It’s been six years since Spalding’s clean-up crusader began a one woman campaign to rid the town of “litter, drink, drugs and prostitution” – but now she’s had enough.
On Tuesday, Sandra White and her husband, Tony, are heading for the coast after spending a quarter of a century here – and she says they won’t look back. Their bags are packed and boxes filled with their most precious possessions – even the garden is going, right down to decorative stones that will help transform their new haven.
Evidence of the real state of Spalding was there every day. Boxes of 24 condoms slung on the grass verges along the football ground and women’s shoes left abandoned in the bus sheltersClean-up crusader Sandra White
Sandra (72), of Sandtone Avenue, said: “We’re out of here. I’ve had enough and we want to move closer to our family.
“On my last day cleaning up the streets before Christmas I found needles used by addicts near the pet stop and the police station in Westlode Street.
“I thought ‘I’m wasting my time here’. It was then I knew I’d had enough.
“Spalding is a little pocket handkerchief that’s been thrown away. It’s just not loved anymore. I know my limits and now it’s time to go.
“What I have to say might upset people but I don’t care. Things have to change.”
Sandra began her campaign after a trip which left her embarrassed to discover that the streets of Thailand were cleaner than her home town.
Until Christmas she spent three hours every morning in all weathers clearing up litter, weeding and removing graffiti, without earning a penny for her efforts and funding much of her work herself.
A cupboard full of community awards she has received for her efforts have not been on top of her list of priorities to be moved to her new home – she doesn’t believe she deserved them because the town is “still in a state”.
What will be going with her is the book she has started about Spalding and “where it all went wrong”.
Her aim was always to return the town’s streets to the condition they were in when she first moved there in the 1960s.
She said: “I once went on holiday to Thailand and to be honest I was embarrassed by how clean the streets were compared to England.
“I know people wonder why I did it, but I just liked a job to be done properly.”
Starting small by collecting cans thrown down in the Kings Road and Pinchbeck Road areas, she got a trolley and some equipment and moved onto bigger things.
Her first campaign was cleaning up around the bus station – and one which eventually drove her to what she believes should be the jewel of the town’s crown, the riverbank.
She said: “Evidence of the real state of Spalding was there every day. Boxes of 24 condoms slung on the grass verges along the football ground and women’s shoes left abandoned in the bus shelters.
“I can’t tell you how many shoes I sold at boot sales – it helped me fund what I was doing.
“Food probably stolen from supermarket bins would be everywhere – one day I filled eight bags.
“It was a cesspit – urine, vomit and discarded empty drug packets – and eventually I just had to think about my health.”
But the riverbank brought its own problems, with more evidence of drug abuse, rubbish and graffiti.
She said: “If I didn’t find two empty drug packets every morning it wasn’t a good day.
“I did achieve a lot there and had some funding support from the ward councillor, Gary Taylor.
“But I’m disappointed the council and police haven’t done more. I think they thought I was just that crazy woman, but I don’t care.
“I know I’m right and if one woman can do it on her own why can’t they?”