VIDEO: We joined a man concerned by people sleeping in Sherwood Forest to root out the evidence of whether there’s actually anyone living there.
Yesterday we reported that a large group of rough sleepers had reportedly been setting up camp and living in Sherwood Forest.
A source claims to have seen a group of people, described as Eastern European, living in the woodland near Meden Vale.
One group in particular may include more than 20 people including men, women and children, he said, who have been seen with deer caught in the forest and have reportedly cut down trees.
Edwinstowe man Alan Daniels, who did not give his real name, found the ‘camp’, and said the inhabitants wielded knives and have previously been threatening when discovered. He said he hoped to alert horse-riders and walkers to take care of the large group who are moving around the woods all the time and shouldn’t be approached.
Describing the groups as ‘desperate’, and believed to be homeless and possibly even commuting to nearby Shirebrook for work, he said the rough sleepers have built makeshift camps by cutting down trees and building shelters with tarpaulin.
He also claims they have been illegally hunting deer and threatening passers-by when they are discovered.
He said: “There’s maybe more than 20, living in the forest and causing damage.”
“They’re chopping down trees, killing pheasant and my friend Richard has seen them with a deer hanging.”
Retiree Alan, 66, is a former gamekeeper on the land and now rents it from the Forestry Commission to rear pheasants for shooting parties. Along with his colleague, another shoot manager in the area, the pair are now carrying out searches of the forest to track down the supposed group.
He added: “They looked like Romany gypsies by the way they dress. There were women and children there.
“I’ve seen a woman come through the gate and stroll into the woods with bags of shopping.”
In fact there may be a more widespread issue of rough sleeping on the land, as other camps may be Polish, he claimed, touting evidence that they work for the controversial retailer with its main depot in Derbyshire.
“I found some playing cards with ‘Sports Direct’ on them,” he said. “I think they’re camping out here at night and going off to work in the morning.”
“I’ve come across them making fires and sleeping out, and I’ve told them to clear off. It’s a bit dodgy, you feel threatened.
“This has been going on for years,” he added. “The Forestry people don’t do anything about it because they’re voting ‘in’.
The Chad took up Alan on an offer to see for ourselves the camps he has found dotted around Sherwood Forest, and to see if we could find the supposed group of travellers ourselves.
Our pictures show two separate camps, which he claims have both been used by groups of Polish people.
The first had remnants of a fire and a huge area strewn with empty tins and beer cans.
“Always Fosters,” said Alan as he picked through the litter.
The camp also had a hammock still hung between two trees and a beam nailed across two trunks, which Alan said was likely used to drape a tarpaulin shelter.
The next site was a treehouse raised on stilts. An incredibly elaborate design, it had clearly been built over time although Alan attested it was built by the group. It also had what appeared to be a tarpaulin roof added, but having been covered with dead leaves couldn’t have been occupied since before last autumn.
In fact the camp, which raised huge controversy when we reported the sightings yesterday, has since been confirmed to be built by local teens in 2010.
When we put this to Alan he disagreed and said it could have been used since.
He added: “They keep disappearing because when they get spotted they move on.”
The alleged discovery of people living in the woodland prompted outrage on social media, with many assuming the rough sleepers are migrants in the current crisis.
The unconfirmed reports led to them being branded ‘Robin Hoodski’ and his merry men by one poster on Facebook, and others brought the issue into the EU referendum debate.
But Alan’s wife Christine said it’s not about migrants. “I’m concerned for these people,” she said. “They’re desperate to have to live like that. “In this country we’ve developed a culture that attracts people to come here and when they get here there’s not the infrastructure to support them, there’s no work, no housing. And I’m worried about their safety - we’ve had messages from people saying ‘tell me where they are, we’ll go and beat them up’.
We asked Nottinghamshire Police to confirm if any calls have been made about threatening behaviour and people living in the forest - they are yet to respond.
The Forestry Commission was unavailable for comment.