The Countryside Alliance’s Big Rural Spring Clean which took place at the weekend (2-3 June) saw a great turnout from groups and individuals from the hunting community who were litter picking in their local areas along with many others who wanted to get involved in this rural community project.

Over 100 organisers signed up to coordinate these dedicated litter clearances with many hunts organising group events for their supporters. Masters of Foxhounds (MFHs), hunt chairmen, members of hunt staff, subscribers, farmers and other supporters from within the hunting and rural communities were seen out in force getting their hands dirty by clearing rubbish from footpaths, fields, river banks and roadside verges throughout the UK.

The East Kent with West Street Hunt had three separate teams in action clearing discarded waste while the Albrighton and Woodland Hunt had groups throughout their hunt country spanning across Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. One group, who regularly pick-up for a local shoot with their team of Labradors, took their canine friends for a different sort of picking-up experience, with all involved reporting it to be a “very positive experience.”

Supporters of the New Forest Hounds cleared the verge-side in the Forest from Applemore through to Beaulieu Road Station, accumulating six sacks of junk that had been strewn across the countryside, while the Beaufort Hunt were litter-picking on a section of the Fosse Way.

The Countryside Alliance distributed environmentally-friendly hessian sacks to the organisers of each of the different venues while the Beaufort sent out guidelines prior to the day advising their supporters to “come armed with gloves, bin bags and whatever litter-picking apparatus you have at your disposal!”

Tractors with buckets and trailers were also on hand to help with larger items which was just as well after the Beaufort came across a large load that had been fly-tipped. Joint-master Capt Ian Farquhar was incensed at what he saw: “It was simply appalling to find someone had even dumped a considerable amount of rubbish in a farmer’s valuable growing crop of wheat.”

The Countryside Alliance’s Head of Hunting Polly Portwin said: “We were delighted that so many countryside-lovers – many of whom follow hounds – got behind this initiative and helped out in their local communities. Not only is discarded rubbish an eyesore, but it is potentially hazardous to farmed livestock, wild animals and domestic pets so clearing it out of harm’s way was one of our primary aims.

“There has been very positive feedback from all those who took part, with some of the volunteers vowing to continue litter-clearing on a regular basis and those unable to get involved on this occasion offering to organise similar operations on other dates. It is great to see so many hunt supporters engaging with their local communities to make an impact in the local countryside and we look forward to this becoming an annual event every spring.”