Gayle and Noel

Greenford’s top grime-fighting duo have become media stars after collecting their 2,000th sack of rubbish.

Their story has been featured on Ealing’s local news websites as well as on BBC Radio London and BBC London TV news.

It’s one year since Gayle and Noel started cleaning the streets and parks of North Greenford. Among their many achievements is transforming a hideous rubbish hotspot into a garden.

Gayle explains how it all started and how LAGER Can has changed her life…

During lockdown the weeds in my street were a foot high and for the first time I was ashamed of the area where I lived. To cheer up my neighbours I decided to weed and plant flowers in the tree pits. Nearby residents were so pleased they asked me if I would do their streets too. This year I have planted 26 tree pits in three streets.

When September 2021 came and the flowers were dying I had become more aware of the litter and fly-tipping in the area. Instead of walking aimlessly around the park to get my daily 10,000 steps in, I decided to do something. I joined LAGER Can, and walking and litter picking made me feel as if I was doing something productive while keeping fit.

I was approached by a resident in a neighbouring street who asked if she could join me litter picking, and on October 8th, 2021 the team of Noel and Gayle was formed. At first we found it hard because the bags were so heavy. We were two OAPs with sore backs!

Then Noel found a fly-tipped child’s buggy and I was given a trolley by LAGER Can. We armed ourselves with hand and foot warmers and thermal vests and we were off. I have since broken two trolleys which are supposed to carry 15 stone!

Noel has a thing about numbers, be it how many vodka bottles or face masks we find. So she started recording how many bags we collected daily. When we reached 100 we would celebrate with a cup of tea and cake in one of the local cafes.

We do three routes a week around North Greenford. We’re out on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday for at least three hours. Sometimes we will add days if we’re alerted to litter in a different area.

The area around Rockware Avenue was a nightmare and a complete disgrace and needed some serious work to make it presentable. It was the eyesore of Greenford.

One area at the entrance of Greenford Business Centre is a meeting place for drinkers who throw their bottles and cans everywhere. We asked the manager of the centre if we could plant flowers at the entrance on a small patch of land. In March we started digging it up. It took months to dig up old cans and bottles. The oldest can was dated 2013.

We got old tyres from Greenford Tyre Centre and used them as planters. Paul. the owner, allowed us to fill up our watering cans to tend to the flowers. So our garden was born!

Passers-by have complimented us on how the area now looks and some have even donated money with which we have bought bulbs for the Spring to keep the area free from litter.

Flowers and kept land seem to deter litter. I would say there is now a 99% reduction in litter. We’ve recycled a dumped kitchen bin and most of the drinkers are using it now for their bottles and cans.

Cayton Green Park only had three bins in the whole park. I added another bin (originally fly-tipped) which has been another success. People are using it, meaning less litter. If only Ealing Council would supply more bins! If I find another bin, there is another area of the park that needs one.

As the number of bags added up, we gave ourselves a target of collecting 2000 bags in a year. Weddings, holidays and illness meant we were four bags short on October 8th, but we think 1996 bags was quite a good job, and there’s always next year.

We love our litter picking sessions for LAGER Can. They give us something to get out of bed for, friendship and a purpose in life. The only thing we really hate is the number of human poos and tissues in the bushes. I’m afraid we avoid those. We need public toliets in the area!

I wanted to add something to my road to make the residents more aware of their environment. I can’t knit but have a friend who knew someone who makes postbox toppers. This one came all the way from Cumbria. I just asked her to do flowers and bees to tie in with the flowers in the street.

The accompanying poster says

Bee happy
Bee kind
Bee positive
Bee smart
Bee proud of our streets
Bee litter free

Noel adds: “I used to pick up the litter outside my house but was too scared to go further. When I saw Gayle doing it I asked to join her so it would give me more confidence to tackle litter further away in our area. We make a good team. She’s my boss but I have better eyesight. I’m more flexible and can reach things that are far away. She’s always shouting at me to get out of the bushes incase I hurt myself!”

LAGER Can chair Cathy Swift said: “I can’t thank Gayle and Noel enough. If every local area was blessed with such a dynamic duo, the borough would be a cleaner and greener place.”

Listen to Gayle and Noel on BBC Radio London: