Sunday, July 14, 2024
HomeNewsNotes from the Sticks: Litter rout

Notes from the Sticks: Litter rout


AS anyone who has been to the Ribble Valley in Lancashire will know, we are lucky to live in a beautiful area of rolling hills, fields, woods, pretty villages, streams and of course the river.

It is baffling to me therefore that some people either do not notice the beauty of the landscape or actively want to spoil it.

Most mornings my husband Alan takes our dog for a long walk on the fell. He drops me at the next village and I walk back, a distance of one mile as near as makes no difference. It’s a country road, not used by anyone going a long way, just local traffic.

Now that the hedges have been trimmed, the litter that has been concealed by the roadside vegetation over the summer is coming to light. I thought it would be interesting to find out how much there was. I know that it is about eight months of build-up because earlier in the year I talked to a public-spirited couple on their way back from a litter-picking expedition.

I equipped myself with a reasonably robust grabber and did one side of the road on Thursday and the other on Friday. That produced three full Sainsbury’s plastic bags of rubbish. I arranged it on our kitchen table.

This is the cans section:

These are the plastic bottles, plus a mask, two vaping E-Liquid containers and a Durex packet:

And these are the sweet and crisp wrappers plus cardboard cups, tops, plastic containers and a wine bottle:

As I gingerly collected the items to put in the bin, I counted some:

Cans 21 (Coke, beer, Fanta/supermarket equivalents, energy drinks)

Plastic bottles 14

Wine bottle 1

Sweet wrappers 20

Crisp packets 7

McDonald’s cups 7

Drinks tops 8

Four-pack can binders 2

Spar chicken wrap containers 2

Polystyrene takeaway box 1

Cigarette packets 2

A couple of dozen miscellaneous wrappers and containers

Half a bag of unpleasant unidentifiable junk

A lot of this stuff is harmful or dangerous to wildlife, particularly the can binders which can get caught round birds’ and animals’ necks.

I cannot understand the mindset of someone who lobs rubbish on to a verge instead of taking it home, but my theory is that some people feel resentful at perceiving themselves to be a long way down the social order, and comfort themselves by thinking that there must be someone even lower who has to pick up their rubbish.

On yesterday’s walk I found two new cans.


A reader sent me this brilliant video taken in a Dorset field one morning last week.

These are gossamer cobwebs which can be seen in the autumn after a heavy mist or dew. They are made by a variety of spider species, generally small to medium in size, which are dispersing after reaching maturity. The technique is called ‘ballooning’ and this video explains how they do it.

I found this 2014 MailOnline article with spectacular pictures, though needless to say the boring idiots there had no imagination beyond calling it ‘an arachnophobe’s nightmare’.

Ballooning activity tends to coincide with ‘St Martin’s Summer’, a period of benign weather that sometimes occurs around the saint’s feast day on November 11 (which fits with our reader’s video). It used to be the custom to eat a goose on St Martin’s Day, so the dispersing of the spiders became associated with the ‘goose-summer’, and hence the word ‘gossamer’.


My reference last week to migrating geese led several readers to reminisce fondly about the Fairport Convention track Who Knows Where The Time Goes? written and sung by the great Sandy Denny. My husband Alan has mentioned this several times, including here and here. In 2007 it was voted Favourite Folk Track of All Time by Radio 2 listeners and it is said to be one of the songs most frequently played at funerals. Alan himself has it on his posthumous request list – I only hope I will not be there to see his wish fulfilled.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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