For the few years that Camino Ultra has been in existence we have quietly and frequently gone out on our local trails of East London and taken as much trash off them as possible.
We've also tried to start conversations and we've had some beautiful results. Anyone that knows our relationship with Hackney Wick's Graffiti Bridge will have seen it totally transformed.
We recently got together with the incredible bunch from Trash Free Trails (TFT) and it feels right to take some of these activities up a notch. TFT exist to bring some much needed education and structure to the process - some of this includes a collaboration with Universities to better catalogue the extent of the rubbish out on our trails as well as the important benefits to our mental well-being if we can explore positive relationships to nature/countryside/trails.
In April we will be supporting TFT during their 'Spring Trail Clean'.
We have a clear plan and we would love you to support us.
At the beginning of April we will be asking Camino runners to walk/jog/run sections of the Route 4 Blueways on the Beverley Brook Trail and specifically we will start the month by just taking pictures and cataloguing the trash that exists on this trail.
In week 2 and 3 we will be assisting the community to take a small bag of trash off the Beverley Trail. Everyone who contacts us will be supported in how best to do - following all the expert advice that you can already find on the TFT website.
On April 22nd we will have a Camino Social day (contact us for details - firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will be personally getting involved in the TFT Spring Clean.
In the final week of April we will once again have Camino community runners go along the trail to catalogue the results of the clean-up.
We are so grateful to be conducting this project on Roding Valley because the route has everything that we love about a London-based Greenway. The trails themselves often hug some of our most major roads/highways and these are traditionally 'dumping grounds' for peoples rubbish as well as being places that typically are 'hidden away'. Trash in these environments give a feeling of squalor and are far less attractive to solo-runners who are put off - it is an obvious relationship - if you see a trail with lots of rubbish you feel that the area is unloved and more likely to be a place where your presence is unwelcome.
So we have a huge amount to gain as a collective if we can come together and make our trails free of trash.
We were grateful to chat to Rich Breeden from TFT who shared some excellent context to the Spring Clean initiative:
Trash Free Trails is a community-focused, non-profit organisation; a positive, call to action for riders, runners and roamers alike.
We exist to protect our trails and the wild places they take us to and we’re starting with single-use pollution (single-use pollution; fka: litter!).
Terrestrial ecosystems are being choked by single-use pollution. At the same time, we are witnessing first hand the social and emotional impacts that disconnection is having on the wellbeing of individuals and communities; trails, and the wild places that host them. We believe that these two issues are bound together and that it is our responsibility to find positive, purposeful, people powered solutions.
Our mission: reduce single-use pollution (aka; litter!) on our trails and wild places by 75% by 2025 and (re)connect people with nature through purposeful adventure.
The Spring Trail Clean has been a mainstay of the TFT calendar since 2018. This year it will take place during the entire month of April. As a mass-activation event its main aim is to remove huge amounts of single-use pollution (single-use pollution) from our trails and wild places.
For 2022, TFT are keeping it simple with their ‘One Bag Challenge’; encouraging as many people as possible to head out and remove a bag’s worth of single-use pollution from their favourite places to ride, run and roam..
Litter (or as we prefer to call it, single-use pollution) can feel overwhelming. How often have you stopped at a beauty spot, paused at the side of a trail or just looked down while walking along only to have your enjoyment of the time and place shattered by the sight of crisp packets, plastic bottles and cans?
Psychologically, it can feel like a problem so large and so ubiquitous that one person alone can never fight the tide.
That is why our Spring Trail Clean will always be one of the mainstays of our calendar. We have many strands to our work; from scientific research and developing our education and understanding to encouraging purposeful adventures. But, fundamentally, if there is one activity that defines and encapsulates the essence of Trash Free Trails it’s the trail clean.
Whether solo, or as a group, a single piece of single-use pollution or an entire skip, the trail clean is everyone’s opportunity to make a positive impact on the trails and wild places that they care about. It’s worth remembering that every single crisp packet or drink bottle ever dropped in the woods and on the moors, stuffed into dry stone walls or tossed in hedges would still be there had someone not taken the thoughtful act of picking it up and removing it.
The Trash Free Trails Spring Trail Clean is a celebration of what we – every single one of us – can do, right now. That is why we are calling on the population as a whole, but especially those of us who are riders, runners and roamers to roll up their sleeves and take care of the places they love. If the current litter problem is the result of millions of acts of carelessness, let’s counter that by even more acts of care.
During the month of April, we are simply asking you, yes you, to conduct a trail clean. What does that mean? Well, we have a tonne of resources on our website, including our Do It Ourselves Toolkit, which provides loads of useful information and ideas, but at its very essence, we are asking you to pick up some of the single-use pollution that blights your local area and take it home with you. And in this case we are asking for nothing more and nothing less. A simple act is a powerful one, especially when it is repeated by thousands of people. One Bag Challenge
Removing just one piece of single-use pollution makes a difference, but we are calling on people to undertake a “one bag challenge”, heading out from their front door or trailhead and filling up just one bag with any single-use pollution that they find. Whether it’s a five minute activity at the end of a run or a ride, or a day long adventure; something done as an individual or a good excuse to get some mates together, we don’t mind. If someone does that just once in April, they’ve made a positive impact. If they do it twice or more often, then wow, their trails will be all the more healthy for it. There are no rules.
With world-class companies like The North Face, Red Bull & Kamoot already lending their support we stand a real chance of making a genuine difference.
To help spread the word please use #TrashFreeTrails
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t you encourage trail cleans all year round? We do, and encourage anyone to conduct a trail clean as often as they like, whenever they like. Spring is a great time to get out though; hedges and undergrowth haven’t yet begun to grow, making it easier to spot that rogue single-use pollution… and there’s a reasonable chance of being able to pick a good weather day!
What if I want to fill up more than one bag? One bag is a simple, achievable target, but we are genuinely stoked if more people start picking up even a single item that they spot on the trail. Equally, if you want to go crazy and carry out as much as you can, more power to you!
I usually record my findings on your website, should I not do that now? Recording the single-use pollution that you find and telling us about it is really, really useful for some of
our longer term aims. It helps us monitor trends and build up a picture of the nature of the single-use pollution that you are finding. But, and it’s a big but, we would far, far rather have someone get out there and do a trail clean (and nothing more) rather than decide not to because they felt overwhelmed with the task of counting and recording. If you would like to tell us what you found you can do so here.
What’s the point, the litter always returns anyway? It can be so demoralising to see single-use pollution slowly returning to a place that has been cleaned. But, there is evidence to suggest that people are more likely to drop an item of single-use pollution if they can see litter. And there is still a positive impact on the environment and people’s enjoyment of that wild place for the time it is returned to a more natural order. As an organisation, we are also putting in a huge amount of effort and resources to tackling the issue of single-use pollution on both fronts: stopping it in the first place and removing what still makes its way into the wilds.
I don’t live near the countryside. Can I still take part? Just because we are called Trash Free Trails doesn’t mean we don’t care about parks, alleyways, roundabouts or small corners of urban woodland. Anywhere that you use or care about is fair game as far as we are concerned.