Plastic Population

I’ve never been one for giving things up for lent. As soon as I try to resist chocolate, it consumes my thoughts and I’ve failed before I’ve barely begun.

But giving up plastic for lent? Yeah I could give that a go.

The problem that is plastic is ever present through the incredible tv documentaries such as Blue Planet and A Plastic Whale. We really cannot go on discarding single use plastic and not give a thought to what happens to it once we’ve put it in the bin. Even the stuff that makes it to the recycling centre can often not be recycled and it turns out the plastic we thought was biodegradable merely breaks up into micro-plastics which we are now undoubtedly consuming through the food chain.

The madwblog family have been trying to cut down on plastics for some time by taking the shopping bags to the supermarket, recycling effectively and reusing where we can but single use plastic permeates every part of our lives. Just think about the plastic in each room of your house. In your car. In your work place. It seems such an enormous beast to beat.

But as the old saying goes – how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

Reducing our reliance on single use plastic can be done in small progressive steps. Giving up one thing at a time leads to a change in habits which lasts. In the madwblog house we gave up buying sandwich bags first and invested in more reusable tubs to put our lunch items in. Next we stopped using bags to put fruit and veg in at the shops. Now we take canvas or string bags to carry the apples and oranges. We’re trying to remember to take a reusable cup out when we think we may make a coffee stop off and once all the liquid hand soap bottles are empty, we’re switching to bars of soap instead.

The Church of England have issued a program for lent to give up the plastics and it looks pretty doable. The madwblog household are going to give it a try and, unlike the battle with chocolate, if we can’t manage it all we will have managed some and we will have begun to defeat the plastic beast. And also unlike chocolate, we won’t be going back to using single use plastic once lent is over. It’s a win-win for us and the environment.

Lent begins on Wednesday 14 February and Madwblog will be reporting on #plasticfreeforlent throughout the 40 days. The Great British Spring Clean is on the weekend of 2-4 March when, as last year, there will be community litter picks in Clayhanger again over the weekend. Keep an eye on madwblog on Twitter (@madwblog) and Facebook for details.

Join in. Accept the challenge. Go #plasticfreeforlent.

A Rubbish Year?

The first community volunteer litter pick in Clayhanger took place on Saturday 19th March 2016 and there have been three more since. Madwblog reflects on year of rubbish.

I like to think that madwblog listens to the Clayhanger Community. That’s certainly the way I intend it to work. The first community litter pick was organised in Clayhanger as a result of a conversation on Clayhanger Community Facebook page and the quarterly litter picks in Clayhanger began.

That first volunteer litter pick back in March, open to all, was supported by Walsall Council and Clean and Green who provided litter pickers and bin bags. Three litter picks have followed – Summer, Autumn and most recently Christmas – and each has been whole-heartedly supported by Laura Terry from Area Partnership and Cllr Steve Wade. The litter picks have covered from the railway bridge on Clayhanger Lane, Northfields Way, into the Community Woodland, down Clayhanger Lane, the Co-op carpark and along Bridge Street to The Spot.

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Each event has been attended by between 5 and 10 volunteers who generously give their time for two hours one Saturday morning every 3 months. On average, that’s 56 hours of total litter collection over one year. And it doesn’t go unnoticed. Almost every time a litter pick takes place, someone pulls up in a car to say ‘Well done – what a great job you are doing!’ A great reason to feel warm and fuzzy and a little bit smug.

Amoung the volunteers are frequent litter pickers Gaz and Jackie. Jackie explains why she joins in ‘There’s a great sense of community spirit, pride in our village. Time is of an essence to us all but what an easy way to volunteer and feel good!’ And Gaz adds ‘It only took me an hour to litter pick two bags of rubbish, if we had more people giving an hour of their time, litter wouldn’t be a problem in Clayhanger.’ Jackie agrees ‘Even for half an hour, we would love more people to join in.’

And it’s easy! No prior experience or special skill needed to pick litter (although I do admit to wrangling with a picker tangled in a hedge whilst trying to extract an elusive drinks can – but I expect that’s just me).

The problem is, the litter doesn’t stay away. Within no time at all its back and sometimes it seems worse than ever, especially in the winter when its gets blown around and the bare hedges don’t hide it. I know there are several folk in Clayhanger who frequently go out with a bin bag and collect litter whilst walking the dog and many of you will know long-time Clayhanger resident, Malcolm, who not only diligently collects litter, but also empties over-following bins on the common and even clears up dog mess. An unsung community hero.

Some of the effects of litter are obvious – it looks terrible and we know that it can harm wildlife if animals ingest plastics in particular or get stuck in carrier bags or other packaging – but there are other effects which may not seem obvious at first. The charity Keep Britain Tidy has been campaigning with government and commerce for many years to seek ways to reduce packaging and subsequently litter. An extensive report: When it comes to litter, which side of the fence are you on? published on their website in 2013 suggests that:

‘Litter can be harmful to communities. Research shows that people would rather not spend time in places that are littered and not cared for and that can result in damage to community spirit, wellbeing and health whilst increasing fear of crime…

If an area is affected by litter and grafiti, it encourages further anti-social behaviour. This was proven by recent research in
the Netherlands, which showed an increase in trespassing, dropping litter and even stealing money, if the environment was poorly managed and neglected. It has also been found that litter correlated with the incidence of crime at bus stops in downtown Los Angeles and adjoining neighbourhoods. In England, around 8 in 10 land managers think that fighting minor crimes like litter and grafiti would help to reduce larger crimes and improve safety in their area.’

The report is challenging, suggesting that:

‘Litter is a divisive issue – you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.’

Tough and uncomfortable words. The report is well evidenced with research and well written with info-graphics, making it an easy to digest, interesting read. The final page ends with the tag line ‘love where you live and get involved’ urging us all to take responsibility for the consumption and disposal of packaging.

Having established a habit for scheduling litter picks in Clayhanger, they will continue at least quarterly through 2017. The first of which will take place on Saturday 21st January 2017. The aim of this litter pick is to concentrate on the hedgerow along Bridge Street from The Spot to Clayhanger Bridge and then underneath Clayhanger Bridge.

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Resolve this New Year to give some love to Clayhanger Village by joining a litter pick. It’s free, (you don’t have to sign up with an email address, remember a password or even give your name) it makes you feel good and it has a positive impact on the Village and the nature we share it with. Just turn up and get picking.

Clayhanger New Year litter pick. Saturday January 21st 2017. 8.30 – 10.30. Meet at The Spot on Bridge Street, Clayhanger.




Northfields Way – Work on barriers to begin mid-November. 

The following press release has been issued by Walsall Council this morning:

Walsall Council has now given the go ahead to a £10,000 traffic calming project in Brownhills to tackle continued

anti-social behaviour on the Northfields Way in Clayhanger. In recent years residents of the estate had grown increasingly frustrated by noisy and speeding vehicles, illegal parkers, fly tippers and the general anti social behaviour on this small stretch of road. Despite additional support from the area partnership and residents carefully logging incidents to build a case for more policing in the area, the problems still persisted.
Earlier this year the Area Partnership and Police met with the community to discuss a proposal put forward by the council’s transport team which would see the blocking of Northfields Way at the junction with Allerdale Road as a solution to stop persistent ASB offenders gaining access to the estate. It was seen as the best solution and was supported across all political parties.
Deputy Leader of Walsall Council, Cllr Lee Jeavons said; “Residents and council members will be pleased that we have identified funding to implement this scheme, so that the work on road barriers will now commence in mid November of 2016.”
Blocking the road on the estate will make a real difference to the Brownhills residents. It also sends out a strong message to those who try to blight other people’s lives with persistent anti social behaviour – that it will not be tolerated. “


Barriers on Northfields Way – Where are they?

It can not have not escaped any Clayhanger residents’ notice that the barriers proposed for Northfields Way, with the intention of preventing ASB including illegal encampments, have not materialised.

There has been a public consultation, a traffic regulation order and final plans… but where are the barriers?

This has been a question which has been repeatedly asked by Area Partnership Manager Laura Terry and Cllr Wade on many occasions on Clayhanger residents behalf. As their efforts have been to no avail, madwblog has written to Mr Gordon, Head of Change and Governance at Walsall Council, to ask him where the barriers are:

‘Dear Mr Gordon,

As a resident of Clayhanger and a hyperlocal blogger – – I write concerning the proposed barriers for Northfields Way in Clayhanger to prevent ASB and illegal encampments. 
I have had a continued interest in the prevention of anti-social behaviour on Northfields Way since June 2015 when I first discussed my concerns with Cllr Steve Wade. Since then, Northfields Way has been subject to three illegal encampments, regular fly-tipping, ASB involving drug use, motorbike racing, and loitering. Like many residents of Clayhanger, I took active involvement in the Public Consultation events in March of this year and was satisfied when the Traffic Order began and the plans were finally released for the barriers to be erected effectively closing Northfileds Way in an effort to prevent some, if not all, of these issues.
However, there has now been a long delay in work beginning to install the barriers. Even taking into account a change of administration in May, the commencement of work seems long over-due. Residents of Clayhanger continue to be subject to anti-social behaviour on Northfields Way all of which have been duly reported to the Police. Since Laura Terry is well aware of these issues and continues to be supportive of the community in their concerns I trust, as her manager, you are too.
It is interesting to note that only yesterday (29th September) Walsall Council took out an injunction to combat ASB in the borough including illegal encampments. Whilst this, I assume, will give the Council greater powers, could it not also serve to force illegal encampments to split into smaller groups and target areas previously unexplored or unused for some time? Would this make Northfields Way vulnerable to another encampment before the barriers are in place? The subsequent court action and clean-up would be a huge waste of public resources and would undoubtedly enrage the already frustrated community in Clayhanger. 
Having invested in a full public consultation and engaged with Clayhanger residents on this issue I would now expect a date to be set to commence the work. Should there be any reason why this is not the case the residents whom have placed their trust, and recently their votes, in this current administration should be kept fully informed of the situation.
Mr Gordon, I would be most grateful if you could respond to this email by confirming the following:
  1. Funds have been allocated to erect the barriers;
  2. A date is set to commence work which is within a reasonable time frame;
  3. Residents of Clayhanger have the support and commitment of Walsall Council to prevent ASB, including illegal encampments, on Northfields Way.
I look forward to hearing from you shortly,’

Details of Walsall Council’s recent injunction can be found here.


Clayhanger Autumn Litter Pick success.

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Another Saturday morning meet at Clayhanger Co-op and another Community Litter pick in Clayhanger.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the litter pick this time as I was unwell, but the event was stoically supported once more. Council representatives Laura and Matt were in attendance and organised litter pickers and rubbish collection and about half a dozen community members came to lend their support. Cllr Steve Wade also lent a hand and is a regular supporter of the Clayhanger Litter picks

It’s surprising how much litter can be collected by a few people.

Image provided by L Terry

Image provided by L Terry

Unfortunately, there is never going to be a shortage of rubbish in our village and there is as much to collect as there are volunteers to collect it! With winter only a few short months away, rubbish tends to be blown around and is more noticeable as the shrubs and bushes die back revealing litter trapped for months unseen.

Current litter picks focus on the co-op carpark and the main roads through Clayhanger, but with more volunteers, the common, the park and the estates could be covered too. It’s a great way to get up and about on a Saturday morning and an opportunity to meet fellow Clangers.

The next litter pick is scheduled for Saturday 10th December 2016 with mulled wine and mince pies for all those who volunteer! As usual, meet at the co-op carpark 8.30-10.30 am.

Now all that’s needed is Nick Knowles… 

Thank you Clayhanger

Clayhanger Community Centre has offers of grass cutting and general maintenance, administration, book keeping, sourcing funding, first aid, and perhaps most exciting, a DIY SOS style intervention has been offered to address the issues with the roof and other areas which need attention with the building! 


30 Days Wild: Day 28 Woody Woodpecker

Image animalwall

Image animalwall

After taking a walk out with local birder Chaz earlier in the spring, I have been trying to identify birds by their call. One which I learnt very easily was the Green Woodpecker. The cackling,  manical laugh is unmistakable once it’s been pointed out to you. Often heard, but not so much seen.

Well, what should I spot when pulling into the bottom of the cul-de-sac this evening but a Green Woodpecker! It flew off very quickly and I suspect it was a juvenile. Nice to see him though.

30 Days Wild: Day 26 to bee or not to bee


Image madwblog

I could put it off no longer. The garden/jungle had to be tackled. Although letting the weeds grow 6 feet tall has brought plenty of wildlife. My favourite has been watching Mr and Mrs Bullfinch eat the seed heads off the dandelions. I shall definitely leave a patch of them in future.

The hound retires to her favourite cool place when the sun is out. The bush she is under is alive with bees and occasionally she lazily snaps at one. She hasn’t learnt her lesson from the thick lip she got last year.

Image madwblog

Image madwblog

Perfect gardening weather. Result.

30 Days Wild: Day 25 Litter Picking!

Saturday morning at 8.30, brought the beginning of the second Clayhanger Litter pick.

Meeting once more at the co-op carpark, 8 volunteers gave their time to have a ‘Summer Tidy’ around the village.

Litter pickers and bags are provided by Walsall Council Clean and Green and the full bags are collected by Clean and Green at the end of the pick.

After a quick tidy round the co-op and along Northfields Way, volunteers set to work along the hedgerow on Clayhanger Lane towards the bridge. Another team began working down Bridge Street towards The Spot. It was the plan to tackle the litter in the undergrowth at the entrance to The Spot. However, it quickly became evident that this was a much bigger job than the time available and required more intensive support from Clean and Green. Steve Wade, recently re-elected Labour Councillor for Brownhills and Clayhanger, has offered his support in organising this for later in the summer. Perhaps it could be a large community event? Litter pick and BBQ?

The area around The Spot has recently seen some anti-social behaviour and the litter is evidence of this. Due to the thick undergrowth there are several areas where ‘dens’ have arisen. I like a den as much as the next person, but please take your rubbish home with you!

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With half and hour or so left, three of us took to Clayhanger Urban Community Woodland and had a tidy around there. This is a fantastic resource and very popular with local dog walkers who like to keep an eye on what is going on up there. Indeed, I met both familiar faces and a new face belonging to a very friendly lady called Sue and her border terrier who explained that she often comes out with her own litter picker and has a tidy as she walks the dog around the fields and paths of Clayhanger.

It seems that Walsall Council have done some work to clear the drainage ditch, presumably in order to relieve the flash flooding on the Pelsall Road we have seen during the heavy rainfalls recently. Again, some of the thicker hedgerows and ditches are full of rubbish and need some attention.

Stepping into the wooded areas, the sound of the roads nearby is muffled and the sounds of nature are beautiful. An oasis indeed.

image madwblog

image madwblog

It’s surprising how much litter can be collected by 8 people in just under 2 hours. Thirteen bags. A success again. Thank you Clangers. Your village and wildlife love you!

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The next ‘Clayhanger Autumn Tidy’ is Saturday 17th September 2016, 8.30-10.30 am. Meet at co-op car park. See you there.