THREE men hope to inspire fellow villagers to take pride in their community by holding regular litter picks.

Three days of action around Toft Hill and Etherley have already seen sacks of rubbish removed from the grass verges, hedgerows, roadsides and paths.

The initiative is led by Christopher Schroeter, who has lived in the area all his entire life, Andrew Hall, a resident for about 20 years, and Mr Hall’s nephew Andrew Hodgson, who moved to Toft Hill five years ago.

Taxi driver Mr Hall has often collected and binned litter whilst walking his dog, which inspired Mr Schroeter to donate a day a month of his business Champion Gardens to pick up litter. Mr Hodgson, who works nights as an EE call centre manager, often has spare time during the day so decided to help.

Mr Hall said: “I noticed a fair bit of rubbish laid around and I know councils haven’t got the money to clean it all up so I just started picking it up as I went.

“It would be good if people became a bit more aware, don’t drop it in the first place and do your bit to keep the area nice.”

Durham County Council provided equipment including rubbish bags and litter pickers to support the campaign and Toft Hill Primary School pupils have also done their bit.

Etherley Parish Council also employs a litter picker to work in the village, so the volunteers concentrate on areas he does not cover including the approach roads from Witton Castle and Etherley Grange.

During one litter picking day in October, they filled ten sacks of rubbish.

Mr Schroeter said: “We found all sorts including a lot of wine bottles and little gas cylinders, some that must have been there years. People’s time is precious and we cannot coordinate a lot of people but if everyone cleaned the area near their house, the whole village would be done.

“We’re going to try to keep doing this towards the end of each month and will put details on my business page and the I Came From Toft Hill and Etherley Facebook page.”

Mr Hodgson added: “I walk and run a lot and when you are out you start to notice quite a lot of rubbish, it is nice to be able to put something back into the community, to be proud of where you live.”