The community rallied around a popular street cleaner to replace his stolen bicycle.

Gilles Banton, who sweeps the streets on behalf of Epping Forest District Council, had his bike snatched while he was briefly stopping off at a corner shop in Theydon Bois.

Not only did the theft cause Mr Banton personal anguish, it meant he had to make the slow and expensive trip from his home in Dagenham via public transport, rather than making the 11mile journey on the saddle.

Sue Sowerby discovered Gilles bike was missing after persuading him to feature in a section of the village paper's called Focus on You.

She said: “I thought people would like to know about him as he’s very popular in the village. People will give him cups of coffee and invite him in their house when it’s cold outside.

“He always keeps our streets nice and clean and takes a lot of time and effort to keep our village tidy.

“I just felt he needed to be identified to celebrate what he does and lovely to find out more about him.”

Shortly after the story was published, villager Bethan Goulden decided to set a crowdfunding page for Gilles.

Ms Goulding advertised the story on the Theydon Bois Villagers Facebook page and donations flooded in off and online.

“We originally aimed for £300 to get him a decent bike,” explained Mrs Sowerby.

“But within a week we had already exceeded our target.”

When asked how Mr Banton felt when he discovered the surprise, Mrs Sowerby said: “Incredibly heartened, he could not believe it.

"He never thought that would happen after sharing his story and has even sent copies to his family in Jamaica.”

Thanks to the generosity of the village, Mr Banton has been able to cycle to work again on his brand new mountain bike, complete with a padlock and lights.