In England’s green and [not so] pleasant land

Tied to a desk most of the week, my opportunities for exercise are limited, especially now poor weather and lack of daylight curtail after work activity. So to counter the middle-aged spread, this year I took up jogging to keep myself fit. I dutifully plod around the village a couple of times a week, dodging speeding traffic and being overtaken by old men walking dogs and young mums pushing baby buggies.

But moving as I do at a leisurely pace, I notice the finer details of the routes I run: the bluebells in the spring, the blackberries in the autumn – and the empty beer cans and plastic bottles every week of the year. There really is a huge amount of litter in the ditches and verges of even the more picturesque country lanes.

I mentioned it in the pub as I ‘rehydrated’ after my Sunday morning shuffle. Soon wished I hadn’t. A sheep farmer bent my ear for the next hour on the problems of fly tipping. He’d been dumped on several times recently, with a growing pile of old mattresses, fridges and builders’ waste collected from his gateways to show for it – and doubtless a hefty fee for eventually offloading it all at the council tip, too.

He went on to quote DEFRA’s latest report that showed flytipping incidents had risen in the past year by 20% and cost Local Authorities in England £45.2 million to clear up.

Reminded me of the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher got a bee in her bonnet about litterbugs and appointed Richard Branson as Litter Tsar to sort out the problem. He soon realised tidying up Britain was harder than running record stores, airlines and railways, so quit to make his billions elsewhere, but it’s left an opening for someone. Maybe next week I’ll swap my running shoes for wellies and set off with a couple of bin bags instead.

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