Diary of a Litter Picker: Finding Stolen items

A stolen holdall containing shoes and a jewellery box handed in to the police

You know something is wrong when you find a high quality holdall in the reedbeds – with a lap top and empty jewellery box inside.

A jewellery box handed in to the police

I apologise if you find this distressing. It is distressing. Heartbreaking. I only hope the thief was eventually caught and can appreciate his wrong doing.

A detailed shot of the abandoned items handed into the police

This iphone was found further down the river, as part of a separate haul.

An iphone found near a lap top in the National Park

Having been chucked in the reedbeds there was no DNA for the police to find.

A lap top chucked in the nature reserve

The stolen laptops and phones were obviously password protected and of no use to the burglar. They could have been left somewhere dry for their owner to reclaim – such as a bus shelter but, no. Instead this jewelry box was chucked in a ditch, easily seen from from the tar road but soon ruined by falling rain.

An empty earring case chucked in a ditch

Why was this open penknife chucked out of a vehicle on a bend coming out of town?

A penknife found on a roadside verge

We may have had just one thief who repetitively used the local river as a dump for unwanted stolen items. I would have reported a weapon to the police but by the time I found this, I had spent too much of my life waiting on the 911 line.

A stolen handbag reported to the owner who had business cards inside

This handbag had been stolen some time ago from the owner’s car parked about ten minutes’ drive away. A family of mice had made a warm dry nest in the interior. There were three pairs of spectacles inside but not the necklace that she valued.

Spectacles inside the handbag

I’m always finding abandoned pub glasses, which technically have been stolen from local pubs. I returned this and a few others but glasses can turn up in the middle of nowhere.

A glass stolen from the local pub – now returned. How much do these cost?

I’m told that unopened chocolate bars, cans of larger and half consumed bottles of vodka will probably have been stolen. They lack value to the person who abandoned them – who obviously didn’t want to be caught red-handed.

Ordinary customers have to bear the cost of stolen cans of larger

I once found a brand new – and boxed – microwave oven tucked into the bushes at this location, a quiet spot where you can park:

The items in this bucket aren’t known to be stolen but the strawberry punnets could have been returned.

I once found a single, leather, horse riding chap on a bridge, deciding that it must have fallen off a trailer. It turned out to be part of a haul of riding equipment worth thousands that had been stolen the night before. I contacted the owner but she was distraught and couldn’t use one, single legging.

Sophie Neville in the Masai Mara, Kenya
My own riding chaps.

To see other unexpected items I find litter picking, please click here

Stolen by friends?

Diary of a lone litter-picker: week 3 of the Great British Spring Clean

In an attempt to turn the tide on pollution I am making a concerted effort to record how long I spend collecting litter and how may items are collected in the categories: plastic bottles, glass bottles, general rubbish and drink tins but find myself dragging other items such as road signs out of ditches.

Day 15

I’m am on the phone to the police as I write, reporting another stolen item. A sodden, empty jewellery box looked up at me from a ditch this evening. It was in plain view of the road. I had just collected one bucket of bottles, one of empty cans and one of general rubbish along with a road traffic bollard, the back shelf of an estate car and a sodden carpet. This took 90 minutes of concerted effort. Retrieving rubbish from an overgrown ditch is tricky. Some was hanging from the trees. However, this is the New Forest National Park. It’s important to persevere. One unopened tin of larger was dated 1990. It must have been lying there for thirty years. An odd conical can of UHT milk had the same ring pull. I’ve no idea of the date. It is made of both plastic and tin.

The police tell me that they will never be able to find out who took the jewellery box and suggest I dispose of it. It’s the sixth item of stolen property found on the same lane.

~A 30 year-old lemonade bottle gnawed at by mice~

Day 17

Another hour of my life is spent filling my three buckets with litter. I collect 23 drink cans, 8 glass bottles and 16 plastic bottles including 2 x 2 litre unopened bottles of cider from the local nature reserve. My powers of observation are increasing. I walked along a path which I have already cleared twice and yet spotted tins and bottles, which are decidedly elderly.

I find a full bag of make up in the lay-by, which looks as if it was chucked out of a stolen handbag. It would be the 7th stolen item. What really worries me is a pair of tights, a girl’s skirt and a in the undergrowth femur nearby. Had someone been murdered? I returned home to Google ‘human femur’ and ‘difference between deer and human femur’ (which is not much).

Day 17

The dead body I feared finding turned out to be a life-size doll. I dragged a pair of huge high-heeled shoes and fancy items of clothing out of a marshy patch nearby. Ironically, the next thing I found was a plastic sack with hundreds of packets labelled: Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research – ‘PLEASE GIVE good quality clothing and paired shoes – your collection day is Thursday.’

There was also a large bag of incontinence pads (unused). Being absorbent these had filled with water and expanded in a grotesque manner as I tried to lift the sack. They  were so heavy it was all I could do to swing it towards my car. I had to use two bags from the council to contain the load. Why were all these things these dumped in a wood?

The dog was desperate for a proper walk so I took a bucket and went up the hill. The only people I came across were George and Kate Heathcote of Warbourne Farm, known for the Animal Planet television series Farm Life. They tell me that have been collecting roadside litter constantly and also came across a large doll in the woods. Creepy.

I walk on, startling a deer. It’s legs are far to fine for the femur, which I decide must be bovine. I return with only 13 cans, 4 glass bottles, 3 plastic bottles and a spare wheel but found much more ‘other rubbish’ than normal including a kite. The whole expedition takes 90 mins with another 10 mins to sort it all out

Day 18

I’m finding quite a few roadwork signs and the sandbags used to prop them up. I stack them by an electricity substation and plan ask the council to collect these after on 24th April when the Great British Spring Clean Officially ends. Other litter-pickers report estate agents’ signs are also a problem. We liaise on Facebook. Some collect huge quantities.

I begin to clear the busy road up the hill behind our house and find an open penknife, along with the usual litter. I spend a total of 90 mins collecting and sorting the rubbish, putting out 5 sacks for the refuse collectors.

Day 19

I look at the littered verges as we drive to a hotel in the New Forest where I am giving an illustrated talk on my next book. While speaking about the art of litter-picking over lunch, the gentleman opposite me says that he found a life-size doll whilst he was working for the Forestry Commission. Three in the same area.

Do people enjoy chucking litter into our woods and rivers? Does it give them a sense of release? Is it that people despise what they throw away? I usually pick up one used cigarette lighter a day. Most litter seems comprised of the wrappings of what is bad for us: cigarette packets, sweets, over-flavoured crisps, sugary drinks, alcohol and fast food. Much of this is unfinished, which makes it even more revolting to collect. I presume it’s natural to disengage from what poisons you as quickly as possible.

It’s been a wet day and I’m too busy to do much but collect 16 pieces of litter as I walk along the river to Book Club. I find a rubber tow-bar cover, which I present to my friend as a hostess gift. She says she is thrilled receive what she describes as a knob guard. I entertain the other members with tales from my litter-picking. Two of them offer to join me. Total for the day about 5 minutes.

Day 20

One of my Twitter friends called Becca noticed how ironic it was that people who consume caffeinated drinks never seem to have the energy to dispose of them. I collect about 7 on my way into town only sorry I can’t recycle them as I drop a mixed bag of rubbish into a municipal litter bin. An old friend joins me for a walk in the evening. I take a bucket as we stroll along the sea wall and collect detritus washed up by the tide. There are no bottles, no tins and we enjoy beautiful sunny weather.  Total for day 95 minutes

Total for week: 430 minutes

For list of weird things I’ve found on beach cleans – please click here