Lucy's Lockdown Diaries: Lift That Litter

As part of our #RoamSweetHome campaign, Ramblers Scotland president Lucy Wallace is sharing her Lockdown Diaries. This time Lucy considers how we can enrich ourselves - and our environments - by safely litter-picking during daily exercise. 

I’m learning to love my local patch, and I’m giving it a helping hand by (safely!) picking up litter on my regular walks.  

As a Mountain Leader, my life is normally very active, and involves a lot of travelling. Life in the time of coronavirus is certainly challenging me. 

No more zipping about the Highlands, climbing mountains and working in a different place every day. I’m really not used to staying put for long, but gradually I’m adjusting to, and even quite liking, an entirely new pace of life. I’m enjoying the #RoamSweetHome hashtag that the Ramblers has created, and all the creative ways that people are keeping active.

It really is a time to celebrate our home patches, to get to know them and discover their hidden depths. 

I live on the Isle of Arran, in a sleepy seaside village, with quite a bit of nature on my doorstep. I try to get out every day, rain or shine, for a walk or bike-ride in my local area. I love to feel the wind on my face, hear the birds, and even just wave hello at any neighbours who are also out.

It is the highpoint of my day and is helping me to adjust to the changes that are taking place in my life.

My journeys take me out of the front door, and from here I can either turn right along a sandy beach, towards a wild stretch of shore, or left, through the village and along the seafront. If I’m feeling adventurous, I can head up hill and into the woods above the village.

Walking the same routes every day, has brought the finer details of my neighbourhood to my attention.  One of the things that I’ve noticed is that I am walking past the same pieces of litter over and over again. Shiny sweetie wrappers and beer cans taunt me from the verges and gutters.

Here, like most places, litter comes from a variety of sources.

A lot is washed up on the beaches in storms. Sadly there is no stopping this endless tide, without major changes further upstream.

Other rubbish gets blown into the streets in the stormy weather that we have; the gales always bring interesting things in to my back garden. 

Unfortunately a small amount of litter is dropped by lazy folk who should know better.  Sadly there are many fewer people on the island at the moment, but one silver lining is that there is less of this sort of litter than usual.

I’ve always made a point of picking up rubbish that I find in the mountains and wider countryside, but not really thought about it in my village before. Now the village is my wild place, where I find comfort in nature, and suddenly the litter I see is even more jarring and out of place.

I’ve started taking a bag and gloves with me when I head out on my walks. If I see something glinting at me from the undergrowth while I’m out, I put my gloves on and pop it in my bag.

Most of what I find is shredded plastic or drinks bottles, but I do find some odd stuff, especially on the beach.

Today I found a tiny toy soldier, hiding amongst the rocks on the shore. 

Picking up litter while I’m out has definitely added something to my walks. It’s hard not to feel anxious about the world right now, and for many of us, myself included, not being able to do our normal things can really affect how we feel. By helping to clear up my neighbourhood, I’m doing something useful, and that helps me to feel better too. 

If you would like to start picking up litter while you are out on your daily walks, here are a few pointers to help you along the way:

  • DO wear gloves. A pair of gardening gloves or something tough enough to pick up items with sharp edges is a good idea.
  • DON’T pick up anything dangerous, especially at this time. Avoid handling needles, very heavy objects, or anything that could be contaminated with chemicals or pathogens.
  • DO bring a strong plastic bag. Nothing worse that getting a tear in your bag half-way along your walk!
  • DON’T over do it.  This is your daily exercise- but it’s best if it is enjoyable.  In these days of lockdown, the chances are that you can come back tomorrow and pick up some more.
  • DO take your bag of litter home. Council bins are probably not getting emptied as often as they used to so you can really help out by popping it in your wheelie bin when you get back to your house. Recycle when possible.
  • And DO observe all the important social distancing rules to keep yourself and others safe from coronavirus transmission. As always, do not touch your face, and wash your hands with soap when you get home.  

Finally, make sure that you are getting the exercise you need! Picking up litter is just a little added bonus; to enrich yourself, and your local environment during this strange and challenging time. 

All photos credited to Lucy Wallace. 

The Ramblers’ new #RoamSweetHome campaign aims to inspire everyone to keep active safely during the coronavirus pandemic. We’re also urging walkers to keep connected – both with landscapes and each other - during lockdown for everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing. Get involved at 

Derek Watkinson

Re the DON’T pick up anything dangerous bullet point. An additional risk when littering picking on the beach is unexploded ordnance especially near firing ranges but it could get washed up elsewhere. A google search revealed recent stories of Unexploded ordnance being found on UK beaches including one in March 2020. Personally I would keep away from anything that looks like a pressurised container.