We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; we are immensely thankful and proud of the work that you, our TrashMOB do to help protect our trails and wild places. From the collective small actions of the many (picking up even one piece of single-use pollution, or SUP, makes a difference) to those who go a step beyond.
A few months back, we highlighted the awesome work of Matt Kennelly and his work in the far south of the country in Cornwall. Now it’s time to point the compass due north and head up to Cambusbarron, in Stirling, Scotland.
Trash Free Cambu
Ali Hair lives in Cambusbarron and regularly rides his local trails, many of which are built on land owned by a local Community Development Trust. Ali and friend Chris Farquhar are actually a little more involved in the scene than just riding the trails; Chris has spent the past 15 years building and maintaining trails on the hill, with Ali joining him to sling a shovel or two over the past few years.
As many of us have, Ali noticed an increase in trail traffic over the last few years, and especially during and since lockdown. And, as we highlighted when we spoke to the Lakes Plastic Collective there was a correlation between more riders and more SUP on the trails. Ali and Chris have always been practical and taken care of the trails, so would often pick up the immediately visible litter, but there was now enough that more needed to be done.
Between them both they decided that an organised trail clean would be a great way to not only remove the accumulated SUP from the Cambusbarron trails, but also generate some positive PR for local mountain bikers and to engage with the wider local community, and the Development Trust. As with many areas that see riders cross paths with hikers, dog walkers and other trail users there was occasionally conflict and riders were often seen as “the bad guys”. Work had already started with Chris collaborating with the Woodland Manager on some trail changes, but what better way to change perceptions further than some proactive trail care?
Having not organised anything like this before, Ali decided to look for some guidance. He had been aware of Trash Free Trails, but it was only when he checked our website that he found the Do It Ourselves Toolkit
Ali: “I wanted to organise and promote the event as much as possible. I also wanted to make sure we followed Covid safety good practice and made the most of the day. The Do It Ourselves Toolkit gave me the framework to run the day. The Big Group guidance in particular was really useful. It also prompted us to go a step further. We recorded all SUP we found and directly contributed to the State of our Trails Report. The DIO Toolkit made everything so straight forward”.
The guys got in touch with the Cambusbarron Community Development Trust, who provided tough refuse sacks and arranged to collect them after the event through their links at the Council. The Trust also helped source litter pickers and hoops for the refuse bags - proper community collaboration at work.
Ali and Chris deliberately kept the day relatively small; aware of Covid limiting large groups from gathering. They advertised it on Facebook and got loads of interest, as well as lots of people approaching them on the day. Ali set up the @trashfreecambu instagram account and it was through his hashtags that our own Rich Breedenn found out about the trail clean and decided to make the journey up from Edinburgh to take part. Local A-Team members Pete Scullion and Gill Houlsby also took part, with Pete grabbing these amazing photos from the day.
The results were staggering. Firstly, the trail clean removed thirty bags of SUP. That's rubbish that would still be out there if it weren’t for Ali, Chris and the other volunteers. Almost as importantly, it raised the visibility of the local mountain biking community and demonstrated how much they care about the trails. Ali was regularly stopped by curious locals, keen to find out more and join in next time around. It felt like the day was just the beginning...
We chatted to Ali a few weeks after the main event, and he’s not resting on his laurels. The trail clean has spurred him and Chris on to do more advocacy work and be a positive voice for the local riders when it comes to working with the Community Development Trust and Council. They recognise that enjoying their woodland and taking care of the environment sometimes needs collaboration with people outside of our mountain bike community, and the trail clean initiative has provided the catalyst to make this happen.
The pair are managing the Trash Free Cambu instagram and Facebook accounts and are planning to arrange another big trail clean to coincide with the Halloween Trail Clean Tour!! On the 23rd October, they're at it again. Check out the FB event for how to get involved.
Ali, again: “The Halloween Trail Clean Tour" is perfect timing really. We know that litter will build back up over the summer, especially around a few hotspots like the pump track and jump lines”.
Ali also has plans to potentially extend the trail cleans to other local areas in and around Stirling.
Whatever the next steps, we are proud to have Ali, Chris, their fantastic volunteers, and the Cambusbarron locals as part of the TrashMOB. We can’t overstate how important it is to Trash Free Trail’s aim to reduce SUP on our trails by 75% by 2025 without people like Ali and… you! Keep up the great work guys.