Hubbub made the trip west to the Forest of Dean, one of the few remaining ancient woodlands in England, to explore its growing litter problem. While trying to dig up the reasons behind the rural rubbish blight we found a strong band of locals ready to show us what could be achieved if a community comes together.

As with much of the UK the forest is suffering under the effects of throwaway culture. We can't see the wood for the litter; cups, cans, wrappers and food packaging stand out against the leafy verges that line the winding roads. These rural lanes present a very different set of challenges to busy Villiers Street where we trialled our first litter campaign Neat Streets.

Across the vast Forest of Dean area, high speed limits and narrow verges make it difficult for litter pickers to clear the roads, meaning it can be up to six months before rubbish gets removed. Over time the odd crisp packet or empty bottle thrown out of car windows accumulates: a dangerous and dirty problem. 

For many residents the wait for a roadside clear up is too long; in their free time dedicated individuals don high vis and arm themselves with litter pickers to help tackle the problem. In the first of an annual litter pick in one of the Forest’s small villages volunteers managed to collect 65 black sacks of rubbish…and a cat. The volunteers still collect around 40 bags of rubbish every year, but luckily no more lost kittens! 

We met individuals and groups who were passionate about clearing up their patch of Forest. Brian got into litter picking after his doctor told him to walk more and Jan started organising village litter picks ready for the stunning bluebells that cover the forest floor in spring. The paid litter pickers for the Forest have been clocking in (before their shifts) at 5am, even in the depths of winter, to make sure streets are clean for the early morning shoppers.

The Forest and its towns are lucky to have so many people that care for its beauty and wildlife, the challenge now is to get everyone to care, especially the passing drivers who aren’t shy about catapulting their trash from the car window when they think no one is looking.  This year Hubbub will be working with the Forest of Dean community to experiment with fresh approaches to tackle roadside littering. Click here to stay updated with events and activities in the pipeline.

In the words of Tony Dallow who supervises the Forest clean up operations; ‘This is a beautiful place – well every place can be a beautiful place if you keep it clean’.