‘MAKE Janet happy, use the bin’ was the message from Middlewich Clean Team when it was founded 14 years ago.

Fast forward to 2017 and the organisation is as strong as ever with more than 200 members and a dedicated team of volunteers who tidy up the town on organised walks.

It marks a long journey for Janet Chisholm, founder of the group, who enlisted the help of friends when she noticed school children dropping sweet wrappers outside a newsagents.

She said: “I used to get annoyed at the state that the streets were left in so I put a large bag outside with the sign ‘make Janet happy, use the bin.’

“It worked really well so myself and a couple of friends put up one or two more and thought it was an opportunity to do something really positive.

“We put a notice in the newspaper about getting a team together, in the first meeting we had 38 residents and it just snowballed.

“Now we have more than 200 members who religiously keep areas of the town clean and remove litter from outside their homes. There is more to the team than just the organised walks.”

The Guardian joined the clean team on Monday alongside 14 volunteers on a litter pick around Fountain Fields Park and the town centre.

During the walk vice-chairman Abby Horton said: “It does get frustrating sometimes particularly when you see a bottle that has been smashed right next to a bin. But we all enjoy helping the town look tidier.

“I joined a while after I moved to the area from Stockport. I felt like I needed a new group of friends and this seemed like the best place to do it. I’ve never looked back.

“After you’ve done it for quite a while you get an eye for litter. I’ll see some while I’m driving home, and just go back out later on and do it myself.

“Overall the town seems noticeably cleaner and that’s what everybody wants.”

After an hour of litter picking the group retired to Morrisons in Newton Bank for refreshments.

Volunteer Stephen Bagnall said: “We’re just a group of people who want to make Middlewich look nicer and that’s exactly why I got involved.

“At one time we’d be collecting more than five or six bags at a time, now we’re coming back with one.

“Even when you’re not wearing the vest people still recognise us in the street. I think people are more aware of what we’re trying to do.

“If we didn’t do it then nobody would but it’s nice to give something back as well.”

Janet has had to step down as chairman of the group and is unable to take part in walks but she still has an active role in administration.

She added: “I never thought that the group would even be running today let alone be in the position it is.

“We receive funding from the council now and have been the recipient of a number of grants that go towards running costs and equipment.

“We have won countless awards as well and other clean teams look to us as a model.

“It has been an endless number of opportunities that we have taken part in and the group has formed friendships. I’m just so proud of the work everyone does and it is all voluntary.”

For more information visit middlewichcleanteam.blogspot.co.uk