My bird-brained idea to stop Cromer becoming ‘Poopyland’

The Clement Scott memorial

The Clement Scott memorial - Credit: Archant

Keith Skipper's treading carefully this week as there are problems up in Cromer with dog's mess. But good old Keith has a solution for dealing with these canine conundrums

It has been claimed countless times – mostly by those of a rather cynical nature – that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Well, I'm ready to risk an argument against so sweeping a notion in my self-appointed role as one of the biggest clean-up campaigners since Mary Whitehouse. My target is a long-running messy display of down-at-heel morals.

Cromer has been revealed as dog-fouling 'capital' of north Norfolk with twice as many grubby incidents reported in the town during the past four years than anywhere else in an area where residents and visitors (plus their pets) have been known to get on fairly well.

Naturally, there's a tendency for locals to blame holidaymakers for more noise, litter, traffic congestion, pollution, anti-social behaviour and dog mess throughout the summer season. Similarly, it's reasonable to look for culprits closer to home when winter winds blow and nasty habits persist.

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I'll come clean. We've never owned a family dog or any other creature in need of regular outdoor exercise since moving to the coast over 30 years ago. Regular wanders around town and environs show me how a small but active group of dog-walkers continue to smear the reputation of all involved in canine capers.

Civic leaders and tourism officials, straining at the leash to earn more 'green' points, must now accept they cannot blame poor old Black Shuck for so much mess. A headless hound with eyes as big as saucers and a blood-curdling howl has a higher calling than squatting uncomfortably while being led furtively down a homely loke at the crack of dusk.

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I have used a certain label before – when a leading member of Overstrand society said it made her laugh out loud – and now the time seems overwhelmingly apt for another spot of descriptive recycling.

Victorian journalist Clement Scott blazed a tourist trail to 'Poppyland' with his flowery pen. If he came back now on an away-day special from the capital chances are he'd turn up his elegant nose and dismiss parts of that holiday haven as 'Poopyland'.

Catchy, yes, but hardly ideal marketing material in an era when visitors seek more value for money and natives have to work overtime to put the skids under rumours that dear old North Norfolk may well be going to the dogs.

There have been occasional flurries of anger aimed at pesky pigeons as well in recent years, including a seven-month crackdown in besmirched North Walsham in 2011. It failed to net a single bird and left the district council environmental health department warbling ditties like 'These pigeons are smarter than you think'. (A tribute to coo-education?)

At least they are out in the open when it comes to dropping in on the great environmental debate. There's nothing sneaky about a feathered bomber out to make a mark any time day or night – with occasional bonus in the nesting season.

We have several flighty feral squadrons stationed along our road where nets and spikes are treated merely as extra challenges in a high-rise adventure playground. I try to time my step-scrubbing operations to coincide with tea breaks and coommittee meetings above. Even so, it's remarkable how I often I get close to being decorated for valour beyond the usual call of domestic duties.

Bribery is futile. I have placed on the table air miles, cheap one-way tickets to the Coocos Islands not far from Australia and free access to any country park or wood of their choice in Cumberland. The militant wing aloft still insist Cromer's bracing air is unbeatable.

Some would deem them worthy opponents in this important clean-up contest. I prefer to carry on searching for an offer they might find difficult to refuse. Like free millet for life and a posh retirement pad in Trafalgar Square in return for bringing dirty dogs and owners to heel.

It may take a while for my revolutionary idea to take off. But we have the technology and long enough ladders to set up a flying spy ring in the name of saving what's left of Clement Scott's legacy. Smart counselling and direct appeals to our feathered friends' higher community aims can bring improvements home to roost.

Pigeons fitted with tiny cameras must be trained to spot and film fouling incidents from a great height for the benefit of environmental guardians and no-nonsense magistrates.

Now that would be the ultimate coo-de-grass for 'Poopyland'.

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