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Unlikely friendship sparks huge town clean-up

Words by Smiley Team

An unlikely friendship formed between a teenager and his neighbour has led to the forming of a huge town clean-up community.

When 56-year-old Julie Taylor spotted an overgrown public hedge near her home, she asked 11-year-old neighbour Ben Thornbury if he wanted to help her tackle it.

After successfully cutting the hedge together, the duo posted about their day in their local Facebook group. The town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire seemed to love their team spirit and felt inspired to follow their lead.

“People loved it and wanted to follow along, and that’s when we got the idea to begin our own group, the 'Helping The Community Of Malmesbury' group," Julie tells Smiley News.

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That was five years ago and now the group has more than 500 members in a town of only 5,000 people – inspiring one another to keep their community clean and tidy.

The pair have launched a website for 2022, spearheaded by ICT-whizz Ben who is now 16-years-old. The main aim of the website is to track litter picking, and to encourage others around the town to do the same, with a tally counting the amount of bags collected.

The live and active litter tally allows anyone to access the site and add on the amount of rubbish collected and the hours put into the task, with almost 14 hours clocked by the small community in 2022 so far.

Another task undertaken by Ben and Julie is to plant trees around the town, with 30 trees planted on a local housing estate in 2019, and plans to plant some Queen apple trees in time for the Platinum Jubilee Celebration.

Teenager Ben has even managed to sort funding from a local business to plant the trees this year. “We have had the most welcoming and supportive response from the Malmesbury community, we seriously can't thank them enough," says Julie. 

“They are always interested to see what we are up to next and they support our ideas and give us advice, as we don't know everything and most of the time everything we do is a learning curve.”

The group has solidified the unlikely pairing between 61-year-old Julie and her teenaged neighbour, as well as formed friendships across the community. “Before we cut that hedge together we didn't know each other well as we didn't really talk," Julie says about her friendship with Ben.

“Now we are good friends and we stay in contact regularly as he helps me on the computer. We have also formed friendships with so many members of the community that wouldn’t have begun without the group.” 

It doesn’t seem like these local town heroes are showing signs of slowing down any time soon.

Inspired to act?

DISCOVER: Find out more about the Malmesbury Community on its website and get inspired to start your own group. 

VOLUNTEER: Keep Britain Tidy shows volunteer projects around the country with the aim of cleaning up your local areas. 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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