Student litter pickers applauded by Manchester residents

December 14, 2022

A small team of litter pickers from Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy have been applauded by users of one of the most culturally significant parks in the city.

For several years, a small group of volunteers has set off on a Monday afternoon from Holy Name Church to Whitworth Park. Armed with litter picking tools and bin liners, they spend the afternoon collecting the rubbish that other people have left behind. They help to maintain the natural beauty of the urban environment so that everyone can enjoy it, as well as making the park a healthier place for young children to play.

Their service was recently highlighted by the Friends of Whitworth Park who put up a notice reading: ‘We are very grateful to a small team from Manchester University Catholic Chaplaincy who come to pick up litter every week.’ Alastair Cox, the chair of the committee, reported that lamentably Manchester City Council is only able to provide one groundskeeper for several urban parks leaving much of the work to volunteers.

As well as enhancing the beauty of the urban environment, the team also help to make the eighteen acre park a safe place for children to play. Among the more dangerous items which they remove on a weekly basis are pressurized gas cylinders, unused medication, and broken glass. As they are collecting the litter, the team are often thanked by those walking or cycling past, with a friendly conversation or comments such as, ‘thanks so much!’ and, ‘I’m glad there is someone doing this!’

The Catholic Chaplaincy responded very directly to the call of Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical Laudato Si’. He gave a stark reminder about the condition of the natural environment: ‘The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.’ This warning motivated the Chaplaincy to engage with a local project that would benefit staff and students of the University as well as the many local residents who use the park.  

Penny, the Chaplaincy dog, is a regular member of the team. As a border collie she is great at providing companionship to the volunteers, but also helps to build bridges with passers by who love to stop and play. During the autumn months she is known for chasing squirrels as they collect their nuts. Even though she can run faster than they do, she always let’s them escape.

The park, which can be found just adjacent to the main University of Manchester Campus, was founded by Sir Joseph Whitworth in 1899 as part of the Whitworth Institute. The institute was founded for: ‘the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester’. It aimed to bring culture to people of all social backgrounds in the centre of city, a mission continued through the Whitworth Gallery which provides an innovative exhibition space and community facilities. The volunteers from the Catholic Chaplaincy hope that through their service this mission to the people of Manchester can continue to grow.

Image: Whitworth Park, Manchester (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

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