Welcome to the latest piece in our series, Unsung Heroes, where our reporters visit folk in south east London who deserve recognition for making a difference in their community.

READ: Unsung Heroes: Meet the man cleaning the Beckenham War Memorial

It’s a Monday morning and rain is falling heavily at the junction of Station Road by West Wickham High Street.

Chris Collins is stood at a corner and wears a smile despite starting his week in such dreary conditions.

The street cleaner confesses to not being a big talker, but he is one of the friendliest and most respected characters in West Wickham.

Chris, 62, tells News Shopper he has been sweeping these streets for eight years and even wants to carry on past retirement.

"I just love it and love the people here," Chris tells us as we hover in the Lidl carpark to avoid the rain.

News Shopper:

Two buses from Woolwich get Chris to work in the mornings before he uses the trains to return home late in the evenings.

He is a venerable figure in West Wickham and Chris says being friendly contributes to his "good guy" status.

"I always have a smile," Chris says. "That’s about it. I always make sure the streets are clean for them. I do the high street and the side roads."

Dozens of people say hi to Chris throughout the day and the Veolia street cleaner says it is one of the best things about the job.

"They are lovely people. I have got to know quite a few of them now. They are always happy in the morning and all day long and I always smile to them."

He later adds: "Some of them come up to me and say I’m doing a lovely job."

In the past two years a high street gift shop, The Lemon Tree, has organised a whip-round for Chris at Christmas time.

"I was very surprised," Chris says with a smile as he recalls the kind gesture. "I was quite pleased."

Despite the heavy workload, Chris says visiting his daughter, 35, is a way for him to switch off.

"She makes me a nice roast dinner on a Sunday," he laughs. "You have to look after your dad' she says to me."

After thanking Chris for taking the time News Shopper heads to The Lemon Tree.

News Shopper:

Sales assistant Rebecca Saunders says enthusiastically: "Chris is a lovely guy, always has time for people and always has a smile on his face whatever the weather.

"He is very thorough, and the high street looks fantastic. He comes all the way from Woolwich and works really long hours, but he is just lovely.

"He is always popping in here saying hello."

Speaking about the Christmas whip-round, Rebecca adds: "Jackie who has worked here since the shop opened has known him for 12 years.

"He bought a sofa from the first collection and the second one he got two armchairs.

"He is the High Street. He makes the High Street."

Councillor William Huntington-Thresher also spoke to News Shopper about Chris.

He said: "At all times of the day and in all weathers, our street cleaning crews are out keeping our streets as clean as they are and our thanks go to them for sterling work they do.

"I am delighted that Chris has been recognised as an unsung hero, with his work clearly valued by the community he has become part of."