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The inspiring volunteers working tirelessly to keep Grangetown tidy


On a glorious sunny Sunday morning, many of us may choose to spend the day at the beach, going for a run or cycle in the park, or simply doing nothing at all and laying in bed. But that is not the case for a dedicated group of volunteers in one part of Cardiff, who instead spend the time cleaning up their community.

Launched in 2015, Keep Grangetown Tidy organises monthly community litter picks in an effort to bring local residents together and make Grangetown a cleaner place to live. Each month, a small army of volunteers – including adults, children and even some four-legged friends – descend on the area’s streets armed with litter pickers and bin bags, often filling over 50 of them in the process.

This is no punishment either, with smiles on the faces of all those giving up their time to take part, no matter how grim the assignment. It is an initiative reflective of the immense pride and community spirit that is felt right across Grangetown, and the group’s work does not go unnoticed, with fellow residents taking time out to thank them for their efforts.

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“We’re committed to making Grangetown a nicer, cleaner, greener place to live” said organiser Fiona McAllister. “We work together at our monthly litter picks but we also have lots of volunteers who go out by themselves to keep their street or park clean.

“It’s not just about picking up rubbish, it’s about changing attitudes as well and we’ve campaigned to raise awareness of fly-tipping and things like that. Being out on the street in our hi-vis jackets really helps to highlight these issues and get people talking about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Plus it allows people to get to know others and make some new friends – it’s good for their health and wellbeing.”

The group’s most recent community litter pick just so happened to fall on what was the warmest weekend of the year so far in Wales. However, while the turnout of 15 was slightly lower than usual – with as many as 65 people turning out for previous picks – the team’s enthusiasm and positive attitude more than made up for it.



The volunteers get ready to hit the streets
The volunteers get ready to hit the streets

Charlotte Brown, who joined the litter pick ably assisted by her two children, Hector and Eleanor, had only been a few times before, but was inspired to keep picking up rubbish during the pandemic using her very own litter pick kit. The group’s work, she said, was not just beneficial for those currently living in the area, but also helped to set an example for the younger generation.

“It’s an important thing to do, not just for now and for the future,” she said. “If our children come out with us and see us picking up litter, they will grow up to think that is what people do, rather than dropping litter and creating a mess.

“That’s a much nicer future to have. It’s all about sustainability, you’re not just picking up the litter that’s being dropped now, you’re hopefully preventing it from being dropped again in the future. We started doing it ourselves when Covid hit. We’ve got our own litter-picking kit at home and we go out and make sure our streets are tidy every now and then.”

While it is, of course, clearing the streets of rubbish, the work of Keep Grangetown Tidy is also helping to rid the area of an unwanted reputation it has been given by people who live outside it. It is a reputation that none of those in attendance at the litter pick, including Charlotte, believe to be fair or even remotely true.

“There’s an amazing community spirit in Grangetown,” said Charlotte. “People really care. I don’t understand why it has the reputation it sometimes has – for me it’s always been a very family-friendly, family-oriented atmosphere. I really don’t understand what the problem is. All I can say in terms of improvement is it just needs a bit more greenery! But that’s why schemes like this, as well as community planters, are so important in keeping the area an attractive and nice place to live.”



Adults, children and four-legged friends are all welcome at the litter picks
Adults, children and four-legged friends are all welcome at the litter picks

Carla Garre, who moved to Cardiff in 2015 with her husband Manu, agrees. Originally from Spain, the couple joined the litter picking team a few years ago and like Charlotte, have incorporated cleaning up the streets into their everyday life in an effort to “keep the area lush”.

“Just before lockdown, we came every week,” she said. “And then when Covid hit, we started doing it ourselves, borrowing all the equipment. I’m a teacher, and when I started doing remote teaching in lockdown, I put it on my weekly activities to do with my classes, and then some of the families started doing it too. It was nice for me to go on walks during lockdown, and it was so easy to pick up litter as I was doing it.

“As a group we’ve picked up some strange things over the years; pregnancy tests, gas canisters, even a Samurai sword, as well as all the cans and plastic bottles. The council are good too. We often report stuff on the Cardiff Council app and it’s always sorted out quickly. Sadly on my street there’s always flytipping, and I’ll report it first thing in the morning on my way to work and on my way back on the evening I’ll see that it’s been sorted.

