HUNDREDS of volunteers are preparing to give the New Forest a spring clean by removing huge amounts of rubbish.

Litter-picks will be staged across the Forest as part of a clean-up campaign staged by the district council and other organisations in the district, including the National Park Authority.

The month-long event will take place in towns and villages between March 22 and April 23.

It coincides with the Great British Spring Clean, a national campaign led by Keep Britain Tidy and the Year of Green Action which encourages more people to get involved in projects which aim to improve the natural world.

Public events will be held at several venues in the Forest, including Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst and Sway.

Groups looking to carry out their own litter picks can contact the council, which is able to loan litter-grabbing equipment and collect the rubbish afterwards.

Cllr Alison Hoare, cabinet member for the environment, said: “Litter is a great threat to our natural environment.

“It has a devastating impact on the animals in our forest and the wildlife in our oceans.

“I’m overwhelmed by the number of people - 580 so far - who have volunteered to litter pick.”

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Cllr Edward Heron, deputy chairman of National Park Authority, added: “The Year of Green Action celebrates the 70th anniversary of national parks in England and Wales and is a wonderful way of getting people involved in improving the natural world.

“So, thank you to all those volunteering their time and to all the unsung litter heroes who tidy up on a regular basis.

“Litter not only spoils the appearance of our spectacular national park but is also harmful to the free-roaming Forest animals and to wildlife.”

Other organisations involved in the clean-up include the Forestry Commission.

Its most senior officer in the district deputy surveyor Bruce Rothnie, said: “All of us who love the Forest want to protect it from the blight of litter and the damage it causes.

“These litter picking events are a great way for everyone to get involved in helping keep the area tidy.”