Meet the hikers and bikers who are keeping the UK countryside clean

How a mtb lover inspired a neighborhood of cyclists, runners and hikers to gather litter from the countryside

In a landmark move, he and Rich Breeden (the only other full-time worker at Trash Free Trails) also recently released the State of our Trails report– the nations first stock of terrestrial plastic contamination.

From that chance call grew the idea for the Trash Mob Academy, a six-week program for youths to discover todays single-use plastic issue alongside cycling classes. After 2 successful pilots, the model is set to roll out in other referral units around the country.

Its very crucial to me that were not viewed as being versus something; its all about what were for, states Ferris. Image: Sam Dugon

As Ferris notes: “This is a kid who was completely disengaged and who has now, off his own bat, become a leader in his own community”.

That makes it sound as though Trash Free Trails has heaps of experience under its belt. It doesnt. While the effort is now a community interest business, and securely grounded in 8 core worths (for instance, Celebrate every single volunteer act and Never utilize blame, shame, guilt), almost whatever else is up for grabs.

It hasnt all appeared cruising, nevertheless. Ferris invested the first couple of years getting “bogged down” in attempting to establish an official organisation. At the time, he was working for Surfers against Sewage (SAS), running the charitys successful beach tidy programme. “I kind of forgot where it [SAS] came from– that it was basically just two or 3 people beginning to take action and after that others following their call to arms,” he remembers.

A mountain biker takes some disposed of equipment. Image: Sam Dugon

It all began with an Instagram post: a closeup of a mud-spattered face, the overview of a bicyclist behind. The hashtags #pinitandbinit and #protectwhatyoulove followed. The post drew in simply 62 likes, yet a motion was born.

Ferris is a strong believer in motivating and empowering individuals, and after that leaving them to their own gadgets. At Trash Free Trails, they use “inspo” to describe it. That chimes with another linguistic novelty that they love: DIO, short for Do It Ourselves.

Fast-forward three-and-a-half years, and Ferris concept has led to hundreds of rubbish-collection outings by people and groups around Britain.

So, thats what he did. An Instagram image here, an article there. Their interest ignited, his mountain-biking friends started asking how they might get included. They told their good friends. “And the rest is history,” Ferris chuckles.

The guy behind the post, 42-year-old mountain bicycle enthusiast Dom Ferris, draws attention to the name of the Instagram account, TrashFreeTrails. It evokes a hope that, to quote that first post back in October 2017, attaining rubbish-free cycling and strolling trails is perfectly possible “if” (and heres the biggy) “we act together”.

The Trash Mob Academy teaches people how to cycle, and about the dangers of single-use plastic. Image: Rich Baybutt

When the head of a kidss recommendation school in Wakefield called and asked to use the Trash Free Trails logo design for a clean-up activity, Ferris immediately consented. Not just that: he suggested that her trainees may like to discover how to mountain bike.

The choice of name for the grassroots clean-up motion seemed like an important primary step, Ferris shows: “It is very essential to me that were not viewed as being against something; its all about what were for”.

The method leaves the motion flexible. So, when Covid struck, for instance, Ferris encouraged people to draw maps of their everyday walks– the excellent, the bad and the mucky. Dubbed the Selfless Isolation Project, the idea subtly moved litter-picking from an isolated act to a means of reconnecting with nature.

Ferris informs the story of one of the pilots first individuals, a 13-year-old boy who had experienced racist bullying. Not only did the kid become buddies with his chief tormenter through the course, but he also gained sufficient self-confidence to kickstart a litter-picking group on his own street.

Main image: Sam Dugon

That makes it sound as though Trash Free Trails has thousandses of experience under its belt. Ferris is a strong follower in motivating and empowering individuals, and then leaving them to their own devices. At Trash Free Trails, they utilize “inspo” to describe it. When Covid struck, for example, Ferris motivated individuals to draw maps of their daily strolls– the excellent, the bad and the mucky.

“And the rest is history,” Ferris chuckles.

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