How on earth is it already almost the middle of November? We’ve barely caught breath since the end of our 2021 Halloween Trail Clean Tour, and already have our eyes locked on to Kendal Mountain Festival this month and loads of other great plans that we can’t wait to share with you.
(c) Sam Dugon
Before we charge ahead, it’s always good to reflect and we’ve a hell of a lot to look back upon after a week on the road. We travelled the length of the country from Tilgate Forest and Wandle Trail in the south to Cathkin Braes in Scotland and a fair few stops in between. But, we are already jumping into the detail... What was the purpose of the Halloween Trail Clean Tour? We know some trail destinations are more haunted by single use pollution than others. There are those places that are a draw for thousands of people a week, or just the spots that need some extra love to bring them back to their full potential. Unfortunately, the scale of the task can be totally overwhelming for a small group or an individual with a black bag and half a day to do a trail clean.
We also know that, because of obvious reasons [shakes fist at air… DAMN YOU COVID!] we haven’t been out on the ground supporting you anywhere as much as we would like. It’s been a tough 18 months for everyone and we want to help pay back all the hard effort you guys have been putting in solo and in small groups.
That’s why this year's Halloween Trail Clean Tour was a little different. We asked for your nominations for the most “haunted” locations around the UK and you definitely delivered. Out of 28 nominations, we settled on seven locations: Cannock Chase, Grenoside Woods, Burley in Wharfedale, Barry Sidings and of course Cathkin, Tilgate and Wandle. Our plan was a simple one; to load up the Trashbusters van and rally the TrashMOB in each area to come lend a hand for a few hours. The aim was even more straightforward: to remove as much single-use pollution (SUP) as possible while reconnecting with the people who make Trash Free Trails so special: you!
(c) Sam Dugon
We will never stop being overwhelmed and overjoyed at the energy and passion that you, our TrashMOB community bring to a trail clean. From Trash Free Trails newbies to dyed in the wool A-Teamers, over 200 people devoted their time to taking care of their local trails; and did so with enthusiasm, good humour and amazing team work.
Each location was unique; from dedicated trail centres and bike trails to shared use common ground like Ilkley Moor above Burley in Wharfedale, and we could write a whole story on each trail clean, but here’s some links to our instagram posts from each day on the road.
(c) Sam Dugon
There are always a few memories that stand out from events like this. The weird and wonderful, or just moments that capture the entire essence of what we are trying to achieve. We discovered retro mobile phones, a Wotsits packet dating back to 1997, an impressive 68 cans of Stella (what a night that must have been!) in amongst the 12,177 pieces of SUP that we removed. There were the quotes: “I wish I’d have come early to grab even more” from @jamieisadventuring and “Who is Barry Sidings anyway?” from our own @beeinthebig. There were laughs: as @boijamin chose the Greno Woods Pub Run DH track as the venue for his first time on an MTB for example. And there were sadder moments, like discovering animal remains in a can of Red Bull and the inevitable feeling of disheartenment that we all feel at some point when faced with SUP in the wild. It was times like this that we were reminded why we were there in the first place.
Our approach evolved as the week went on too… from an all out blitz at Cathkin Braes to start off, to a more focussed and scientific approach at Cannock. Finally, the trail clean at Barry Sidings was probably the closest we’ve come to “textbook” (although we are kinda writing the book on this, so we are sure things will keep evolving) as we’ve got. It was our largest ever community trail clean; that enabled us to get organised, sending out scouts to enable us to focus our efforts on the right area. We could then process the enormous amount of SUP we collected and get it recorded. Even more impressive was this was conducted in biblical weather conditions.
Scores on the doors
(c) Sam Dugon
In some ways the numbers aren’t important. The impact to an area isn’t always defined by the quantity of trash removed. A cared for area has a positive emotional impact on those visiting that goes beyond statistics for example. But, there is a hard fact about any trail clean activity. Had it not taken place the SUP that was removed would remain there indefinitely. It would not break down, it doesn’t magically disappear. As a result of the Halloween Trail Clean Tour and a few local get-togethers (more on that below!), 14317 items of SUP are no longer in our wild places or on our trails; and all that can be recycled have been. 921km of trail was walked, ridden and ran in the process of cleaning it. That was a mindblowing total of 730 hours of volunteer time. They are figures that we and you can be proud of… and we are already looking forward to beating them next year.
Do it ourselves
It would be remiss of us to not also mention the epic efforts of some of our A-Teamers and Trashmobbers who were unable to get along to one of the tour dates, but didn’t let that stop them taking part. There were Trail Cleans in the Lake District, Llandegla, Cambusbarron and elsewhere, removing 1588 pieces of SUP and clearing 43km of trail. Aaannndd on top of that, around 400 people got involved on their own DIO cleans, sharing their hauls on instagram using the #trashfreetrails. This was mostly people either on their own or in a very small group, but it contributed another 976 individual items to the haul. It’s activities like these, done all year round and without any song and dance, that really make the difference in the long run, keeping trails clear of SUP. It ain’t always glamorous, but it’s the foundation of what we do and what we hope to achieve.
(c) Pete Scullion
We extend our thanks to every single person who attended one of our Trail Clean Tour dates and to those who did their own thing whether that was so solo or with others. Of course there's stories to tell about each and every person. The truth of the matter is that without them, we couldn't and shouldn't exist. But these local heroes stood out. Be it their absolute no holds barred enthusiasm, their unparalleled local knowledge of their trails and wild places or hot dog provision for 60 hungry trash mobbers, they deserve special mention, so a big shout out to:
Ramsay Macfarlane & his Trailcoach MTB gang at Cathkin Braes
Neil Hudson at Cannock Chase
Sheffworld mandem - there's too many to name!
Lorraine Hughes of the Wharfedale Wombles – litterpicking powerhouse extraordinaire
Elly Platt for her help at Wandle
The Crawley Wheelers (local MTB group) - Particular mention for Geoff and John!
Jamie Rowlands of Barry Sidings Cafe and The Bike Doctor Wales AKA the best bloody host in the whole of South Wales. Also thanks to the one and only Leon Rosser – A-TEAMer, cage fighter and all round legend.
Thank you to our partners:
@thenorthfaceuk x @eocaconservation
And to their ambassadors who came along to trail cleans and got stuck in!!