TidymanLitter volunteers in Shaftesbury will collect their thousandth bag of rubbish next week.

The Hilltop Litter Pickers will reach the milestone total during a planned clean up on Wednesday 7 January 2015.

The group have been clearing litter and fly tipping from the streets and open spaces in the historic Saxon hilltop town for just 21 months.

Since April 2013, they have organised 47 litter picks, usually held fortnightly on Wednesday afternoons.

Some of the 27 regular members also routinely patrol the roads and footpaths around their homes.

While much of the litter collected has been food and drink packaging, mainly from fast-food premises and other local outlets, a large amount of fly-tipped debris has also been cleared.

A broken canoe, flat-pack furniture, a trampoline and a Christmas tree with fairy lights are among some unusual finds removed from local hotspots.

Other items include televisions, car tyres and vehicle parts, carpets, DIY rubble and bags of clothes.

Hilltop Litter Pickers co-ordinator Peter Askin said that the group have received many favourable comments from residents, traders and visitors.

“In November, we were awarded a certificate of excellence by the South and South East in Bloom judges for our efforts to keep Shaftesbury litter free.”

“Collecting a thousand bags is a milestone achievement for the group,” he added.  “However, the fact that we have cleared up so much rubbish in just 21 months is a damning indictment of both our throwaway society and the thoughtless behaviour of a selfish minority in the town.”

The Hilltop Litter Pickers enjoy a good working relationship with both the Dorset Waste Partnership and the Shaftesbury Town Council grounds staff.

The DWP continue to provide invaluable support and help with resources such as bags.  After every planned clean up, staff from the local Longmead depot quickly collect the day’s haul, sometimes as much as 25 bags, for disposal.

The STC grounds team have recently supplied some cans of coloured spray chalk and poster templates that the group plan to use to tackle dog fouling in the town’s recreation parks.

The volunteers have been sponsored by Syd Guppy of Imprint Graphics and the Shaftesbury Chamber of Commerce.

Funds have also been received from the Waitrose supermarket in Gillingham through the company’s Community Matters scheme.  The money was used to buy bag holders, litter pickers and other equipment for use by group members.

As the battle against litter is continual, new helpers are always welcome.  Co-ordinator Peter Askin can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected].