Peak District Pick & Play 2018

17th May 2018

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It is the same every year.  By the day before the Pick & Play Cal and I wonder what on earth keeps us arranging the event each year.  In this case we had Nikwax bags strewn all over the place and were filling them with items provided by the sponsors while we were fielding calls both from people that couldn’t now join us along with some that wanted to sign up at the last minute.  We had to collect some banners that had been sent out for a local trade show, finalise activity groups, pack the vehicles, organise activity equipment, buy some cups, arrange final meeting arrangements with some of the instructor team and pack flapjack into 140 zip loc bags.  The day was a scorcher in the Peak District and after slogging it out all day and finally getting the vans loaded, somewhere around late evening we sat down and finally felt everything was ready.

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Last Sunday we held our sixth Peak Mountaineering Peak District National Park Pick and Play day and this year we hosted 143 people (which is our largest turn out so far).  The event is a unique combination of litter collection and outdoor activities and is open to all ages - this year we had participants ranging in age from 3 to 91 and welcomed groups of friends, singles, couples, family groups and some corporate teams.

We never sleep too well the night before as there is always that feeling that something has been forgotten.  We also had slight concerns about the weather as we went to bed with the rain bouncing off the windows.  Soon enough it was time to swing into action and we were at the venue for 7.30 and very relieved to find the sun was shining and any signs of the overnight rain had blown through. There are always banners and shelters to erect, things to lay out, equipment to organise and a thousand and one other things to organise.  We were due to meet instructors at 9 and some of the volunteers always start to arrive early too - there is never quite enough time but we were ready and thanks to the helpers that arrived early to pitch in too. 

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In the first few years the event was fairly low key and yet, having tried it, we realised it was a superb way to do something positive for our beloved national park and to share some of the great activity opportunities the park offers.  It also offers an amazing educational opportunity.  The formula is simple - participants spend half their day litter collecting and for the second half of the day they choose an activity to enjoy.  For this year the activities on offer included rock climbing, navigation training, bushcraft, abseiling, a guided nature walk and weaselling.

I held a pre event briefing with the team of instructors who had offered to help and it felt great to know the activity participants would be in such excellent hands.  We did have one or two years where we struggled to get enough assistance but we have been so lucky to have had lots of help over recent years.  The whole event is completely free to participants (an essential feature of the event for us) and so we rely massively on these professional instructors who are willing to give up their time freely.  Many of these are members of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI) or the Mountain Training Association (MTA).  We also welcomed representatives from the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) Peak Area.

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We receive great support for the event from a number of outdoor companies which this year included main sponsors Rab, Nikwax and Lowe Alpine. Rab and Lowe Alpine have been on board for a number of years and we really couldn’t run this event without them.  They are local brands, Rab is a sponsor of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors and they have a very strong environmental ethos.  Nikwax have also supported the event for many years and are another brand we love to work with - their products have kept our equipment in tip top condition for years and they again care passionately about the environment.  With the generosity of these companies we are able to give every participant a goody bag packed with outdoor items.

While I managed the instructor meeting participants started to arrive and Cal and Vicky signed them up for their chosen activities.  This is a very busy time and we try to be as efficient as possible.  We were soon ready for me to give a welcome chat and share safety information with the Pick & Players.  I usually stand up on a rock so I can be seen by everyone and this is the first point where I realise just how many people have given up their Sunday to join us!

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We couldn’t organise an event of this size on our own and it is very much a team effort.  We partner with the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers and work closely with the National Trust and Peak Park Ranger Service.  The Conservation Volunteers are a Peak Park team running over 3000 volunteer per year and their activities, as well as litter collection, involves dry stall walling, footpath maintenance and drainage work, coppice management a host of other vital activities.  It is a partnership we value massively.  

Once all the admin was sorted out all the teams headed off.  Litter collection teams visited a range of sites near to the Longshaw Estate and around Surprise View, Lawrencefield and Millstone Edge and activity groups went to Higgar Tor, Lawrencefield and the Burbage Valley.  For the first time Cal and I had a bit if breathing space and time to sort out items for the lunchtime raffle,  to organise refreshments for later and to take some photographs.  We make every effort to make the event as visible as possible and basing it at Surprise View car park ensures we get plenty of visitors coming to talk with us about what the event is - all more opportunities to educate about the litter problem.

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Along with our core sponsors we are always well supported by other amazing brands and again we always focus on brands that share our ethos.  We have worked with Hydroflask for several years and really value the impact they are having on the single use disposable issue.  They provided a stack of products for our raffle and allowed us to push the benefits of reusable containers.  We also welcomed products from our friends at Osprey Packs and SueMe Underwear plus some amazing edible goodies from Iconic Cycling Events.  

After a morning of activity the teams gathered back at base at Surprise View Car Park to enjoy a picnic lunch.  The weather continued to be stunning and it felt very special for everyone to be able to enjoy an outdoor lunch before they headed off for the afternoon.  We gathered everyone for a team photo and already there was an impressive amount of rubbish, but everyone was keen to do more and soon groups were again busy in the surrounding area.

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For the first time this year we had the facilities to separate recyclable items and we found this accounted for approximately a third of the rubbish.  We also collected some scrap metal and sections of car bodywork that could also be sent to appropriate disposal facilities.  It wasn’t possible for us to weigh the collective litter but estimate it totalled around 160kgs - it was undoubtedly our biggest haul to date.

By 4pm the teams were back and many stayed for a while longer for ice creams in the afternoon sun and a chance to say our goodbyes.  It is a reflection of the good will of participants that they were already asking us about next year and some were keen to find out more about how they could get involved with the conservation volunteers - the event links people and we love that. 

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We believe a big part of the event, besides removing litter from the UK’s busiest park and introducing people to new activities, is the educational opportunities it offers.  We share information via online sources and social media in the hope that people will follow the example set by the participants and that future generations will see the importance of disposing of litter responsibly.

Finally, it was time to call the 6th Peak Mountaineering Pick & Play a wrap and we couldn’t have been happier about how the event had gone.  As we sat in the local pub with rosy faces, a great sense of satisfaction and a large glass of wine all the stresses and strains leading up to the event were completely forgotten.  It had been a blast and we can only thank so many committed and caring people for making our national park tidier and showing the power of collective activism.

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The following morning the phone rang and Dave from the Conservation Volunteers was on the line.  So, they asked, what about next year?  I was tired and had other things that needed attention but I also knew my answer.  Five minutes later we had 12th May 2019 in the diary….. and we really hope you can join us.

Posted by Paul