Wickford Wombles: Town's litter-pickers driven by 'community spirit'
An award-winning litter-picking group's founder has put its success down to "good old-fashioned community spirit".
The Wickford Wombles has grown from a handful of women to more than 500 members in little over a year.
Volunteers take turns to scour the roads of the south Essex town, filling dozens of bags with discarded plastic and domestic rubbish.
Tracy Menzies said: "People feel very strongly about it. Little changes do make a difference."
She started the group in February 2018 because of the amount of litter she found while walking her dog in local woods.
After she put a note on social media, six locals turned up, helping her collect 14 sacks of rubbish in an hour.
The scheme has since attracted 511 members on a Facebook page, where they exchange ideas on recycling, local events and fundraising.
"Doing their bit"
Miss Menzies said the team was "not doing the council's job", but helping it deal with litter piled up over many years.
"Unless you've been out picking up litter you have no idea how much is out there, in hedges, in ditches, under bushes," she said.
"The most amazing thing I've found is community spirit."
She said different teams tended to look after their own patch, such as the town's parks, dog-walking routes and daily commutes.
The group, named after the fictional creatures who collected and recycled rubbish on Wimbledon Common, has won a volunteering award in the Basildon district and inspired like-minded groups in nearby towns Hockley and Pitsea - and even in Wales.
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They also work with schools - and organise summer holiday scavenger hunts for children.
David Harrison, of Basildon Council, called the Wickford Wombles' commitment "absolutely brilliant".
He said the borough had been given £33,000 from central government to provide graffiti-cleaning kits, litter-pickers and gloves to help efforts.