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.




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.

30 Days Wild: Day 5 – life and death

I do like it when I’m up and no one else is. As I’m not an early riser, this is a relatively rare occurrence. I managed it this morning though and was rewarded.

There is always a chorus of birdsong in our garden, being so close to the common, and one day I will learn to distinguish between the different calls. This morning I was alerted to a raucous tweeting and chirping over the fence. I tried in vain to see what was making the noise but came to the conclusion that it was a cluster of fledglings, maybe blue tits. My neighbour has an annual nest in the corner of their garage so maybe it was them.

Disappointed, I turned and was delighted to spot the aptly named ‘dead man’s fingers’ growing from an old tree stump. It’s a grim fungus, but I rather like it. I wonder how long they will grow?

'Dead man's fingers' image madwblog.

‘Dead man’s fingers’ image madwblog.

Day 2: 30 Days Wild – identity parade.

Day 2 and I’m sticking to the garden again today. Well, just over the back fence.

As part of 30 Days Wild, I promised myself I would find out what the three trees are at the bottom of my garden. If anyone should read this and declare ‘madwblog, you are wrong!’ Then please do let me know. I’m a novice at this.


The first, according to my trusty Collins Nature Guide, ‘Trees of Britain and Europe’, is a Common Beech. Apparently, they prefer moist soil which makes sense as it is growing on the side of the ditch that leads to the pool at The Spot.

The second, I was pretty certain before I looked it up, is a Silver Birch. Well, I was almost right. It is a Birch but a Downy Birch. The catkins on it are slightly longer than those on the Silver Birch. Again, it likes a damp soil hence it thriving next to the same drainage ditch.

The third tree, which I thought was entirely different, seems to be another Beech tree. It has these strange growths on at the branch joints which the other Beech tree doesn’t I don’t think.

Any ideas anyone?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The Express and Star recently branded Clayhanger as a Beauty Spot which caused some to scoff, some to giggle and others to declare ‘quite right too’.

I am in the latter category. I do think Clayhanger is beautiful. Not just visually, but the spirit of the community has beauty. To quote my 13-year-old daughter “Clayhanger becomes Clayhanger when the sun is out. Everyone comes out and you see people again who have been inside all winter.’ She’s right of course. The sun does bring us out. We tidy our gardens, take the dog on a long walk and stop to chat with neighbours.

This community beauty was certainly demonstrated yesterday (Saturday 19th March) during the first of the community litter picks. Clangers old and new care about Clayhanger and are proud that it is essentially a pleasant and safe place to live. Not perfect at times, and unfortunately some do suffer at the hands of those who want to take what others have. Sadly, long gone are the days when anyone in any neighbourhood can leave the back door open and return later without fear of anyone having entered.

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Image courtesy of Brian Stringer, Local Historian and author of ‘Clayhanger Kid’, shared on Brownhills Bob’s blog. 

Somewhat ironically, it is well-known about these parts that Clayhanger used to literally be a dump. A landfill site. And it smelt. Awful. And there was a pig farm too. That smelt. Piggy. The combined effect was, so local legend has it, horrendous. An old aerial photo shared by Brownhills Bob, prompted much reminiscing. Fortunately, photos capture a visual moment, not a smelly one and so the stench is relegated to memory.

Which reminded me that a friend of madwblog gifted some aerial shots of Clayhanger taken a few weeks back. This seems the perfect time to share them.


Clayhanger looking south-east towards Shelfield, with Brownhills Tin Man island and the Activity Centre behind. Image kindly by P Hummings.

The water in the top left corner is The Spot with the Old Village beyond. Top middle is the park and running from top right into the centre of the shot is Northfields Way and adjacent on the right is the field where ‘The Clayhanger Two’ occasionally reside. The ‘Westbury Estate’ is top middle with the ‘Bloor Estate’ hazily fading to the top of the image. The canal curves in the bottom right corner and Clayhanger Common takes the bulk of the shot in the bottom left with the ‘black tarmac path’ snaking from the spot and disappearing to the left.

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Clayhanger from the east looking west towards Pelsall. Walsall Wood behind. Image kindly by P Hummings.

Bridge Street leading out of Clayhanger down the centre of the shot. Jones’ House to the bottom left and the New Pool where once there were tennis courts just creeping out of shot to the left. Clayhanger Common to the right with the New Village in two distinct blocks to the top right. Holy Trinity School playground can just be made out in the top centre and Pelsall is just visible in the sun set.


Clayhanger looking south towards Rushall and Walsall Town. Behind is the Tesco store at Brownhills. Image kindly by P Hummings.

Clayhanger Common in it’s entirity! The black tarmac path running across the middle of the shot with The Spot to the right. The New Village is just creeping into shot, middle right, with the Old Village above it. Centre top is the Maybrook Industrial Estate and Walsall Wood to the top left.

Some may scoff or giggle, but I declare Clayhanger a place of beauty – the camera never lies they say – and I feel blessed to call it my home.



Looking back…Anyone for tennis?


Photograph supplied by madwblog.

A few days ago, I posted this photo on Walsall Places, People and History Facebook page. It was taken in November 2010, I think, and is of the field and pools to the right of The Spot as you leave Clayhanger, inbetween Bridge Street and the Canal.

This is a view of the same pool from the path leading to the canal which I am sure many Clangers will be familiar with.

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‘What I refer to as ‘The New Pond’ was once a quarry and brickworks.’ Credit: Brownhills Bob.

Not thinking that it was much more than just a photo I was pleased with, it turns out that there used to be tennis courts here!

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Walsall Wood colliery in the background, where the Maybrook Estate is now. Image very generously supplied by Marion Jones

Brownhills Bob has written about it in his blog and I encourage you to have a read.

Clayhanger is full of hidden depths. Makes you think about the history you are walking on when out and about in Clayhanger.

Source: Anyone for tennis?