Residents take charge cleaning Friezewood Lane

A group of volunteers litter picking a Bristol lane

Residents take charge: Friezewood Lane

BS3’s Annie Taylor explains how she, her family and her neighbours tackled cleaning up their area.

Why do people leave rubbish behind our house? ‘Why do people leave rubbish behind our house?’ my son asks me every time we step out of the back gate to go to school. A tricky question to answer. When we moved in 5 years ago, the alleyway was overgrown and unloved. A sofa appeared, followed by a mattress, a table, a chair, then builders started leaving rubble, tiles and bricks. In the last few months, more litter appeared along with an ever-growing collection of bin bags some of which overflowed with household waste, nappies and cat litter. Cycling down the alley became an obstacle course, and a very smelly one at that. I didn’t know how to answer my son’s question but I thought someone should do something about it.

I called the council. They were sympathetic but as the alley is privately owned, they didn’t feel the responsibility to clean it up was theirs. They contacted our local neighbourhood officer who put me onto the Bristol Waste community engagement team. It turned out that lots of people had complained about the alley and surrounding area being a magnet for fly-tipping and Bristol Waste were looking into solutions. They said they would clear the waste if we could gather it together. My sons helped design a flier and we knocked on doors and chatted to people about the problem. We got a very positive response and even got to know some of our neighbours’ names! The traders in the shops were supportive and Coffee Number One offered a round of coffees to all volunteers on the day.

Still, we didn’t know if anyone would actually turn out to help. 10 o’clock on Saturday morning, we went out into the alley. Emma was there with litter picking sets and high viz tops. We got started and gradually more people came out. The alley was soon a hive of activity with wheelbarrows going up and down to the site where we had agreed to put all the waste. It was great to see everyone working hard to improve the alley. The volunteers ranged from 8 to 80 years old and we made good progress. I had asked The Good Gym to help out. About 10 of them arrived and descended on the litter like a swarm – great job guys. By 1 pm, the pile of rubbish was enormous and everyone sat down for a welcome glass of lemonade and some homemade cakes made by my sons.

If you have an unloved space near you that you don’t like, you can change it. Get your neighbours together. A couple of hours makes all the difference. The space will look (and smell) better but just as importantly, you will have made some new friends and shown the kids that it’s good to take responsibility and help the community. I’m sure there will be more rubbish in the alley. You can’t change what people do, but you can change the way you respond to it.

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