A group of pupils have adopted a leafy east Belfast glen and pledged to keep it litter-free as part of our Big Spring Clean campaign.
The students at Lagan College cleared away broken glass and chicken wire blighting Cregagh Glen as they carried out two clean-ups last week.
More than 1,200 students have also signed up to the Litter Legend v Litter Loser challenge for a week during the Big Spring Clean campaign, pledging to pick up at least one piece of litter in school. They are also taking it a step further by getting their families involved.
The Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and DoE Rethink Waste to galvanise 100,000 people to tackle litter as part of our Big Spring Clean.
Cregagh Glen is one of east Belfast's best kept secrets, a beautiful wooded glen which is all that remains of a forest that once covered 1,000 acres. The Loop River runs down the glen in a series of waterfalls and the National Trust-managed site will be one of the most breathtaking sections of the planned Connswater Community Greenway.
Teacher John Paul Patton said the entire glen was cleaned up by two groups of hardworking students: "It wasn't a dumping ground and it looked clean, but once you started walking around you were surprised by how much you found," he said. "There was a lot of broken glass round the bridge and we found a load of chicken wire.
"We had prizes for whoever found the weirdest thing, so the chicken wire won. Second prize was for a bag of dog poo that someone had left!
"A lot of stuff had been there for a while. Some of it wasn't as obvious to the eye and the students did a good job of getting it out.
"The kids love doing stuff like that. School work can be so pressurised for them at the minute and it's nice for them to get out and do something different. They really got into the spirit of it."
The school has now adopted Cregagh Glen under the Adopt-A-Spot challenge and hopes to run some biodiversity studies there as well as keeping it litter-free.
Tristan Brennan from Year 11 said: "I was surprised how much litter we managed to pick up from the local glen."
Fellow Year 11 student Monique Faloona added: "We picked up broken glass and I hope we helped stop an animal from getting cut."
Lynsey McCloskey, business development manager at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: "The pupils' litter challenge goes a step further by taking the challenge beyond the school gate."