A couple who have spent more than a year living in a shelter they secretly built in the woods have been told they have to leave.
Tim Leath-Butler and Christina Allen have been living in a self-made home concealed behind trees in Harrocks Wood since April last year.
The pair – who live with their six cats Fawn, Streaky, Pirate, Brier, Brian and Ash – have built their home in Chandler’s Cross from branches, tent fabric and wooden poles – complete with a log fire and chimney.
The couple did not get permission to build on the site, and have been asked to move on by The Woodland Trust – which owns the site.
Mr Leath, 56, said: “We are not doing any harm here.
“We started with a two man tent, and have built from there.
"We like the lifestyle.
"People have known we are here and haven’t said anything so we don’t understand this sudden change.
“The uncertainty is so stressful. I cannot relax. We will move to another wood if we have to leave.
“My partner and I both have medical problems and the prospect of being forced to move somewhere else is causing us both extreme worry and tension.”
The couple collect water from a stream half a mile away, which they then filter and boil. They heat the shack with a fire in a £10 bin from B&Q.
Mr Leath, a former gardener, said the couple ended up in the woods after they were evicted from their home of 15 years in Radlett Road last year.
Their 17-year-old daughter has been forced to live with her grandmother.
Ms Allen, 39, who is originally from South Oxhey, said: “When we were evicted we had nowhere to go, this was our only option.
"We are fine here, obviously it is not ideal and we both have medical issues but we are not doing any harm.”
Mr Leath has been out of work since 2007 after an industrial accident, and Ms Allen works at Morrisons in Rickmansworth – where she showers, charges a power point and gets the couple’s food.
Mr Leath added: “We have been forced here by failures in lots of central and local government and council departments and officers.
“We were not 100 per cent perfect but we don’t deserve this.
“You hear of people who are lucky, that everything they try turns to gold.
"We seem to be the opposite, everything we try to do to dig ourselves out of a situation turns to lead.”
The couple, who have been together for 19 years, believe they have been asked to move on following the revelation that Daniel Pike, whose story the Observer reported on in March, has spent four years building a remote shack in nearby Merry Hill forest.
The Woodland Trust also told Mr Pike to leave. Speaking this week, he told the Observer: “The support I have received has been amazing. I am still here and not planning on leaving.”
Operations manager at the Woodland Trust, Gareth Hopkins, said: “We are aware of the current situation in Harrocks Wood.
“It is a sensitive circumstance and one we are currently investigating. We adhere to strict conservation policies with regards to our woods in order to conserve and protect them in the long term, we do not allow people to live or have fires in our woodlands.
“We will however work with any individuals to look, where possible, at solutions that work both for them and our woodlands.”
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