Real-life Robinson Crusoe told his home is illegal

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Jun 17 00:33:36 BST 2011

Real-life Robinson Crusoe who spent 26 years living in beachfront 
shack he made from driftwood has been told his home is illegal

By Daily Mail Reporter - Last updated at 5:07 PM on 16th June 2011
A real-life castaway who has spent 26 years building a remote home 
from driftwood has been told his shack is illegal.
David Burgess, 63, has used the flotsam and jetsam which has been 
washed up on the coastline in rural Somerset to create the beachfront hut.
The remoteness of the location has meant that only a handful of 
people, until now, knew of its existence. It is an hour's walk from 
the nearest road, down a treacherous path.
Mr Burgess sleeps on a mattress of dried leaves and has fashioned 
window frames and even a staircase out of driftwood.
But despite all his hard work officials at Exmoor National Park claim 
it owns the site and have told Mr Burgess that he is breaking the law.
A defiant Mr Burgess says he has no intention of giving up his 
Robinson Crusoe existence.
He began building his home in 1985 when he discovered the tumbledown 
remains of a bark-drying cottage in Embelle Wood near Porlock, Somerset.
Mr Burgess said: 'When I first saw it, it just had walls and spaces 
for the windows. I thought it would have been nice to stay in and 
I've collected driftwood over the years to put it right.
'It is an old ruined cottage which was begun in 1812 but was never 
completed. I am not doing any harm and I pick up rubbish.
'We belong to the land, the land doesn't belong to us. I don't think 
I'm squatting.'
Mr Burgess built up the walls with timber and created a roof from 
green tarpaulin.
He has fashioned hammock chairs from fishing nets salvaged from the 
Bristol Channel and cooks outside over firewood.
The sheltered spot is four miles from the nearest village and shop, 
which Mr Burgess visits periodically to stock up on food.
He cannot grow his own at the site because wild deer would eat it, so 
he survives on tinned and dried food.
He lives in the property throughout the year but if the weather gets 
too harsh during the winter months he retreats to stay with friends.
However the management of Exmoor National Park has said that the 
woodland and its buildings have been in its ownership since 1974.
Mr Burgess initially disputed this and applied to the Land Registry 
for ownership of the land - infuriating the National Park.
It said in a statement: 'We deplore the selfish action being taken by 
one individual in seeking to take ownership of this building, 
therefore denying access to the wider public.
'We have submitted our evidence to the Land Registry and await their 
decision on this matter.
'The building in question is of historic interest which, before it 
was altered by Mr Burgess, had gaps in the sides suggesting it could 
have been the remains of a tan bark drying house or lime burner's building.
'It forms part of a complex of structures and tracks including a 
limekiln and the remains of two other buildings.'
However, Mr Burgess has now withdrawn his claim to ownership and 
Exmoor officials say they are considering ways he can 'continue to 
enjoy the area'.
The statement continued: 'We now understand that Mr Burgess plans to 
withdraw his claim of private ownership on the building and should he 
do so then we would be happy to discuss with him some arrangement 
whereby he could continue to enjoy the area.
'What we deplored was that he was seeking ownership.'
It remains to be seen whether Mr Burgess will continue to live in the 
home he spent so long building. 
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