The Peak District Pick & Play

29th Apr 2014

For the last 3 years Peak Mountaineering has organised an annual litter picking and outdoor activities event in the Peak District National Park.  The model is simple.  Participants spend the morning collecting rubbish then try an outdoor activity in the afternoon.  As many people will know the Peak District National Park is the UK's busiest and it certainly suffers from its share of litter - we have been delighted to do our bit to help. 
For the first 2 years we teamed up with a charitable organisation and ran the events from Bamford and, in the second year, Castleton.  In both years we had an excellent turnout and managed to remove a lot of rubbish (over 100kgs was removed in 2013 alone).   The only huge negative for us was that the charity made a charge was made for participants. We felt very strongly that the event should be free for all.  We just weren’t happy to charge people to collect rubbish!  So, in 2014 we decided to go it alone.  The first Peak Mountaineering solo event was held last Saturday.
It isn’t possible to offer a free event like this without a lot of help and we had no idea whether we could find enough support.  We could provide logistical expertise and equipment but you can’t offer outdoor activities and manage a large event like this without other expert support.  We tentatively tapped into various sources to see if they could help - it soon became clear that we really needn’t have worried about getting the help we’d need.
A lot of logistical support came from our partners at the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers (PPCV).  The PPCV is a programme enabling people of all ages and backgrounds to take part in conservation projects within the park and they’d already supported our 2013 event.  When we went to speak to them about going it alone for 2014 they were fully on board. They supported the event in so many ways and it really wouldn’t have been possible without them.  From providing litter picking equipment to identifying litter hotspots.  From removing the huge amount of rubbish after the event (3 full pick up trucks!) to liaising with the Peak Park Ranger service – their support was absolutely essential and our huge thanks go out to them.
The event was also supported strongly by the Peak District Ranger Service and our heartfelt thanks go to Louise for running a brilliant guided walk along with all the other rangers who helped supervise the litter collection and offer expert guidance and loads of local knowledge along the way.
Our next logistical hurdle was to get enough facilities and instructors to be able to offer the outdoor activities.  Again we really needn’t have worried.  Our friends at the Hollowford Centre let us use their High Ropes facililties and equipment for free and a social media callout for volunteer instructors gave us enough cover to run the sessions (a huge thanks to Kev, Tim, James, Richard and Caroline for giving up a precious Saturday). It was a great example of collective community activism and we are so grateful to them all.
Of course every great event needs a great name and again our Twitter friends came up trumps.  A request to think of a suitable name was answered by many and thanks to Andy for coming up with the perfect one. The Peak District Pick and Play says it all.
The final link in the chain was to get enough participants and again we were humbled by the great response to our blog post and shout outs via Twitter and Facebook.  As this was the first event we’d run ourselves we actually wanted to cap the numbers at 40 participants until we were sure all the planned logistics would actually work.  In the end the numbers crept up and we ended up with over 50.  Luckily it all worked out well.
The events we had managed previously were all based from a single base and we felt, although this created a nice community feel, that lots of time was taken getting to and from the litter collection venues and activity sites. For our event we wanted to minimise transport requirements (which also has, of course, an environmental impact) and maximise activity time.  So, for the Pick & Play event we selected several litter hotspots that were close to the activity sites and asked participants to meet us there.  It worked really well. 
Groups cleaned up Pindale, Tideswell Dale and the Burbage Valley and the amount of rubbish we found was staggering.  In Pindale there was, along with the usual rubbish, several tyres and a television.  Tideswell Dale had plenty of the picnic castoffs and several barbeques and in the Burbage valley we found several shelters and barbeque sites that were, frankly, disgusting.  It seems there are plenty of people that seek out the solitude and beauty of our wilderness areas but don’t care about leaving it that way for others to enjoy.  A tragic situation but at least we were helping to make it better.  A few hours of intensive rubbish collection and we’d filled 3 pickups as well as building up a healthy appetite.  Time for a picnic lunch before everyone headed off for their afternoon session.
For the afternoon we ran a high ropes course along with climbing, abseiling and a guided ranger walk.  All the sessions were really well received and it was fantastic to share some of the amazing opportunities the Peak District National Park has to offer with so many people.  Even better was that the sun shone all day.  The event had a great feel to it.
We sat in the pub (for the essential post event review!) at the end of the day and the key question was, of course, will we do it again.  How could we not? We are just looking at dates for 2015 so please watch this space.
Posted by Paul