This May Bank Holiday weekend, 40 or so of our townsfolk took time out of their day to help to make Huddersfield a tidier, cleaner, nicer place to be.
Much like Huddersfield Times itself, The Great Huddersfield Cleanup was born of a brief interaction between two like-minded strangers. Perhaps we should have learned our lesson by now, but when someone messages you echoing one of those thoughts that you kick around your brain at 2am, the innate reaction is to gleefully go along with it. The messenger in question was a certain young Frenchman called David Nail.
David, as it turns out, knows everything you could possibly wish to know about litter-picking and quite a few things you don’t. With his knowledge and expertise, and my mediocre organisational skills, things fell into place and before we knew it, the day had arrived.
No matter how many Facebook posts, emails, Tweets and website promos you do, there’s always one nagging doubt in the back of your mind – what if nobody shows up? That feeling dissolved as we pulled into the train station car park and saw a lady with a litter-picker sat by Harold Wilson (our first meeting spot). She was the first of many, as more people arrived and donned our fetching hi-viz vests (kindly provided by Blackrock Workwear for the event), and litter-pickers were handed out. A handful of members from Huddersfield Litter Bandits were in attendance, whilst in Meltham, a handful of employees from Camira Fabrics were starting their own cleanup effort. Sophie from Huddersfield BID was a multitasking superstar, giving us a hand before dashing into town to assist with Super Saturday performers.
That morning saw a good number of bags filled with litter of all types, shapes and sizes. The pile at the drop-off point on Cambridge Road just kept growing with what we had collected from the north side of town. Cigarette butts around the entrances of drinking establishments were a recurring theme, as were discarded face masks, but special mention should be given to the fetching pair of pyjama bottoms draped enticingly over an orange barrier. Piles of empty bottles were found in bushes in a number of spots, some ridiculously close to the bottle banks. Around 40 bags were piled high by the time those from Meltham had been added to the tally.
After a pitstop in town, it was time to head to the fire station to meet the afternoon crew. The afternoon crew turned out to be the lovely Diane, so the 3 of us set off on our merry way down Outcote Bank towards Manchester Road. We hadn’t got far before David came across a wooded den full of empty glass bottles, unfortunately (see pic) half-full plastic bottles, general litter, and a few used syringes (click here to find out about safe needle exchange and addiction support in Huddersfield). He spent a good couple of hours clearing that out, filling around 10 bags in that spot alone! Other litter hotspots a little further down the road kept the rest of us busy. We’d exchanged hellos with a friendly chap tending to his garden, who later popped to the shop and bought us some much appreciated cold drinks to keep us going. What a nice guy! The unexpected find of the day must have been a section of uPVC window frame, complete with expanding foam.
All in, day one of the Great Huddersfield Cleanup took around SEVENTY bags of litter off our streets.
After a night spent dreaming of hi-viz, cigarette butts and bin bags, it was time to do it all again on Leeds Road. Alex was the first to arrive, and a few nervous glances at the time had us wondering if anyone else was coming. But then a wave of eager volunteers swept over the meeting place, and soon we were a litter-picking army! The eponymous Bob of Walking with Bob infamy was there, as was Hap (leader of Huddersfield Litter Busters), and a lady called Mavoley who brought members of a community group with her to bolster our numbers.
We split off into different areas, some going towards town, others towards the stadium, and some brave souls venturing along the canal path. At the same time, the Huddersfield Town Supporters Association (HTSA) were carrying out a litter-pick around the stadium where they filled six bags with assorted junk. That brought the total to around 30 bags of litter for Sunday morning.
The grand finale was Bradford Road on Sunday afternoon, tackled by 8 intrepid litter-pickers who collected over 30 bags of litter in a very small area. A dumped fridge with an unpleasant surprise inside was added to the pile! Let’s just say it complemented Saturday’s half-filled bottle discovery perfectly.
We can safely say that the Great Huddersfield Cleanup was a success, and we couldn’t have done it without all those people who gave up some of their weekend to help us out. It was dirty work on a hot day, but everyone got on with it cheerfully and gave it their all. To quote The West Wing, “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful and committed people can change the world.” We might not have changed the world this weekend, but we definitely made it a bit cleaner. And if our posts have inspired just one more person to dispose of their litter properly, then it was well worth it. Not to mention the 110 or so bags of litter that have been removed from our streets.
Huge thanks once again to Blackrock Workwear, who helped keep up seen and safe in hi-viz. Thank you to Camira and HTSA for joining in from afar. And to Kirklees Council, Wilkinson Woodward Solicitors, Huddersfield BID and Sustainable Huddersfield for promoting the event to your staff and on social media.
Many volunteers asked ‘when the next one’ will be, so it looks as though there’ll be more #GHCU in the future!