Three friends who set up an urban exploration group during lockdown have been hailed heroes after taking it upon themselves to clear a huge fly-tipping site which has blighted a beauty spot for years.

Damion Whitton, Bruce-Lee Knowles and Chris Taylor, who call themselves Northern Monkeys, were out exploring in Cliviger close to Burnley at the weekend, when they came across the fly-tipping site, just off Bacup Road.

Lancashire Telegraph:

And now, in just four days, the trio, whose efforts have gone viral on social media, have voluntarily managed to clear what they are estimating is 'a tonne or two' of rubbish and filled more than 400 bags.

Mr Whitton, 38, said: "We set up an exploring group during lockdown as work dried up and we all found ourselves in the same position.

"We're called Northern Monkeys, and go exploring round sites that interest us and put videos on YouTube.

Lancashire Telegraph:

"We were up at this place near Cliviger the other day and came across this massive site with loads of rubbish.

"We weren't aware it was there as we'd not heard anything about it before but it completely shocked us. It was disgusting.

"We were always taught that rubbish goes in the bin not on the floor, so we decided there and then to come back and clean it up."

Lancashire Telegraph:

The friends, who are all from Burnley said since they started Northern Monkeys they have been all over the UK, exploring different sites and taking in the local history, but have never come across a dumping ground as big as the one off Bacup Road.

Mr Whitton continued: "The amount of rubbish we have collected is unbelievable, why would anyone just dump their rubbish there?

"We've travelled a few thousand miles since April but I've never seen a pile of rubbish like this in my entire life.

"The longer we spend cleaning it up the more shocked we become."

Lancashire Telegraph:

So far, the trio have collected and cleared the site of items including fridges, mattresses, household furniture, and have also come across a number of strange items.

"Mackerel tins - we've found loads of mackerel tins, it's really weird," Damion added, "we've been doing five or six hour stints to try and clear as much as we can and are thinking of asking some volunteers to come down and help us on Saturday - strictly within Covid regulations of course.

"What three lads have done in four days is unreal. It's going to take us about two weeks to clear it on our own though so imagine what we could clear if we had more people helping - it would be gone."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Rubbish at the site has built up over years due to confusion over who owns the land.

But while Burnley Council say the land does not belong to them, they have been working alongside Lancashire County Council to think of ways to clear the site, and in a bid to curb the illegal dumping, police installed cameras in the lay-by to act as a deterrent.

Both councils have said they would use the cameras to gather evidence for prosecutions in case of further incidents.

In April, County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "It beggars belief that anyone should deliberately damage our environment in this way.

"We've been working with Burnley Council and the adjoining landowner to clear up after these incidents, and monitor the site as best we can. However, we now need to take further action to deter further incidents.

"The quantities of waste being dumped, and the steepness of the terrain, make it particularly difficult and expensive to clean up, which is why we're now investing in remote cameras to monitor this area."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Since Mr Whitton and his friends began clearing the site, they say the council have been amazing, collecting the bags of rubbish from the layby after they bring them up the slope.

He added: "After seeing the images and videos, people have been saying there's got to be about 100 tonnes of rubbish there. It's got to have been built up over years and years.

"A message needs to be sent out as it's horrendous. It's not ok to do this and people need to respect where they live more and respect the countryside.

"There's enough waste and recycling centres in the country, so there's no need to dump rubbish like this, it needs to stop."

To see the progress, visit the Northern Monkeys on YouTube or follow them on Facebook @NorthernMonkeys.