IT is always tempting to claim that your baby is the best thing ever but I’m both humbled and gratified by the fantastic response we’ve had since setting up my Woking Litter Warriors “baby” in February last year.

From a standing start we grew to 20 members, then rapidly to 50, 100, 200, and at the last count we’re heading towards 250 folk who are ready to help make Woking and the surrounding area a more pleasant and litter-free place to live.

About 80 individuals – the youngest only 10 years old and the most senior in her 80s – have given up their time to collect nearly 400 bin bags of rubbish, plus countless tyres and other assorted car parts, builders’ buckets, electronic items, discarded toys, broken furniture, odd pieces of clothing, and, more disturbingly, a handful of syringes and many, many nitrous oxide canisters.

We’ve also found a mobile phone, an unused bicycle bell still in its wrapping and a set of Apple earpods. By good fortune, and a little bit of detective work, we were able to return a couple of stolen items to their rightful owners... a box of wallpaper taken from the owner’s doorstep after the delivery company left it there, and a handbag and glasses case, a story featured in the News & Mail last September.

The oldest item found by the warriors is almost certainly a Pepsi bottle from the 1960s, meaning that it was probably thrown away 60-odd years ago and has stayed in its resting place ever since!

During the past 12 months we’ve been lucky enough to bring on board some terrific sponsors, to whom I’m massively grateful.

A big thank you to Mark and Irfan at McDonald’s, Tony at Experience and John and Gemma at Optichrome for their support and the supply of litterpicking equipment and printed materials – as well as for joining the warriors on a number of events.

Thanks are also due to the Woking Borough Council staff, the mayor and several local councillors for their support, and to the many cafes and pubs who have supplied us with complimentary refreshments after our picks.

One high point of the year was certainly our nomination for the BBC Surrey Make a Difference awards, in which we were highly commended in the Environment category.

But it’s really not about winning awards, it’s about the scores of local people who are willing to spend their free time to truly make a difference to the neighbourhoods we live in.

In a year of many high points, another was the agreement by Woking Borough Council to place a new rubbish bin on Kestrel Way following our litterpick there, when we identified it as the single worst area we had visited.

Since then, we know from talking to Serco that the bin is much used, which means less rubbish is being dropped in the neighbouring woods and verges.

Less positively, it’s rather depressing how quickly litter starts to return once we’ve cleared a particular area.

My dad and I did a pick along Kingfield Road just after new year and within a couple of weeks you wouldn’t have known we had been there.

You do think more could be done to discourage littering or enforce the laws regarding the dropping of refuse.

Might it be possible to make shops responsible for clearing the area immediately in front of their store?

It wouldn’t take much effort to keep a small area clean, although perhaps their counter argument would be that they pay rates to have the borough council do it.

However, I’m definitely of the opinion that more bins would reduce the amount of litter: at least you’re giving people less temptation to just drop a crisp packet or drinks can.