercise and keeps the place tidy.  It's also a neat way to keep in touch with people when walking about.”

Lee was initially inspired to grab a litter-picker with voluntary work at school and then with the local ranger service, and later in life even on holiday where alongside his wife he’s often put aside a day to pick up litter.

Lee added: “I pick about 3 or 4 times a week to keep on top of it locally where I live I plan to pick every road, path, public space within a 2 mile radius every year. On most routes I'm able to now undertake a deep clean of historic litter, like the kind that gets put into drystone walls or gets entangled in grass or brambles.  This means that I found some interesting things like a pair of trainers, a brass telescope, £5 in assorted change and for some reason numerous pairs of mens underwear!

“My wife accompanies me sometimes and others in the villages around me litter pick too. It’s voluntary work so I've been able to do it during lockdown. It’s a small way to keep the place decent for those living, working and visiting.”

Applauding Lee’s endeavours, National Park chief executive Sarah Fowler said: “Whilst our beautiful Peak District has become a vital place of sanctuary in nature during these challenging last few months, we have also seen a disappointing increase in litter in many areas.

“My heartfelt thanks go to Lee and countless others who have shared with us their efforts to care for their little piece of the National Park and keep it clean and tidy for us all to enjoy. I ask that everyone shows the same care and respect for the open spaces we all benefit from in these uncertain times.”

The National Park Authority added that its own ranger teams and volunteers expect there to have been a marked increase in their usual volume of litter collected – some 35 tonnes or more each year – during 2020.

During last summer, Authority teams were involved in a number of ‘extreme’ litter picks in a bid to tackle the issue; from rock crevices and caves, to debris found in remote upland streams.

Although lockdown restrictions currently limit travel and exercise, the National Park is asking all visitors to continue to respect the area, and be ‘PeakDistrictProud’, in particular as the National Park celebrates its 70th year in 2021.

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