Raunds Park – Over 2 years of Fires, Menace and Habitat Destruction

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For over 2 years when we go back to when strange things started happening in early 2017, an elderly gentlemen with wellies was spotted frequently in the area of a Raunds playground for under 8’s – Saddlers Park, behind Weighbridge Way in Raunds.

The first noticeable occurrence was when local dog walkers found no dog waste bin at the usual site. It had been removed and placed inside the wooded area where a brook runs through.

Days later a mattress, gas bottle and several large cushions appeared with writing over them. The dog poo bin had also reappeared back at it’s original location but rigorously wired up through a cement brick that was placed in the bin. The writing on the cushions said “FGFC”, could this be ‘Farmer Giles Football Club’?

Jumping forward a few months to April 2017, we found that a new sign had been erected on the playground for under 8’s. It clearly had a Keep Out message with some strange handwriting, which appeared to match that on the cushions from a few months prior (Farmer Giles Farms p.l.c)

Back in 2017 we received messages such as the one below:

I believe this may be an older chap who lives up [], Police will know him, does random similar things up fields on Thorpe Street behind where I keep my horse, he collates items and randomly moves them about, sets fire to things regularly, writes odd comments on items and leaves them for display, often seen walking about with a wheelbarrow, wearing wellies normally, has string tied around his coat a belt. He also frequents The Hogs Dyke footpath and does similar things.

Things went quiet for a while but then picked up again in September 2017 where residents woke in the middle of the night to toxic, foul smelling fumes entering their house. The fire service had to be called to put a fire out that was discovered with building materials that had been burnt in a metal drum with a high accelerant.

Just days before the same man described was seen in this area with the drum banging something with a hammer. The photos and video below show the materials that were found where the gentlemen described had been seen centralising these materials. Also note just how much woodland for the local habitat exists at this point in 2017.

The fire that had been set just after these findings, was in the same place, with the same materials being burned on the land owned by Taylor Wimpey.

We get to November 2017 and Fireworks time is upon us. However, suspiciously frequent loud bangs continued past the normal window. We worked out that they were going off on different days either every 20 or 40 minutes from early evening until around Midnight.

The bangs had become extremely disruptive to local residents, children and pets. They were eventually deduced to be a bird scarer. A local councillor joined a search to see where it was coming from, which seemed to be on land at the Darcie Park site. Taylor Wimpey were called the next morning to look into it, and although we received no response from them, the bird scarer had stopped that same evening.

In February 2018, this sign appeared on the fence of the Taylor Wimpey Site which borders the Darcie Park site and the wooded area at the bottom of the park which is also owned by Taylor Wimpey. Interestingly, the handwriting on the sign matches the same as was found up to a year earlier in 2017. Along with this plastic bottles were found with the writing ‘Weasel Hill Puppet Club’, again in the same handwriting

Things went quiet for a while but jumping forward 11 months to January 2019, and the same mentioned gentlemen had now been joined by 2 other local residents who had took it upon themselves to start clearing brambles and removing Ivy from trees in the park area (land that is owned by the town council).

Weeks of daily fires continued in the private land of Courtlands where the waste had been burnt and despite claims that they were only removing brambles and tidying the area, there was clear evidence that many trees were being cut down.

The small initial area at the park, resulted in a huge removal of vegetation and ultimately (to this time) leaves a completely exposed area between the park and the property at the Courtlands, where asbestos had been left. The asbestos later was removed by Town Council for safety reasons.

Over a weekend at the end of February 2019, residents were greeted with another toxic smell entering their houses. Local Fire Services had to attend again. This fire was started on the Taylor Wimpey land behind the park. The aftermath of the fire could be seen, and there were a large amount of polystyrene balls at the site, a can of accelerant and a milk bottle.

Interestingly, the same type of milk bottle was just a few metres away from the remains of this fire which many residents will recognise being seen in various places around Raunds with the words ‘Weasel Hill Puppet Club’ on them. Again, the handwriting is consistent with previously found objects.

At the end of the path from the playground, someone had used blue marker paint to write out “See You Next Tuesday”.

Jump forward to March and local residents complained again of a loud banging noise. Investigations led to the discovery of bird scatter device, milk bottles with the same writing, as well as Polystyrene bags hung in the trees. The bird scarer had clearly started to be used again. We also found the blue marker paint here.

The bags of Polystyrene were traced back to the Taylor Wimpey site, they are safety bags used on site to help protect workers from falls. It seems that numbers of these bags had been removed

The bags themselves, as we were able to prove, were alongside a path which are very easy to remove. The toxic smell of the latest fires was clearly pointing to poisonous fumes coming off of burning polystyrene.

2 months since the destruction work commenced, and following multiple complaints of the fires on the Courtlands; the Courtlands owner was said to have refused any more fires on their land. So at the end of March 2019, the people involved had moved the fire on to the land just metres away from the childrens play area. Whilst they maintained that the fire was safe and was being tended to.

The Ivy that has been killed on all trees in the area was said to be killing the area. We were asked to check facts, since it is apparently well known and they had been doing the right thing by destroying it.

However, upon fact checking with the Woodland Trust we are informed very clearly that Ivy does not kill trees, but provides a valuable food source for the local habitat (sourceWoodland Trust)

Saw someone cutting a tree down there about a week ago and this morning it’s looking so bare. 
What is going on? An older couple were cutting down the hedges and building fires, assume they live in one of the houses adjacent to the park. 

Concerned there’s going to be nothing left at this rate 😢

Local resident

We spoke to the people tending to the fire and were told that many residents were pleased with the clearance that was taking place and had thanked them. The lady at the site went on to tell us how they had found lots of dog poo bags and even nappies in the overgrowth that had been removed. These, she said, were thrown on the fire to dispose of them

It is destruction of our local habitat, should never have been allowed to happened, we have lost enough of the green area with all the building going on

Local resident

In just the past week alone, several trees have been removed as well as lots of dense overgrowth. Whilst an argument of doing conservation appeared present, an underlying tone of the conversation became clear. They believed that drug dealing was taking place within the wooded area, so they had been clearing the area so that no-one could hide in there, as well as wanting kids that play in the woods to be exposed so they couldn’t get up to no good.

The clearance work continues on the land owned by Taylor Wimpey at this time and we hate to think what will be left of this area when and if they complete their goal.

The Police, Town Council and District Council have all been involved in this matter, however, whilst the habitat destruction has moved on to Taylor Wimpeys land, the only ones who seem to be able to do anything about it is them.

We have contacted Taylor Wimpey for comment and the issue has been escalated to CEO Peter Redfern. We are currently waiting a response.

Dense overgrowth in 2017

The below photos are just a comparison of further desctruction over a week, but the photo above showed just how rich this area was for the wildlife a few years ago before all this clearance work started.

Some people have commented and praised the actions of the gentlemen in wellies for clearing alleyways near them that the Council would not clear. Others have messaged in to report similar activity having happened near them, as well as a history of entering private property and destroying habitat for the purpose of setting fires.

Should actions like these be allowed to continue in this area and across Raunds? – Should Taylor Wimpey start taking some responsibility for some of the events over the past few years as well as the issues that have escalated so far this year? – let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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