This is the story of 6 ladies who have been walking and taking together since 2006 – and keeping the village free of litter at the same time.
You cannot have failed to notice a group of ladies ambling regularly through the village on an almost daily basis –if you haven’t spotted them it is surprising as they have been walking together.since around 2006.
When chatting to them recently they couldn’t remember the exact date they started their daily walk. There was a view that it could have been 2007 but Elaine thought it was earlier. She dated it back to when her dog died (2006). Having lost her canine companion she joined the group. At that time it consisted of Lorraine, Jill and Sue. Heather joined in 2008, Lynn around 2010 and Ewa in 2011.
In the early days Mary Thomas walked with them. She was good company and always knew everyone who passed by. She is remembered for wearing shorts in the summer. Jill and Lorraine liked this idea and followed suit but it was a trend that didn’t last long. It was a bit chlly!
It was following wellbeing checks and body mass index results as part of the Biobank project that the ladies decided that they must do something to keep young and healthy and walking seemed to fit the bill. Jill was of the view that ‘if we are going to do it you have to start at my gate at 9am!’ Elaine wasn’t so keen as she is never up that early and suggested maybe 9.30am - though 10am would have suited her better! Eventually however, she conceded and turned up at 9am.
The ladies walk around the Garn most days but on Sundays (minus Ewa, and Elaine who doesn’t do weekends and hibernates in the winter) they only walk up the lane to the A48. This is the busiest part of their route and there was the view that the traffic can sometimes be going at a fair speed.
The circular walk of the Garn takes around 40 minutes - a little longer when there is litter to clear. Sue is an ace with the litter picking tool - and will sometimes let other people ‘have a go’. A couple of the others have litter picking tools but they aren’t as good as Sue’s.
Now and again the ladies vary their walk and take a trip down to the woods near New Beaupre. The bluebells, wild garlic and wild anemones are a sight to behold in the spring. Lorraine liked to go to see the orchids in the woods and by the Whelan’s house. There are also orchids near the war memorial on the Downs which they have seen when they have walked up to the Clump.
Another of the highlights is the wildlife. Heather mentioned that they often see hares in the spring and Sue recalled that there used to be a flock of lapwings near the Garn but they have not been so evident for quite a few years. And the skylarks which were a very common sight in spring and summer have almost disappeared. Both birds nest on the ground so that there was a view that their absence could be due to crop rotation. Seagulls are often seen when the fields are being ploughed.
The group usually gather at Sue’s in the centre of the village and pick Lynn and Jill up on their way as they head off around the Garn. Jill pointed out that it is good to have such a group as they look out for each other and are on hand if someone needs help. They gave the example of seeing that David Ravey’s curtains were closed one day and found that he had fallen. Lynn also mentioned that when she was ill and didn’t want to go out the others would encourage her to join them for a short stroll – which she admits did her the world of good.
As well as being supportive the group get many other benefits. They:
• are a social club – often going out for breakfast or lunch and more recently doing the Sunday quiz at the Bush
• give directions to delivery men – not always the right ones but hey ho!
• are a taxi service to one another
• are litter pickers
• rescue animals
The group recall that Lorraine was from a farming family in Ireland and was expert with animals. She once managed to stop a horse that was galloping towards them and on another occasion rolled a pregnant sheep back on its feet. And they often help return stray dogs to their owners.
Sue is known as the ‘Trip Advisor’ of the group as she often eats out and can recommend good restaurants. Lynn is the social secretary who organises birthday outings – which can be either breakfast or lunch.
When it was open they went to Loch Fyne for breakfast. They have also been to the transport café on the other side of the Downs and recalled that breakfast took an age as they all ordered different combinations of food and by the time they were served the owner was almost having a nervous breakdown! About three years ago they went for lunch at the Hare & Hounds but there didn’t seem too much left on the menu… or it was being saved for evening guests? It was a bit of a Fawlty Towers experience and caused great amusement.
The current group – Sue, Jill, Ewa, Lynn, Heather and Elaine are the unsung heroines of the village who regularly clear litter from the main lane towards the A48. They can’t remember when they started doing it but it was when Lorraine was alive. They recall that it either wasn’t as bad in the early years or wasn’t as noticeable as it is now probably because Muriel and John Coggins used to collect litter up the main lane long before they did.
When they started to collect the litter, it was usually once a month – now it could be every other day – as soon as one lot is cleared more appears! There were various views on why there is an increase – one being that people are more often eating on the go and another that there are more delivery drivers on the lanes these days. Whilst it is disappointing that people feel the need to throw litter on the lanes it does give the ladies much to ponder on.
For example, on one Sunday morning they came across a fresh oven ready chicken in the hedgerow near to the A48 and were intrigued as to how it got there. Maybe, they thought, during a conversation between a couple whilst driving down the lane the wife had said that she had bought chicken for dinner and the husband said ‘not chicken again!’ so she threw it out of the car window and said ‘get your own dinner then’. Whatever - the ladies removed the wrapper from the chicken and left it in the hedge as dinner for the foxes!
On another occasion they tried to piece together a letter that had been ripped up to see what it said – maybe it was a love note? Sadly, they will never know as a vital piece of it was missing!
The ladies think they might have identified regular and persistent litter bugs who appear to be custard tart and chocolate éclair addicts. Sweet wrappers are regularly found on the Coed Hills lane at the gate where you can stop to enjoy the view. And the custard tart perpetrator is not fussy about the brand he/she consumes. It could be Tesco, Coop, Waitrose etc. There are often packs of four so does he/she eat them all, or share them with a friend – the phantom custard tart dropper!
Most of the litter that is gathered is from food (sandwich wrappers) and drink (coffee cups) from McDonald’s and Greggs, along with chocolate wrappers, cans and alcohol bottles. Occasional finds are filled condoms and water bottles full of urine. On one occasion they found a baseball bat with a dent in it – could it have been a weapon used in a crime? They have also come across a bin bag full of clothing and on another occasion rang the council to collect several bin bags that had been dumped. Keys had been found on two occasions and one set returned to their owner.
One day Jill found a hub cap from a car and as she was putting it a plastic bag a driver stopped and asked her if she wanted it. Ever the generous refuse collector she gave it to him – it is good to recycle!
Litterbugs were humorously seen by the ladies as being considerate as they sometimes leave their litter in the hedge at a convenient height for them to recover it. Others are less considerate as they leave their litter at an inconvenient height in the hedge to reach – 5 feet and upwards. But, some fill a bag and conveniently leave it ready for collection.
Everyone is welcome
The above account gives an insight into the group’s exploits and from chatting with them it was evident that their walks are an enjoyable part of their lives. There could be serious conversation, but it seems that more often than not it is light-hearted. They welcome anyone who would like to join them and stress that it is an easy entry process. The interview is informal and the main requisite for success is to have a vivid imagination in order to create amusing tales to go with the litter picking finds!
A huge thank you to Sue Evans, Lynn Rankine, Ewa Thomas, Jill Williams, Elaine Robins and Heather Morrison for allowing this story to be shared-over tea and cake – what an enjoyable afternoon!
Following a village email (26 March 2020) to direct people to the story on the website we received a phone call from David Ravey (Lorraine’s husband) who now lives in Northern Ireland. He was calling to thank us for sharing the story. He had really enjoyed reading it and was pleased that Lorraine was mentioned. The reminiscing brought back many happy memories of their time in St Hilary and the stories that Lorraine used to share with him when she came back from her walks with the ladies.
Monica Dennis, 10 February 2020