Members from local Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster have been doing their bit to keep the countryside clean as part of the 'Big YFCU Clean Up Challenge'.
Since lockdown, the Countryside Alliance has reported a 300 per cent rise in fly-tipping and inappropriate disposal of waste. With that in mind, the clubs set a challenge for each of their clubs to clear 1.7km of their local roads of rubbish and waste, to tie in with the YFCU's 90th-anniversary theme of '90 years of challenge and change'.
Clubs from all over Ulster took up the challenge and smashed the distance allocated by clearing twice the amount!
One of the local clubs was Newtownstewart, whose public relations officer, Carolyn McDowell cleared up six bags of waste during her 5km walk of Gortgranagh. She said: "Between all our members we managed to clear 12.5km of our local community. During the clear-up members found everything from glass bottles, cardboard waste, building supplies to black bags full of garden waste."
Due to Covid-19, restrictions members carried out the challenge following government guidelines following social distancing and health and safety procedures.
"There was an awful lot of Red Bull cans," said Carolyn. "I found road signs that were no longer in use that had been chucked in the hedge. There was also a lot of household waste."
To Carolyn's annoyance she discovered even more litter had been thrown from vehicles just days after her clean-up effort. "It was a bit frustrating to find cans and sweetie wrappers, but I felt great after clearing it up - and it's a lot cleaner than it was!"
It has inspired Carolyn and her fellow members to attempt another clean-up in the near future. "It was more fun than we thought it was going to be, and it was nice for a few of us to pull together to do something to help the community."
Tomorrow night, Thursday, at 7.30pm, Newtownstewart YFC will hold a 'social distancing' Tractor Run at the mart yard to raise money for the workers on the front line in the battle against coronavirus.
"We'd like to invite everyone to join us and make some noise - with or without a tractor," said Carolyn. "Voluntary donations can be made to help the NHS. We want everyone to adhere to social distancing rules, and hand sanitiser will be available."