Trench warfare: Villagers dig up their own green to keep travellers’ caravans away

The parish council in Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire, has dug trenches to keep out travellers (Picture: SWNS)

Villagers have dug a series of deep trenches around their green in an effort to keep travellers away.

The drastic move was made by the parish council in the Cambridgeshire village of Swaffham Bulbeck, after travellers and their caravans were evicted from the site last month.

Two weeks later, another group of travellers settled on the playing fields before being moved on.

To avoid a repeat scenario, villagers dug 3ft deep trenches and placed giant tree trunks on the site.

Residents claimed the travellers’ presence had stopped locals using the football and cricket pitches.

Access to playing fields is blocked off by the trenches (Picture: SWNS)
The trenches were installed to stop travellers bringing in their caravans (Picture: SWNS)

While the trenches are something of an eyesore, it is hoped that grass and wildflowers will grow on them and help improve the view.

Mary Jacobs, 69, whose house overlooks the playing fields, said: "We're the unlucky ones because we have to look at it all the time. But really what were the council meant to do?

"It's a sort of catch-22, really, because without the trenches they'll just come back. I've lived for 20 years and not once have we had travellers and this kind of disruption.

The drastic move was made after two sets of travellers set up on the green in the past month (Picture: SWNS)
Large tree trunks have been placed to block the route into the playing fields (Picture: SWNS)

"When they left I went and had a look around and the state the park was in was saddening. They'd put mud on the picnic tables and they'd been using the back of the pavilion and the neighbouring woods as a place to defecate - it was disgusting."

There are now only 10 legal sites left for travellers to settle in Cambridgeshire, resulting in their caravans sometimes ending up on public land.

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The drastic measures led to a mixed response on social media.

Sue Garside said: "It was done recently in Cambourne and the growth now looks good. Nice for insects that need longer grass areas."

Resident Natasha Wright said: "I live here and it is an eyesore, yes, but they left a hell of a mess, used the woods as a toilet and even the green.

“They were aggressive in our local pub and to anyone who used the park thinking it was theirs."

Villagers hope that grass and wildflowers will grow on the trenches (Picture: SWNS)

But Whitney Mariee Dolan said: "To everyone who is positive about this, are you not concerned that it could prevent emergency services reaching a child as quickly as needed?”

While the Cambridgeshire County Council does not have to provide sites for travellers, parish councils can take measures to stop them from gaining access into privately owned land.

Swaffham Bulbeck is not the first village that have employed these ‘trench’ tactics.

Residents in Colchester also resorted to digging trenches around a field back in 2017, in an effort to stop travellers from gaining access.

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