Parks and beaches being trashed is sign of the times

PUBLISHED: 06:30 01 July 2020

Jason Alexander found the mountain of rubbish next to a bin in Rushmere  Picture: JASON ALEXANDER

Jason Alexander found the mountain of rubbish next to a bin in Rushmere Picture: JASON ALEXANDER


Rubbish left in parks and beaches in post lockdown days out is, sadly, a sign of modern Britain, says James Marston

I sometimes wonder what Britain used to be like. A land of civilised behaviour, of respect of property and fellow man, the good old days – perhaps.

Over the last few days there have been reports of rubbish strewn about in the parks and beaches of Suffolk and Norfolk.

Jason Alexander, founder of Rubbish Walks, an organisation that campaigns to raise awareness about litter and waste, discovered a mountain of rubbish surrounding a bin on Rushmere Heath, near Ipswich, was reported to say: “It is just absolute madness, I just do not understand the mentality – what is happening to this country?

“I think a good majority of the UK population has turned feral during lockdown, and it’s something we seriously need to address as a society.

“We really need to really step back and look at what’s going on in this country.”

He is right, we do.

In Norfolk, Gorleston and Great Yarmouth beaches were left in a sorry state – strewn with litter, to be picked up by someone else.

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One of those “someone elses” was conscientious resident Jasmine Henson, who spent two and a half hours picking up litter left by Britannia Pier. She was quoted as saying: “The rubbish left behind was horrendous – I couldn’t just turn a blind eye to it. There was broken glass, dirty nappies, takeaway boxes. It’s so much worse than it usually is at this time of year.”

I have to say the inability of those who use the beaches to take home their litter makes me angry and makes me despair. It might be that they have been cooped up during the lockdown but I don’t think that excuses this behaviour. It’s seems to me to be criminal activity which seems to go largely unpunished and unenforced.

An acquaintance, who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, said to be the other day: “I’m grateful I remember Britain when it was a civilised, as it once was. Now it’s full of a rough element who just don’t care. Look at the beaches and the mess these people have left, that wouldn’t have happened years ago.”

Is this true? I don’t know, though I do remember a Britain where people didn’t put their feet on train seats, a country where littering was met with social disapprobation, where civic monuments weren’t illegally daubed with slogans by an angry ill-informed mob, where lonely young men didn’t stab and kill people to get attention, where political debate was won or lost by the power of argument rather than the volume at which it is delivered. The past can often look brighter with hindsight, we tend to remember the good old days and forget the bad, I’m not sure if Britain was once better place in which to live – though it certainly looks that way – and, it seems to me, our nation has lost its way and seems to be in a spiral of angry decline.

Recent weeks have been tough on us all. The future looks bleak too – the economic fallout from our actions has yet to bite. But while Ms Henson was litter picking, a group of four boys aged between 13 and 14 approached her. She said: “Initially I thought they were going to start laughing at me, but instead they got stuck in. It was a heart-warming moment. Even they, at their young age, could see how bad things had gotten.”

For those boys these are the good old days, the time to which they will look back on with fondness and through rose-tinted spectacles – and they showed a maturity, a civic pride, a sense of responsibility, a civilised approach that perhaps we can all learn from.

And through them, we might find hope for the future.

Let’s today focus our attention on educating, inspiring and applauding the young, those who have suffered by far the most in recent weeks, and encourage them to sort out the mess we have left behind – it seems to me they’ll have to.

What do you think? Was Britain once a better place in the past? What happened to civic pride and consideration for others? Write to James at

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