The poet, William Blake, once said; “great things are done when men and mountains meet”. We are down with the sentiment of this, although we think it could do with a bit of an update for 2021, how about something like; "Great things happen when people who love and care for the mountains meet"
That’s exactly what happened at our recent World Clean Up Day Weekender. We’ve talked about it before, but we like to think of Trash Free Trails as small-normous. There’s only two employees here and we never want to be a massive organisation. Instead, we love working with a passionate support base; thousands of people who care about our trails and wild places and take action to leave a positive trace in the outdoors.
To help us do this, we work closely with our A-TEAM; a group of permanent volunteer ambassadors around the UK and abroad who go over and above to help organise trail clean ups, promote our work and support our work however they can. Such has been the situation over the last couple of years that we’ve not been able to meet them face-to-face, and many of them have never met in person. It’s incredible that these people – many of whom have had to spend hours on Zoom everyday – were always happy to dial in for a chat in the evenings to talk trash whenever was needed, but we knew that it was far from ideal.
Finally, it was time to correct this. So, we gathered as many A-Teamers as we could, plus a few select others together at the beautiful The Lodge in Staylittle, which is tucked in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains, Wales. Our plan was a simple one… to get to know each other a little better, have fun and adventure with purpose for a few days.
And that is how on Saturday night a former downhill world champion sat chatting to a teacher and a construction manager while our own Dom rode a pig-shaped footstool across an impromptu dance floor…
We are jumping ahead a little though. The weekend started for many of us on Friday, where Ed from Pedal MTB spent the day at Coed Y Brenin, taking us through skills coaching and leadership: we believe that it’s super important for our A-Teamers to have all the tools they need to run trail clean meet-ups effectively and safely.
Our day wasn’t over though, as we joined forces with the local community of Machynlleth, to blast away the trash at their local pumptrack, removing over 1000 pieces of single use pollution over the course of a couple of hours.
Saturday was a game of three halves, to mangle a saying. We are, at our heart, riders, runners and roamers. So we get to know each other (and ourselves) best by sharing time outside. We therefore devoted the morning to group rides and roams, chatting, laughing, scaring and challenging ourselves.
We often talk about how people only fight to protect what they care about. Saturday morning was a perfect reminder of why we care so so much about our wild places; and why we want to give something back. There wasn’t a single person who returned from their time outdoors without a smile on their face (despite the odd savage hangover).
How can any of us demonstrate care of our wild places? Well one way is to follow the 9Rs of our Do It Ourselves Toolkit. We know that so many of you already do, but we wanted to create a short film to talk through each of the stages and steps in more detail. Saturday afternoon was about breaking out into groups and planning our short films, with support and guidance from the amazingly talented photographer, filmmaker and storyteller, Sam Dugon.
Finally… everyone needs to let their hair down every now and then. Saturday evening was all about partying. We had craft beer and hot sauce tasting sessions, live music from a local band and some impressive 80s extreme sports fancy dress.
Our final full day together was spent getting creative, filming our segments… the more film savvy of us used drones and special effects, others had relied on the good ol’ mobile phone. Sam now has the hard job of editing all the footage together, but we can’t wait to share the end result
Before we had to go our own ways, we took the time to reflect on the few days together: the bonds of friendship that formed and/or strengthened, the connections that were made, lessons learnt and opportunities to be captured. We asked the question of what Trash Free Trails as an organisation can do to help its A-Teamers and the whole #TRASHMOB and what we individually want to focus on in the future.
This weekend was overwhelming from our point of view… and we could try and put into words what it meant to us to have so many incredible people to come together over a shared love of wild places and a passion for protecting them… but, this weekend wasn’t about us at all. It was about them. So, here are a few quotes from the A-TEAMers themselves: some offered, some overheard, some serious, some not so much. Thank you guys, we love all of you to bits.
“I was told that you should always practice gratefulness and I’m extremely grateful to spend a weekend with beautiful, unique souls who fill you with energy and inspiration. I said hello to strangers but I said goodbye to a family brought together through their love for nature and wild spaces.”
“Give them a sniff. If you are sick, they are mine.”
“My personal highlight was on the ride to the reservoir, at the back of the group where I can usually be found, I saw my first red kite, a simply beautiful bird which was majestic to watch. In that moment I was present in nature and completely connected to my environment. Moments like that, feelings like that is why I feel so strongly about respecting and protecting our wild spaces.”
“You’ll be pleased to know a load of rubbish just fell out of my hood while putting my jumper on. Turns out it is a very safe place to keep it.”
“That was the most people I've ridden with for months, best night out (in) in a few years, and some of the most thoughtful and thought provoking chat for a long time. And Marv got pissed.”
“It's been an honour to spend time with a bunch of legends and I'm feeling more inspired than ever. Can't wait til next time 💕”
“I believe that the work that TFT is doing is groundbreaking, we’re pioneers, trail blazers or builders if you will. I feel that although we’ve all returned to every corner of the UK (and world) we’re all building new trails in our home towns which will all end up with us in the same place.”
“I'm not very vocab"
“So insanely proud, honoured and stoked to have actually finally met you guys, I felt part of something before but the weekender has just made you all feel so much closer”
“All I know is that I had a ring of Mordor after that hot sauce 😂”
“It was like meeting the family you didn't know you had! Great people doing awesome things!'
We’ve so many people to thank for making this weekend a great one:
Our A-TEAM supporting partners; Endura, Forestry England and Pedal MTB.
Ed and Al at Pedal MTB for the amazing coaching
Polly and Phil from The Lodge at Staylittle for hosting, feeding and watering a ravenous pack of riders, runners and roamers for three days
Sam Dugon for not just capturing the weekend on camera, but helping our A-team channel their inner storytellers
Beth Breeden for her incredible artwork that helped record some of the moments that made the weekend so important
The Trail Rippers and the Machynlleth community for inviting us to help clean their pump track
Mark and Jack for the Saturday night entertainment
And, of course every A-TEAMer and contributor who attended!