There’s cheeky, then there’s this. Via The Courier, we heard about possibly the cheekiest bit of trail building ever done. Not so much just the trail, but the additions around it too.
It was built in some privately owned woods where the landowner only gave permission for walking. That’s not all though: as well as a bike trail with some jumps, they constructed a hut, an airgun range, and a basketball court! It’s the kind of thing we dreamed of building as children, and also the kind of thing that could be a nightmare if someone set it up in your garden.
You can see some images on the Courier story, but it only took a bit of detective work to dig up more. There’s a “Save The Gang Hut” Facebook group in which some locals are calling whoever did this heroes, “criminals my arse” etc. At the time of writing, over seven hundred people have hit like in support of the builders, and you can see plenty of support in comments on the Courier’s FB post too.
Meanwhile, the paper have branded them vandals, landowner Dr. James Irvine isn’t happy, and the Police are appealing for information. While it seems unsanctioned hut building is a crime anywhere, obviously it would be a truly cruddy thing to do on a nature reserve or SSSI, which this land officially isn’t, but Irvine says they’ve been planting trees to encourage wildlife and, it seems, trying to leave it mostly untouched by humans. He’s quoted in the Courier thus:
“It is essentially an environment wood where we have planted trees to encourage wildlife and do not use it for any commercial purposes. It contributes greatly to the local environment and to the local wildlife and we are always happy for people to walk here as long as access is taken responsibly.”
For obvious reasons we’re not publishing the location, but a quick look at the site in government mapping data indicates it’s under no protection orders, not a reserve or conservation area of any kind; has no statutory designations such as having a historic monument, being a Special Site of Scientific Interest, or being an area of outstanding natural beauty; doesn’t host any endangered species, isn’t in any forestry schemes, and isn’t designated greenbelt.
Obviously whoever did this put in a lot of love and effort, apparently only starting in April. The even built a bin to put their litter in. The gang hut page are claiming it was done by kids, in which case this much construction is particularly impressive (there are homesteaders on YouTube accomplishing less). We can’t help but wonder how far they’d have gone if it hadn’t been discovered. Illegal log flumes? Forbidden tyre swings? A criminal tree village, with unsanctioned ziplines to make their escape?
A few people on Facebook are suggesting that hundreds of locals should come forward all at once to take responsibility, Spartacus style. It seems impossible to not see the funny side of all this. The police and Dr. Irvine obviously don’t feel the same, and it’s a shame this has become such a conflict. Who are you rooting for?