Making a difference with Appleby Litter Pickers

Someone asked me recently why we bother spending time litter picking. ‘What makes you want to pick up other peoples’ litter? It will all be back before you know it. Why bother’?

There are times when I wonder why we DO bother! And what is it that motivates us to go out armed with sacks and litter pickup sticks, to march down the road collecting cans, bottles, cigarette packets, fast food packaging, half eaten take away meals loosely wrapped in the abundant packaging – tray, sachets, paper cup and on occasion all helpfully contained within the bag it was bought in in the first place. Crisp packets, chocolate bar wrappers, sets of drinks cans strewn over a few metres, plus the plastic collar that held them together a few strides later. The list is endless! It doesn’t deter us though. In fact it actually encourages us to keep on ‘picking’!

The whole thing about litter picking for me and my husband, grandly known as the Appleby Litter Pickers, is the fact that we CHOOSE to litter pick. And we do it for a number of reasons.

Number one is ‘because we can’! No one forces us to go out. No one dictates when we will litter pick. We do it when WE want to, when WE feel like it. It works for us!

Secondly, we do it for the exercise! We keep three sets of roadside verges leading out our village tidy, roughly covering three miles in each direction. We can easily maintain each stretch in a couple of hours following the initial ‘deep clean’ we performed a couple of years ago. We park at one end, march along at a brisk pace, grabbing litter without a pause. We hop into our pickup truck parked ready at the other end and then drive back, picking up the neatly tied bags as we go. Job done! Home for a mid morning coffee, leaving the day free for our ‘jobs’!

Second equal, we do it to show, quite simply, that it can be done! Even a small litterpicking group of just two can make a difference! We have to drive those routes regularly and so we benefit from the improved visual amenity. It really irritates us when we drive along roads and have to look at litter bestrewn verges, resembling overspill from an open landfill site!

There are times when we don’t feel like going out litter picking at all. When there are other jobs needing doing; the garden requiring our attention, the cars needing a wash, or when we fancy going out cycling. And in our minds it just doesn’t matter! The litter will still be there when we DO want to go pick it up and something always spurs into action.

I was thinking about this when that friend asked me what drives us to do it.

Last weekend it was someone I heard on the radio saying he decided he could make a difference to Mt Snowdon! He walks up there with his sacks collecting discarded litter. He too does it because he can make a difference. I thought, ‘Well, if he cares enough to tackle a mountain, surely I can manage Ermine Street’, and off we went again!

A few weeks ago another friend telephoned bemoaning the litter on the lane behind her house. I suggested she simply nip out with a bag and gloves and sort it out. She declined saying she would feel daft!!!!! Haha! But she has now agreed to pop out with a bag every now and then. Out we went and we didn’t feel remotely daft! The litter was causing a problem, twenty minutes later, it was gone! No big issue. Hopefully she realised just how easy it was and will now keep it tidy for herself.

I think people are driven to litter pick for diverse reasons. Once you find a way that fits in with your lifestyle you will always feel like doing it. Yes, there will be times when you don’t want to bother, but inevitably when the time is right, something WILL spur you back into action. If anyone is thinking about giving up altogether, I would say to them not to think of it as being forever, just that you feel like a break.  That is why how we do it works for us, we are not forced to go at a set time, in fact sometimes when we get up we don’t expect to go out at all, then the day progresses and we will look at one another and say, ‘are we going then’! I wish I could pinpoint exactly what it is that makes us say that!

The litter isn’t going anywhere! Each and every bit of litter only needs to be picked up once, and above all, it means you care enough to do something positive.

Anita Cross



  1. Anita, thanks to you and your husband for talking time out of your day to do good for your community. Your blog post resonated strongly because my wife and I litter pick in our village and feel much of what you describe.

    I will confess though to also feeling frustrated, even annoyed that a small minority perpetrate littering without a thought for others, and it saddens me when i think about some in our society and communities who think it’s okay to discard their rubbish on roads, paths, hedgerows and other public places.

    However, it’s difficult to stop the actions of others but i can take action myself and that’s empowering.

    I am sure that what we do (litter picking) is noticed and i believe that it impacts peoples consciousness.

    Thank you and please keep up the good work.


  2. Hi Anita,

    I came across your site today while googling for ‘UK Litter’. I live in the Upper Calder Valley – another lovely place with a horrendous litter problem.

    I took part in the local parish council’s ‘big spring clean’ last year, and we collected loads of litter. We’re going to do it again this year over Easter.

    I too was feeling angry and frustrated by the way certain people (often young lads and motorists in my experience) spoil our beautiful land with their ugly litter.

    I was surprised that by actually doing something about it and picking some litter I really felt a lot better.

    I think that the act of picking up litter is unexpectedly therapeutic, and interesting in that it gives you a different perspective. I also think that if lots of people get into doing it (which they are) we have a good chance of making a difference together. Sites like this really help to get the message out.

    I’m hoping to get my very own litter picker for my Birthday.

    keep up the good work!


  3. Following on from Robs comments, I was most impressed to hear of a nine year old who wished for a litter picker for Christmas. She and her seven year old brother have told me how much litter they have collected so far. This has restored my faith in human nature.


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