What started as a one man crusade to tidy up the streets of Bedminster has become a call-to-arms to clean up the streets of Bristol.
75-year-old Ben Barker started his campaign after he suggested a quick trip to the pub with his brother, who was temporarily using a wheelchair.
“I very soon realised that pushing the wheelchair along pavements full of abandoned recycling bins and rubbish or blocked by irresponsibly parked cars was impossible,” says Ben.
“It was actually safer to push the chair in the middle of the road and brave the traffic.”
That was more than 10 years ago and hundreds, if not thousands, of people have got involved with the campaign since.
“It’s about raising awareness – talking to residents reminding them to put their bins away for example,” says Ben.
“It’s not just removing obstacles, it’s about positive interventions – we have persuaded people to improve their front gardens or put up a window box/hanging baskets to brighten the street.
“Where there are small bits of waste land often people dump mattresses or fridges on them, so we have been working to turn them into community gardens,” he adds.
The group is not just about improving the environment it is about getting people out and about, says Ben: “We want to encourage walking – if the environment is degraded why would you want to go for a walk?”
The group, Let’s Walk Bedminster, was awarded £40,000 by Bristol 2015 and they have big plans.
“It has allowed us to do a whole range of things that we couldn’t do before – we have asked people living in the streets to do an audit of their street – what’s nice, what’s not nice, what could be improved?
“To make a community garden we need money for plants, we’re also are encouraging local children to create art to give some sort of identity to the walkways so that people – it’s not for just this year we want these improvements to be permanent.”
Unsurprisingly the project is proving popular and Let’s Walk Bedminster is inspiring initiatives across Bristol.
“We are already talking to other neighbourhood partnerships about how our activity can spark similar projects, leading to a citywide network of attractive, safe and green walkways,” adds Ben.