HE WAS the Hampshire pensioner who became a local hero after devoting his retirement to keeping his village spick and span.

Tributes have been paid to veteran litter picker John Lovell, who turned out in all weathers to collect all the cans, bottles and wrappers discarded by other people.

Mr Lovell, who has died aged 89, is thought to have removed tons of waste from the streets of Marchwood.

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Now villagers have clubbed together to buy a plaque and a memorial bench in his honour.

They set out to raise £800 but hit their target in less than 12 hours and watched the total grow to £1,265. Any money left over will be used to buy equipment for other litter pickers in the area.

Marchwood resident Sue Kerrigan-Harris said: "John took it upon himself to litter pick in his retirement to keep fit and kept the village litter-free.

"Numerous families across Marchwood got to know him because of this simple deed that turned him into a local hero."

A tribute on the JustGiving launched to fund the plaque and bench said: "John was a truly great man who must have collected tons of litter and put a smile on many a face as he stopped to chat."

The tribute said Mr Lovell's dedication to litter picking "warmed the hearts of the whole community".

One of the comments left on the page said: "RIP John. You were such a lovely kind man. You will be missed."

New Forest Post:

Ward councillor David Harrison added: "John was renowned for collecting litter in the Marchwood area every day, regardless of the weather.

"He was a lovely man who decided upon his retirement that he would devote a lot of his spare time to litter picking all around the village. Over the years he must have collected tonnes of litter.

"His efforts did not go unnoticed.

"He was often complimented on his work by villagers and was even given a civic award by Marchwood Parish Council in recognition of his outstanding voluntary service.

"I'd sometimes encounter him when walking around the village myself.

"On one occasion he walked past a cafe. I invited him in for a coffee and a sit down as a small 'thank you' for his splendid efforts."