A litter-strewn South Tyneside park has been transformed from trashy to trim by novice environmentalists who have collected a load of old rubbish.
The Temple Memorial Park Volunteer Rangers are close 1,000 refuse sacks with waste – and just nine months after launch.
Members estimate some of the discarded cans, bottles and other trash has lain undisturbed for decades.
The group got together in January to help fight off plans by the South Shields and Westoe Club to build a new sports ground on park land and their success in keeping the area tidy means they intend to remain a permanent fixture at the giant South Shields site.
So determined are they to leave a lasting footprint that they are now forming a junior section.
Group secretary Bonita Nesbitt, a grandmother who lives at Harton Moor, South Shields, said: “We formed because of the sports cub’s plans, but we are much more than that now.
“Our litter picks have seen our volunteers poke into every nook and cranny in the park. Nowhere has been left undisturbed.
“Some of the litter we have found has been there for decades. Some parts of the part had been totally neglected.
“We average around 25 bags a week and should reach a total of 1,000 any day. It’s a great achievement.”
Miss Nesbitt added: “We really don’t want the park to go back to how it was. It really is a lovely natural beauty spot. The whole community is behind us.
“There is interest in what we do from children and so we are now forming a junior section to take our work forward to a younger generation.”
Around 15 volunteers regularly take part in two-hour long litter picks which take place from 10am on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Some bring their children or dogs, and a walk which includes the option to litter pick is at 6pm on Tuesdays.
Miss Nesbitt says the park has only one permanent bin and her group leaves its distinctive blue refuse sacks attached to lampposts.
The work is supported by the Handy Estates team at South Tyneside Homes (STH), South Tyneside Council’s housing management arm.
Handy Estates provides rubbish bags and hand-held litter grabbers, with STH collecting and removing the filled sacks.
The Rangers have also removed seven burned out motorbikes, the left-over insides of abandoned cars – and a settee.
But they have seen a complete abandonment of fly tipping since they started their clean-up.
They say the main litter problem is now caused by footballers who throw away their drinks bottles while using Temple Park’s all-weather pitches.