Joyride danger

JOY-riding teenagers speeding in stolen cars in a narrow country lane will kill an innocent road-user if their activities are not curbed, warns a farmer.

Thursday, 21st December 2006, 9:52 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 9:34 pm

In the latest of half a dozen incidents in recent months, a gang who stole a Peugeot in Battle sped round one of his fields, terrifying heavily-pregant ewes in an adjoining field.

When the car became stuck in mud they torched it. Leaking oil from the car has - again - polluted the environment in an area where farmers are working with the Environment Agency to create a wetland habitat for wildfowl.

Now the farmer - who fears reprisals if his identity is revealed - is calling on the Environment Agency to improve security around its pumping station.

This, he says, would not only safeguard equipment vital for maintaining agreed water levels but block further unlawful access to his land.

Since access to Old Marsh Road near Middle Bridge was blocked to prevent joy-riders abandoning stolen cars there the problem has moved to nearby Horsewalk.

The lane links Hooe with Wartling. It is wide enough for only one vehicle. For much of its winding course it is sunken between high banks - leaving no room for manoeuvre for any driver confronted by a head-on situation.

"People think 'Hooe, a rural idyll'. But someone could get killed down there one night the way these idiots drive," says the farmer.

"We have had half a dozen cars abandoned down there this year.

"They either hare up and down Horsewalk or drive round and round the field doing handbrake turns till they wreck the thing then torch it before abandoning it.

"Two old cars have been dumped in the river there, the Wallers Haven.

"Water is extracted from that river at Standard Hill for drinking water. Pollution in that river could close the Wallers Haven down.

"We are trying to protect the wildlife down there. There are several wildlife schemes. With the Environment Agency, we are trying to get the conditions right for a wildlife reserve.

"Last summer these idiots caused a lot of trouble in my field. They tore round and round, smashed my gate and torched the car.

"This time I had just moved my stock. I had heavily-pregnant ewes in the adjoining field. I am having them scanned next Friday and the are ready to lamb in a couple of months.

"The police are very good. They do patrol the area.

"The fire brigade got there in time to save the engine plate from the front of the car.

"But something terrible is going to happen down there. We have found syringes and booze. These people must be 'high'. Sometimes you can hear the music at two or three in the morning before they go tearing off up Horsewalk."

Farmers have agreed with the Environment Agency for water levels on the marshy ground adjoining the Wallers Haven to be allowed to rise, creating a wetland habitat for plovers, lapwings, swans and other wildlife.

Now the farmer - whose beef and sheep farm covers 135 acres - fears this work could be endangered by pollution.

"I did manage to get the car out of my field. But they had made such a mess with the oil."

Narrow though it is, Horsewalk provides a vital road link between Hooe and Wartling, saving a lengthy detour out to Pevensey and back.

"My greater fear is that one night some innocent is going to drive down there and meet these idiots coming the other way and BANG!

"It's a disaster waiting to happen."