A hero-pensioner known for his litter picking endurance walks in an Oxfordshire town has had to quit.

Norman Smith turned 79 on May 31; the next day he suffered a fall whilst walking to water an oak sapling he planted five years ago in Bernwood Nature Reserve.  

The endurance walker fell on the left side of his face, leaving him blind in his left eye and partially damaged along the left side of his body.

Norman said: “I’m utterly devastated. My walking has come to a sudden and catastrophic end. I’ve just become a little old man.

“I fell and the lights went out. Some time later I woke up and an ambulance had just arrived. I certainly won’t be able to go walking again.”

Bicester Advertiser: Norman SmithNorman Smith

Norman has been a long-distance walker for 27 years. He told the Bicester Advertiser that over that time he has walked more than 83,650 miles in 6,404 walking days.

He first started walking as a hobby when he was 51 after joining The Ramblers Association in Banbury and the Long-Distance Walking Association later on.

He added litter collecting to his walks in January 2016, after he found out that cars were stopping at traffic lights and drivers were throwing their rubbish in the hedges and greenery by the road.

He said: “I found that by picking up litter I was encouraging others to do likewise. People began to pick up little in their own patch. We enjoy keeping Bicester tidy and creating a public image of what we’re up to.”

Norman spent 18 years as a pilot in Africa – in humanitarian aid roles - and came back to the UK in 1994.

Read more: Norman Smith walks thousands of miles litter-picking in Bicester 

He said: “I spent 18 years in Africa and returning to the UK was a great big culture shock.

“I saw that humanity had gone mad. Everything was about technology, cars, credit, people were wrecking the world by taking too much from it and not giving enough back.

“My way of escaping this madness was to join Ramblers, and then the long-distance walking association and the centurions.

“I found relief by walking. I became a walkoholic. I was having an enormous amount of fun.”

David Vaughan, an acquaintance of Norman’s, said: “He picks up all sorts of rubbish, he is absolutely amazing.

“He finds council containers and puts all the rubbish in them. He does it all over Bicester. Walks for miles.

“He would walk past and say hello, but he doesn’t stop for long, he walks very fast.”

Norman said it will take a while to get over the shock, and that the fall has sapped his physical strength.


Read more from this author

This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1

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