A former “Swallows and Amazons” actress spoke yesterday of her ‘anger’ at the litter blighting our country as she revealed that she had joined the army of volunteers taking part in the Great British Spring Clean.
Sophie Neville, who appeared in the 1974 film version of Arthur Ransome’s children’s classic, described herself as a ‘lone ranger’ who began her own war on waste six years ago. She collects rubbish along the coast at Lymington in the New Forest in Hampshire to protect the waters of the Solent and local wildlife.
During her latest solo effort, she picked up more than 1,000 items, including 75 pieces of plastic and two beer cans in a 100-yard stretch of coastline. Miss Neville, 59, a wildlife artist and fellow of conservation charity the Endangered Wildlife Society, started bagging litter in 2013 when she found two buckets washed up on the shore.
“I call myself the ‘lone ranger’ because I enjoy collecting litter when I’m by myself walking the dog,” she said. “I think everyone should try and work litter collecting into their daily routine, even if it’s when you walk the dog or walking home from school.
“In the first two days of the Great British Spring Clean I filled four bags with rubbish, which is over 1,000 items. I usually find around 250 items each time, some of them can be large items like buoys and beer cans, while the smaller plastic items like cotton buds and wet wipes are just as important. It makes me so angry going to the beautiful coastline and seeing the amount of rubbish.”
In the “Swallows and Amazons” film, Miss Neville played Titty Walker, one of the children who enjoy a series of adventures in their boats amidst the splendours of the Lake District in the 1920s.
She described her litter-collecting hobby as ‘fascinating’ – and an uphill struggle. “You realise that so many items just wash up on the coast every day and it’s a never-ending cycle,” she said. “We live in the beautiful New Forest and have lots of tourists come to Lymington, they are the reason restaurants and hotels remain open. If they stop coming here because of litter then people will lose their livelihood. It’s awful.”
Miss Neville, who is a TV producer and has also directed documentaries, added that collecting litter “makes you realise how many people must throw rubbish from their cars”. She said: “This is why vehicles must be installed with car bins so people don’t just throw it onto the roadside or onto our gorgeous coastline.”
More than half a million people have signed up to the Great British Spring Clean, which is organised by Keep Britain Tidy and supported by the Daily Mail. Individuals, groups and companies are among the supporters helping to spruce up their communities and protect wildlife in areas ranging from car parks to country parks.
Now into its third week, it will continue until April 23rd.