A litter picking pensioner renowned for his mission to remove rubbish from the lanes around his home in Hale died at the age of 84.

Keith Neal, a retired teacher who was Head of Biology at Manchester Grammar for more than two decades, died in his sleep at his home on Woburn Drive on April 8.

Mr Neal started litter picking a number of years ago as he and others in the congregation of St Peter's met every few weeks to remove rubbish from around the village.

But in 2018, he wanted to cast the net wider, and so started litter picking on the lanes which he once used on the commute to school.

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In an interview with The Messenger a matter of weeks before he died, he said: "When I was working, I was well aware of the amount of litter there was around. It upset me and it made me think I would have a go at the lanes with one or two others.

"It took us two years to remove bits and pieces of all sorts of things. By lockdown, we were more or less on top of it."

At the start of lockdown, Mr Neal set out on his own. He chose a two and a half hour circuit, which he completed more than 800 times, shifting 1.4 tonnes of litter last year alone. 

He intended to complete this circuit another 200 times before his next birthday and to raise £3000 in the process for St Peter's, as well as for Friends of the Earth and for Solar Aid.

READ MORE: Pensioner's mission to remove rubbish from lanes around Hale.

But it was not the first time Mr Neal made The Messenger and even the national news. 

In one year, around 10 years ago, he collected more than 1000 rubber bands dropped by postal workers before sending them to Royal Mail.

Chris Graham, a lay reader at the church where Mr Neal was once a churchwarden, said: "He was in church on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday last week and [his son] was saying on the way back from church he couldn't help himself. 

"He picked up some litter on the way home.

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"He was involved in everything. It was wonderful. 

"He is very, very sadly missed," Mr Graham added.

Mr Neal is survived by his wife Ruth Neal, their three children, and their grandchildren.

A litter pick in his memory is planned for 2pm on April 16 at St Peter's on Ashley Road.

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email jack.tooth@newsquest.co.uk or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.