If you’ve ever spotted a bloke filling up his trailer with fly-tipped waste from the roadside, it’s a good chance you’ve just had an encounter with parish council chairman John Grimwood.
The man doing his bit to tidy up Sutton Bridge wishes everyone had the same pride in the village he calls home and ‘the eastern gateway to Lincolnshire’.
John (69) has been a member of Sutton Bridge Parish Council for the last ten years and chairman for around half that time.
“I will never, ever be a politician,” John insists.
John’s voluntary one-man waste collection service is just the tip of the iceberg of good deeds performed for no money and little appreciation, except for thank you’s from fellow parish councillors who learn, meeting by meeting, the latest in the catalogue of damaged equipment fixed by the former motor engineer and one-time joint boss of now closed coach company, Carnell’s.
John says: “I would like to think I am giving something back to the village. It would be nice if more people felt like that.
“I do minor repairs.
“If something falls off, I will put it back. We get signs pulled off and I go and replace these – it’s only a matter of putting cable ties on, simple little jobs.
“If you are calling in somebody to do it, nobody’s going to do anything for less than 25 quid these days so, if it wants doing, I just go and do it.”
Sweeping the pavement, shovelling up dog poo, cleaning up children’s play equipment and putting up speed awareness signs are among the long list of more recent jobs.
Trips to the supermarkets in Wisbech or Spalding are perfect opportunities for scraping up fly-tipped waste, popping it in the trailer and taking it to the recycling centres.
John said: “I have taken beds before.”
There was a bit of a stand off when John was told on one trip that the bed was “too big” and he would have to pay to dispose of it.
“I said I will pay for it, but the bill’s going to the district council,” said John. “Then the man said ‘I supposed you had better leave it’.”
John’s community spirit – and that of fellow parish councillors – came to the fore when Sutton Bridge was threatened with flooding in the east coast tidal surge of December, 2013.
There were no men in suits discussing strategy ... just men in boots filling sandbags and delivering them to doorsteps.
John recalls the banks of the Nene being overtopped in the 70s when floodwater lapped around the back of his Bridge Road home but, thankfully, it didn’t enter the house.
The December 2013 tidal surge once again exposed the village to a potential disaster as water was two inches from the top of the riverbank.
“It frightened me because I though it was going to come over again,” said John.
John was born in Holbeach but moved to Sutton Bridge 50 years ago when he married Doreen, who has also had a spell as a parish councillor.
He joined his father-in-law’s coach company, J W Carnell Ltd, eventually being jointly responsible for running it.
John worked with Carnells for more than 30 years until the business closed about six years ago and has since taken on a few little jobs, including work for a taxi firm doing a school run in a little eight-seater.
He says: “You need a reason to get up in the morning.”
John fills his days with “other little bits and pieces”, including an allotment.
He says: “I have got my wife who supports me in everything I do.
“I wouldn’t change my life. I think I have had a wonderful life.”
• The Snowgoose Wildlife Trust describes the Sir Peter Scott lighthouse as “the most iconic and inspirational building in the history of global conservation”.
Also known as the East Bank Lighthouse, the building at Sutton Bridge was home to the celebrated writer, artist, naturalist and conservationist who was the son of Scott of the Antarctic.
Sutton Bridge has a walk named in Sir Peter’s honour that will soon be part of a national coastal footpath.
It has a busy port, a newly constructed pleasure craft marina and the renowned Cross Keys Bridge.
John says: “Water attracts people and we get a lot of people coming to the viewing area to watch the port.”
The marina is in its first season.
“It cost a lot of money,” said John. “But we will just see how it goes. If nothing else, it’s got to improve the riverbank.”
In Bridge Road, there’s a thriving community hub – The Curlew Centre – that brings people from all walks of life together for a host of activities, from art to kickboxing.
John says: “We don’t make enough of Sutton Bridge.