High Sherriff's Award for litter picker who came to Skegness homeless but won hearts of community

A man who was homeless and living in a tent when he first moved to Skegness has been given awarded one of Lincolnshire's highest honours for his tireless efforts clearing the streets of rubbish.

Paul Russell won the community's hearts because of his litter picking.

Paul Russell won the hearts of the community after he pitched a tent at Winthorpe with his greyhound dog, Sparks, and was spotted spending his days picking up litter along the coast.

That was around 10 years ago and even now, living in a flat in Skegness, he has never stopped litter picking

On Thursday Paul, 28, was presented the High Sherriff's Award after being nominated by Skegness town councillor Richard Cunnington.

Paul litter picking in Tower Gardens in Skegness.

Coun Cunnington commented: "I work in Skegness town centre and have done now for a number of years, I have seen this gentleman and his dog walking our streets litter picking for a number of years.

"There have been many comments about him on social media and nobody has a bad thing to say - he is always polite.

"This year I have seen him out until at least 8pm and I felt it was time to thank him for the work he does in the town and surrounding area.

"Whilst walking with his dog he picks up every piece of rubbish including cigarettes buts and keeps the area tidy.

This year has been particularly busy with all the extra visitors in Skegness.

"I spoke to the district council to find out if we had any community awards and I was referred to the High Sheriff's Award and approached him with my proposal.

"I was delighted to be informed that Paul would be granted the award. It is being presented with thanks from myself and other councillors for this man’s efforts keeping our town tidy.

"A number of local businesses have also provided small donations to show appreciation for this man’s work."

The presentation by High Sherriff Claire Birch took place at Tower Gardens Pavilion in the presence of Coun Cunnington and the Mayor of Skegness, Coun Trevor Burnham.

Paul Russell with the High Sherriff's Award he received for his services to the community of Skegness clearing the streets of litter.

Paul, naturally, was accompanied by 'Mr Highway' - the rescued greyhound that has been his constant companion sinks Sparks sadly died.

Claire said: "One of the key tasks of a high sheriff is to seek out recognise and champion unsung heroes who have gone the extra mile within their communities.

"When I heard about Paul's amazing efforts in Skegness and what an impact he has had on both his town and his community it was clear that this was someone special who deserved recognition so that his example can inspire others."

Paul said receiving such an award was something he never expected.

Paul Russell receives his award from the High Sherriff of Lincolnshire Claire Birch. Photo: Barry Robinson.

"When I arrived in Skegness with my dog Sparks I had nothing and pitched my tent in Winthorpe," he recalled.

"Before coming here I had been living in a derelict mobile home that I had done up in Derbyshire but it had no water and electricity.

"I had been doing some farm work on the site where it was pitched but that came to an end and I had to move.

"I hoped to start a new life in Skegness but it was hard trying to get work without a permanent address.

"Picking litter is something I've always done. Even in Cheshire, where I was born and lived for a while, people would drop litter near a fishing lake and even leave fishing rods behind.

"The community were very kind when I came to Skegness and helped me get accommodation.

Paul Russell received his award from High Sherriff Claire Birch in the presence of the Jolly Fisherman and members of Skegness Town Council. Photo: Barry Robinson.

"I spent the first winter in a guest house and then moved into a flat where I've been ever since.

"It was sad when Sparks died as he had been everywhere with me but I have been lucky enough to get another dog who came from the Greyhound Trust. He's been with me for three years now.

"We've kept particularly busy this year with all the extra visitors. We go out later when it's cooler but never really have a plan - we just go where the rubbish takes us.

"I suppose you could say picking litter was a way of saying thank you to the community who welcomed and helped me - but I never expected to get a reward."

East Lindsey District Council also wanted to say a huge thank you to Mr Russell for all the hard work and dedication he puts in each week over the past few years come rain or shine, helping litter pick in Skegness. A spokesperson said: "I am sure our residents will join us in congratulating you on this High Sheriff’s Award and wish you all the best for the future."