One-man crusade clears tonnes of rubbish from park

Alistair Blakey doesn't want glory for his efforts to clear Jewel Park, he wants a clean environment. Picture: Scott Taylor
Alistair Blakey doesn't want glory for his efforts to clear Jewel Park, he wants a clean environment. Picture: Scott Taylor
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An Edinburgh man was so annoyed by flytipping in his area that he single-handedly cleaned up his local park.

Big-hearted Alistair Blakey has worked tirelessly for four months to clear several tonnes of junk from Jewel Park including dredging burns and hand-picking mountains of rubbish.

But it seems Edinburgh now has its own version of the “Lone Ranger” – a 50-year-old crusader who has declared war on fly-tippers.

His one-man cleanliness drive was sparked last year after finding around 70 used hypodermic needles in woodland near his home in Bingham Crossway.

But the father-of-seven – dubbed the “Lone Ranger” for his solo clean-up exploits – was compelled to begin clearing all debris from his neighbourhood, not just dangerous syringes.

He said: “I don’t want glory.

“All I want is a clean environment, not just for me but for the other people who use the park.

“Nobody was doing anything.

“The bairns deserve to be able to run free without standing on needles, broken glass or old mattresses.

“They have a right to play without getting injured.”

Mr Blakey even launches clean-up missions under the cover of darkness – prompting quizzical looks from police officers. Armed with bin bags and tools borrowed from neighbours, Mr Blakey estimates he has shifted tonnes of rubbish and spent hundreds of hours santising his community.

Among his successes are: a reclaimed pathway that was previously overgrown and a de-weeded football pitch but he has also removed a bizarre range of items from food packaging to dead cats. He regularly sieves through the Niddrie and Bingham Burn scooping out shopping trolleys, bikes and even a vacuum cleaner. Mr Blakey claims to have reported fly-tipping “repeatedly” and demands more help to dispose of rubbish from the city council.

Local councillor Mike Bridgmen, who represents Portobello and Craigmillar, said he was aware of Mr Blakey’s reputation for looking after the community.

“When someone does something like this in their own time they deserve recognition and to be congratulated,” he said. “He’s a bit of a Lone Ranger and it shows that he cares about his community and the environment in which he and his children live.”

A council spokeswoman accepted the area around Jewel Park experienced a “high level of fly-tipping and litter”.

She said: “Our park rangers regularly check the playing fields and nearby burn and visit play areas on a weekly basis.

“We’ve also worked closely with the community and Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust to organise clean-up and bulb-planting events.

“However, more needs to be done to manage the situation.

“While we appreciate the efforts of those like Mr Blakey to look after the area, it is utterly essential that people take responsibility for disposing of their rubbish properly.

“We have budgeted around £11 million this year alone to keep the city’s streets and open spaces clean, and we rely on the public to keep those costs down by not littering.”