A DARLINGTON man who spends up to 50 hours per week cleaning up some of the worst-affected roads in the town has revealed why he does it for free.

For the last two years, Sam Walters has spent almost every day combing through grass verges, bushes and laybys in the town bagging up litter, completely unpaid.

Mr Walters, who lives in Hurworth, was earlier this week praised for his efforts in clearing up parts of the A66 that had been 'strewn' with human waste and litter.

SEE MORE: Darlington laybys being blighted by 'bottles of urine and boxes of faeces'

Residents raising concerns over the volume of litter along the A66 between Blackwell and Symmetry Park, said they would be "wading in detritus" if it wasn't for Mr Walters.

The Northern Echo:

Litter thrown vehicles has accumulated on the A66 over the years 

But speaking to The Northern Echo, Mr Walters explained how his dedication to clearing up the town began and the reason behind it.

He said: "I moved here in March 2019 and started clearing up on my very first day here – I started where I live in Hurworth and branched out from there.

"Everytime I was going by in the car, I kept seeing litter everywhere and it never seemed to be different.

"I started with Neasham Road and what a silly idea that was because once you start doing, you think 'I can't just leave that bit' and you keep going."

Becoming a popular sight on the town's roads over the years, Mr Walters has attracted attention from members of the public. 

The Northern Echo:

Mr Walters does not let adverse weather conditions stop the litter pick

He said: "People have been stopping to talk to me, they've handed me gifts, bought me cups of coffee, and I am truly grateful for that."

Mr Walters, who moved from Yeovil, admitted he did not have an exact answer when people ask why he carries out his work. 

He said: "When people ask why I do it, I can't tell them why, I just do it – but I have to admit when I go into the town, I would just love to be able to drive along and say 'wow, it's amazing, it's empty of all this rubbish'."

Last week, Mr Walters collected almost 30 bin bags worth of litter after a stint on the A66 between Morton Park and Amazon's Fulfilment Centre.

But keen to highlight that the waste was not coming solely from the online retailer, he said: "The litter along the A66 is not just from Amazon.

The Northern Echo:

"I’ve found credit cards in full, litter going back 20 years, cards with expiry dates to the early 2000, and even ring pulls on cans from designs you’ve not seen for years.

"That stuff has been left here, thrown from vehicles, over the years and its been left building up."

Earlier this week, residents set up an online fundraiser to go towards his costs, attracting hundreds of pounds in less than 48 hours - to donate click here

In response to the fundraising efforts, Mr Walters said: “Thank you to all the litter pickers in the area who were already litter picking before I turned up and who still continue to do so.”

“An extended gratitude to everyone who has donated their money, kind words, coffees, thumbs up and blasts on their car horns.”

The Northern Echo: Darlington Town Hall

On Wednesday, Councillor Andy Keir, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Local Services, praised the efforts of the community as he explained the council took littering in the town “very seriously.”

He said: “We are grateful to those who have raised this issue, and I can only applaud those community-spirited individuals who take it upon themselves to clean up after others.

“There are adequate facilities for disposal of litter along the A66, so there’s no excuse for these areas to be strewn with litter.

“We take littering very seriously and will always seek to take tough action against those who think they can get away with disrespecting our environment.

“We will work with employers in the area to work through some of the concerns that have been raised.

“I call on everyone, including those drivers using the A66 laybys regularly, to dispose of their waste responsibly and help keep Darlington clean.”