“But doing these litter picks, just being around and having people see you do the work, I think it does motivate people to do something similar, or at least stop littering and be more tidy instead. It gives something back to the community and it inspires other people to care about where they live.”



Carla and Manu moved to Grangetown seven years ago and say living there is "absolutely lush"
Carla and Manu moved to Grangetown seven years ago and say living there is “absolutely lush”



31 bags of litter were collected at the group's March litter pick, as well as a roll of carpet and a child's car seat
31 bags of litter were collected at the group’s March litter pick, as well as a roll of carpet and a child’s car seat

The couple’s enthusiasm and love of Grangetown are clear to see. However, despite having now lived there for nearly seven years, Carla admitted she was initially warned by others not to move to the area, due to its ‘reputation’.

“When we came to Cardiff in 2015, I saw a beautiful house available in Grangetown,” she said. “But when I told people in Cardiff I was moving there, so many of them said: ‘Oh no, not there!’. They said it wasn’t nice and full of immigrants. I thought, that’s good then, because I am an immigrant!

“We’ve been here seven years now and we’ve never had any problems, in fact it’s been fantastic. I had my 30th birthday in lockdown and we couldn’t do anything for it, but all my neighbours came to my garden to wish me a happy birthday – it was lush! You wouldn’t get that in other parts of Cardiff. We love living here.

“Another good example of what the community is like happened a few months ago, when it was Diwali. and I wanted to celebrate it at my school, and thought it would be lovely if I got a proper dress. I thought about buying one, but it was around £400 to do that. So I asked on the local Facebook page if anyone had a dress I could borrow, just for the day.

“This lovely lady – who I didn’t know at all – said I could use hers for free and she brought round this beautiful green and yellow dress. I got her a bunch of flowers and chocolates the next day to say thank you, but she told me to keep it so I could wear it every year. I thought that was so kind and generous of her and for me that sums up Grangetown and its community spirit.”



The group has uncovered some peculiar items over the years - including this two-foot long Samurai sword
The group has uncovered some peculiar items over the years – including this two-foot long Samurai sword

Dave King MBE moved to Cardiff from Surrey with his wife in 2008, and, having joined the board of Keep Wales Tidy as a trustee, set up the Grangetown litter picking group in 2015. He has overseen hundreds of events and helped remove hundreds of tonnes of litter from local streets and rivers, as he also helped form the Cardiff Rivers Group, which undertakes regular clean-ups of the Taf. “You name it, we’ve pulled it out of there,” he added.

Admitting that getting involved in volunteering “changed his life”, Dave said that he was proud of the continued progress of Keep Grangetown Tidy, but admitted there were “frustrations”. With so many volunteers across the city willing to help, however, he has some big plans for the future of litter-picking in Cardiff.

“The Grangetown group has got stronger year on year,” he said. People have come and gone, but Fiona got involved and really got a grip on the social media side of things which has helped bring in lots of new people. There are groups all over the city, around 23 I think, but we were one of the first to get going. It’s important work, but it’s good fun too, a form of social interaction, a great way to get to know your neighbours

“It’s going really well, but there’s still a lot more we can do. The council are very supportive but it would be great to have more resources from them to help with coordination, because we’ve got a small army of enthusiastic volunteers who are willing to help, they just don’t really take advantage of that.”



Dave King MBE with Grangetown councillor Ashley Lister
Dave King MBE with Grangetown councillor Ashley Lister

Dave added that there were “missed opportunities” to coordinate the city’s litter-picking groups and show Cardiff at its best as it welcomed international sports fans in recent weeks. He added: “Leading up to the home Six Nations games we could have had a weekend of events, so we could really promote the city.

“It would be great to have had a coordinated effort for that, we could have blitzed all of Cardiff’s litter. There are frustrations like that, but hopefully we can do something about it soon. The important thing is the level of engagement we’re getting with these programmes, and there’s no better example of that than Grangetown.”

In total, 31 bags of litter were collected at the March litter pick, as well as fly-tipped items including a roll of carpet and a child’s car seat. The group’s next event is on April 9 when they are heading to Sevenoaks Park for another clean-up with anyone welcome to attend.

“If anybody wants to get involved, they can get in touch with us and come along and help out,” Fiona added. “We list the dates for all our litter picks on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and you can find out all the information there. We’ve got all the kit, so just wear comfortable clothes, sensible shoes and come and help us make a difference.”

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