Ilfracombe - Credit: Graham Hobbs

COLUMN: Talking rubbish this week - Dave Griffin

Dave Griffin

I’m talking rubbish this week, but sadly, it’s everywhere. With the holiday season looming, Netherlands and German registration plates will soon be appearing in our car parks, mostly Dutch folk escaping their flat-as-a-pancake homeland.

They particularly love Devon’s dramatic landscapes and our glorious rugged coastline, a stark contrast to Holland’s lack of any scenic merit. They will enjoy our beaches and tidied-up moors immensely, and for that, let’s credit Greenpeace and volunteers participating in the Everyday Plastic sponsored Big Plastic Count.

Unpaid pickers are working hard to remove tons of unsightly material from popular spots, but meanwhile, North Devon’s shabby, potholed highways remain a disgrace that shames the west country to overseas visitors. Our roads are like ribbons of refuse. Compare Britain’s arterial routes with those of Europe and Scandinavia, and clearly, we fall dismally short in terms of appearance. It’s mainly due to the slovenliness of those who think it is acceptable to dump their garbage anywhere but their own back yards.

Fines for hurling disposable cups and food containers from car windows should be eye-wateringly high, and don’t forget, readers, your dashcams can supply the evidence. If you spot an antisocial yobbo launching his unfinished chicken and chips into a country lane, post the SD card to the police.

Perhaps a two-year driving ban might deter our county’s unwelcome invaders. And, hello Selaine! How about a private member’s bill banning the sale of those disposable barbeques that scar our beauty spots? Remember? I suggested this in October, 2020, but your response was as lukewarm as a plastic beaker of lager from a Devon Show beer tent.

At present, illuminated signs on Barnstaple’s main roads are urging the more clinically mindless of our tourists to ‘care for beautiful Devon’, by taking their litter home.’ But home to where? Grotfordshire? Where the streets are no doubt piled shoulder high with its residents’ beer cans and takeaway cartons?


North Devon Council’s obsession with becoming ‘Net Zero’ has blinded it to the need that Garbage Savvy, rather than Carbon Savvy, might be a preferable way to protect our landscapes. In January, 2021, I suggested to North Devon Council a plan for litter-picking holidays based on Londoners’ post-war hop-picking fortnights. (That’s how my parents met.) Subsidised chalets could be provided throughout the season to a dozen or so hard-pressed families in return for just a couple of days’ beach-cleaning. An annual scheme could operate with the council booking either static holiday homes (such as at Croyde, Saunton and Woolacombe) or camping spaces, and offering them to families at reduced rates.

Here’s an opportunity to provide those on very low incomes with a Devon getaway break. Weighing stations could be installed either at holiday parks or recycling centres. Cash would be credited to the sponsored adult's debit card according to the amount of litter collected, thus gradually reducing the cost of the holiday.

A five-day stay could include a single, or perhaps three days' litter-picking, whichever suits those participating. Hundreds of tons of unsightly waste would be cleared from our open spaces. The council’s deadpan response to my idea: “We confirm safe receipt. Your reference is: 297898340.” Well done, guys. I’ll wake you up before you go-go.


Councillors bang on about our ‘beautiful, green North Devon’, but not for much longer. When the final solar panel is planted into the last remaining verdant field in the entire county, tourist guides will rename us the Black Country of the West. It must be great to sunbathe on a Biarritz balcony knowing that a German energy company’s Feed-in-Tariff is financing your playboy lifestyle, as do the ‘commercial woodlands’ underwriting the tax on it. Ponder on all those megawatts generated in picturesque Devon pastures where Belted Galloways once grazed. A fly-tipped settee and a couple of mattresses can be cleared away in twenty minutes, but two million solar panels will still be disfiguring our countryside when our grandchildren qualify for their pensions.