Wildlife gets hurt by humans who throw away plastic, fishing tackle and litter: why don’t people see? Why don’t people take care of there neighbourhoods?
I met Wayne Dixon and his dog Koda passing through Noss Mayo in South Devon two and a half years into his walk. I was having dinner with friends, and one of them noticed him going to the bar to get a drink, looking outdoorsy, sun-tanned, and vaguely familiar.
We had all glimpsed him on the local South West news recently: he was picking litter, wild camping, and inspiring anyone who would listen.
Wayne had walked from his home in Lancashire, down the West coast, round Cornwall and was on his way through Devon, giving talks at schools, scouts, brownies, and attending beach cleans along the way.
Fresh from a beach clean back home in Brighton, I went out and approached Wayne. He was having a quiet pint with a friend, Koda, the enormous Inuit husky, who was sleeping on the ground beside him.
I asked: ‘Are you the litter guy?!' - ‘Yes’ he replied, smiling sheepishly. We chatted about beach cleaning, litter, plastic, and the state of things.
Wayne wondered why young people don’t seem to see, or care about where they live: was it a generational thing? What’s gone wrong?
Wildlife gets hurt by humans who throw away plastic, fishing tackle and litter: why don’t people see? Why don’t people take care of there neighbourhoods? Where has this litter blindness come from? This has to come from the ground up, we can’t expect councils to do it all.
He talked about the amazing kindness and generosity of people he had met along the way, offers of food, accommodation, invitations to speak at schools and beach cleans, and how he hoped to inspire.
Wayne was happy living out in nature, walking about 6 miles a day, picking up every single piece of litter on his path.
He talked of his history in the army medical corps at the age of 17, stationed in Germany, followed by various jobs in Israel, doing everything from construction, to fruit picking, to cleaning portaloos, and doing anything to fund his travels.
Inspired by his father, John Dixon, a keen rambler and author of some 30 rambling guides covering walks from Lancashire to Russia. This father and son had shared many walking holidays, and planned to walk the 7,000 mile coast line of the UK together.
Sadly, John died in 2016 of a heart attack, aged 62. He had rescued a little dog named Koda ten days before.
Wayne believes that Koda was sent for a reason. Though quite a bit of trouble in the outset, the family muddled through with lots of help from the Northern Inuit rescue society.
The litter picking started in the early days out walking the dog. Angered by the volume of litter and people's reluctance to keep their neighbourhoods clean, Wayne decided to do something about it. He quit his job as a youth support worker and set out on his litter picking walk around the coast of the UK.
Wayne decided to do the walk in memory of his father, with Koda for company. They are living on ten pounds per day, his share of the rental income from the home he inherited with his sister. Once he’s done, Wayne will write his book of the journey.
He carries his tent, a ruck sack with essentials, food enough for 2 days for himself and Koda, water, a wind up radio, his litter-grab stick, and a carrier for his litter bag. Koda is shackled to Wayne’s belt, perhaps because Koda has the wanderlust too.
I told him to go and bang on a friends door up on the headland in the morning and they would give him breakfast. Which they did, as well as a packed lunch and filling-up his water bottles. They called me that evening to say how charmed they were by meeting Wayne and Koda, and hearing his wisdom.
I’ve invited Wayne and Koda to stay when they get to East Sussex, he doesn’t know when they will get here, but they will get here.
I’ve since been following his on Facebook and Twitter, I told him to call in at Schumacher College when he got to Totnes, as he reminds me of a young Satish Kumar, from up North.
He was wholly unimpressed with Totnes. He picked up needles and fag ends at the bus stop by Morrison’s, and cleaned up neglected alleyways by swanky cafés in town.
He didn’t linger in the area, and headed on to Salcombe and spent an evening picking up fag ends at the back of a hotel in town. He asked: ‘Such a beautiful town, probably the staff at the hotel on breaks, why doesn’t the hotel put a bin out for them, or sweep up?' Three hundred butts later, Wayne and Koda headed off for a wild camp and a Pasty on the headland. Job done.
They were off to Bournemouth to be filmed for Blue Peter. Wayne and Koda both receiving Blue Peter badges - that’s better than an OBE - but in the meantime, he should get one of those too.
Annabel Tarrant was an international shoe designer for twenty years. She now runs two Right Livelihood businesses, and is an active beach cleaner, guerilla gardener, nature campaigner and alumnus of Schumacher college.
You can follow Wayne and Koda on Twitter @WayneKoda, go and join them for some litter picking, and take then a packed lunch when they're in your area. Wayne is fundraising for the mental health charity Mind and the Northern Inuit Society.