Meet Our Winners – Our Unsung Hero
5380 cans. 5193 plastic bottles. 2704 full bags of litter. 1788 glass bottles. 943 volunteer hours. 807 face masks. 648 beach cleans.
And that’s just in the last 28 months.
These are the latest running totals for litter collection delivered by the team at Sutton-on-Sea Beachcare. It may seem like a never-ending battle, but the war on plastics and litter is just beginning. While it’s vital for us all to play a part, we have some true heroes leading the charge right on our doorstep – and they’re helping to keep people fit too.
CLEANING UP THE COAST, AND OUR APPROACH TO ACTIVITY, ONE STEP AT A TIME
If you haven’t yet, it’s time to meet Lianne Havell – co-founder of the Beachcare litter-picking community project, and winner of the Unsung Hero Award, sponsored by Better, at the 2023 Lincolnshire Sport & Physical Activity Awards.
The initiative was founded on the Blue Flag beach at Sutton-on-Sea in 2016, funded by Keep Britain Today in partnership with Anglian Water, and in cohorts with Rivercare Beachcare (East Anglia) and Surfers Against Sewage, for the last seven years Lianne and the Beachcare team have been cleaning up the beach, and getting fitter, one mile at a time.
“The family and I were getting fed up with the amount of rubbish in the area. We formed a team of residents who felt the same, and that was that,” says Lianne. “Seven years on, we encourage as many people as possible to join us. The numbers in our groups continue to go up and up as more and more people are seeing the value not only in what we’re physically doing for the environment but in the additional ways that getting out to litter-pick is beneficial.”
PICKING UP THE PACE WITH ACCESSIBLE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
A seemingly simple activity, strolling across the beach, holding rubbish bags on hoops with litter pickers in hand, the reality of litter-picking on a beach is much harder than it seems. “Walking on sand is no easy feat when you’ve got a few miles to cover,” adds Lianne. “It can sometimes feel tough and certainly increases the heart rate. Of course, those who find that hard and are out with our volunteers are encouraged to walk the same distance but to use the prom instead. It's good exercise for people and social activity at the same time.”
From getting people out in the fresh air to increase their fitness levels in a gentle, accessible and approachable way – upping their step-count without them even thinking about it - to physically cleaning litter from the beach and the surrounding areas to instill pride in place, protecting the environment, championing a more sustainable way of living, wildlife watching to report any issues, and reporting archaeologic finds while on their travels, the ripples of Sutton-on-Sea Beachcare stretch far and wide.
KEEPING AHEAD OF THE WELLBEING CURVE
The sense of community and spending time outside is also supporting volunteers with their mental wellbeing.
“If you’re having a bad day nothing helps quite like 30-minutes on the beach. If you can inspire people to help and get them out and about – whether they’re lonely, environmentally conscious, bereaved, or just need some space - whether they want to have a chat or just silent company - that’s what we’re here for too. We’re not just a litter-picking team,” continues Lianne.
“There are always new faces as well as our regulars,” adds Lianne.
“It’s more than a group that goes litter-picking, we’re a real community. New residents are also encouraged to join. Not only to keep fit and keep the area clean but also to make new friends to help them feel connected to their new surroundings. It’s humble to see how much we’ve been able to help our environment as well as our community.”
COMMUNITY COMES FIRST
Working with locals, schools and businesses, supported by those who regularly use the beach, as well as dog walkers and local councillors, the values that Lianne and her son founded this initiative on continue to be adopted by more and more people. So much so that they resonate through every aspect of the community.
Supporting causes outside of the group’s immediate remit, from door-step deliveries during Covid and, when the Ukraine crisis struck, becoming a drop-off point for items which were then passed on to support refugees, no cause or person is excluded.
“When you see the harm both environmental and social issues cause, you can’t and don’t want to avoid the problem – you want to face it, head on - at least that’s how I feel. I have worked hard to get people active as well as form a happy friendship-led group that shares that ethos.”
The group create not only a happy home for locals but, thanks to the dedication of Lianne and her team, a welcoming haven for those from further afield, who have been encouraged to travel and spend time walking the coast here in Lincolnshire thanks to their efforts.
Playing their part in championing tourism and increasing footfall to the area, addressing community fitness levels and mental wellbeing, nurturing a caring and supportive community, preserving the area’s history and supporting wildlife health, all because of frustration with rising litter levels in her home town; Keep Britain Tidy’s ‘Stop It and Tidy Up’ would be very proud of Lianne and her dedicated army of litter-pickers who are all fighting fit.
Thank you to Better for Sponsoring this award: