There are few people of my generation who don’t remember the Wombles and their song:
Underground, overground, Wombling free The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we Making good use of the things that we find Things that the everyday folks leave behind
Nowadays, there are Wombles everywhere and nowhere more so than in Penny Lane where a veritable army of Wombles keep clean not only the most famous lane in the world, but also the thousands of close-knit terraced houses which surround it. I am a Womble (I have been called much worse over the years!). I womble because it gets me out of the house, I meet people and listen to them. I pick up ideas about what to do locally in the area that I represent and what to do in the city as whole when I venture down to the town hall.
This may surprise you, but it has been quite a pleasant experience, especially as the weather has been so good. There is a real sense of satisfaction that when you have finished a road there are three grids that have been unblocked, 12 plastic bottles and cans that have been removed as well as a host of other rubbish and litter.
A problem shared is a problem halved
I could probably do this in half an hour, but every bag seems to create about six to ten opportunities to chat with residents which I really enjoy doing. It enables me to pick up on a lot of other problems and opportunities by talking to people in this informal way. Most of the problems are not big enough to come to my advice centre about but people seem pleased to get rid of little niggles or raise the big issues about, “just how bad the Liverpool City Council is and how badly it performs”.
Well, most people anyway! Yesterday, someone came out and told me I should not be doing it because it was the council’s job! Well, yes and no to that. In the first place, no one should have to do it. If everyone took their litter home or just tidied up the bits around their house, the council might save some of the £8.5mn it spends per year on street cleaning. But, in reality, the council is short of money and cannot be everywhere all the time.
It could not, for example, have quickly seen the rubbish left by two clowns who had a chippy meal last night and chucked their boxes and unwanted chips out as they drove down Penny Lane. By 10.15 this morning I had wombled it all away!
Being an ambassador for Liverpool
I like to keep my area clean for two reasons:
Firstly, we are a tight knit residential community and the vast majority of us keep the area clean and tidy. We have a right to live in a clean and tidy neighbourhood and some of us are determined not to let a tiny number of slobs run our area down.
Secondly, we are a major tourist attraction in the city which is why we need to keep the area clean so that tourists send out strong messages. I have spoken to people from 14 different countries in just one weekend. I spoke to a family from Bristol who were celebrating their youngest daughter’s 18th birthday. They said they were impressed with how clean Liverpool was unlike their own city. That’s the type of message we want people to take home with them!
Local community beyond litter picking
Yesterday, I was cleaning up around the Lennon Statue on Penny Lane and a man who was having a meal with his family at our great Italian Deli, Buongiorno, came over and said how the family had been doing their bit of Liverpool 17 that morning and had collected two whole bags. That’s a real bonus for me. Penny Lane Wombles now have about 70 volunteers and are getting regular requests to help set up similar groups in the city. It brings people together with a sense of purpose and in some cases gets them out of a house where they may not have spoken to anyone else all day.
The Penny Lane Development Trust asked me if they could set up a litter picking group for local pensioners. I advised them to contact the Wombles. They want to go out in small groups for half an hour and then bring people back for a cup of tea, a biscuit, and a natter. It will provide a sense of purpose for some people and a reason for getting out of their house.
So, it is good for our area, good for tourism, good for the soul and good for the community. If you want to get involved, you can find Madam Cholet, Great Uncle Bulgaria and the team at Penny Lane Wombles on both Facebook and Twitter, and they would be delighted to help you get going and advise on the basic equipment you need.
We need your help!
The press in our country is dominated by billionaire-owned media, many offshore and avoiding paying tax. We are a citizen journalism publication but still have significant costs.
If you believe in what we do, please consider subscribing to the Bylines Gazette from as little as £2 a month 🙏