April Fools' Day: Space flights from Gatwick, a 'lost' village called Erehton and training seagulls to pick up litter

April Fools' Day has always been a fun day for newspapers.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 10:01 am
Updated Thursday, 1st April 2021, 10:02 am

Over the years our papers across Sussex have enjoyed attempts at fooling our readers with stories varying from Loch Ness monster hunters to a village who invented toothpaste.

Here are a selection of stories our titles have run.

The home of toothpaste and the 'lost village'

The Eastbourne Herald reported seagulls had been trained to pick up litter

A tiny West Sussex village was known to be part of the area associated with the historic Wealden iron industry - but who would have thought it was also the home of toothpaste?

No-one until one April 1st when the local newspaper the West Sussex County Times exclusively revealed that the paste that keeps your teeth white, gums healthy and a smile permanently on your face - was harvested from the village of Colgate a few miles north-east of the town of Horsham.

Editor in Chief of the title Gary Shipton recalled that the spoof some years ago set a lot of teeth on edge. "We were amazed how many people swallowed that one," he observed.

"Although I think the sister weekly title the West Sussex Gazette pulled off the best April 1 stunt when it included in its series of full page village profiles a special look at the village of Erehton.

The Long Man of Wilimington

"Ramblers and visitors were determined to track down the beautiful thatched 'lost' village - until they worked out that Erehton was Not Here spelled backwards and all the photos were from other Sussex villages published in reverse."

Space flights from Gatwick, Russian billionaires and Loch Ness Monster hunters at Tilgate

The Crawley Observer has run a few April Fools' stories over the years. One that could be increasingly more likely was Gatwick being used for space flights.

Another saw a story about Loch Ness monster hunters visiting Tilgate Lake after reports of a mystery creature in the water.

In 1999, they the Observer ran a story saying Gatwick was going to align itself to European time zones and because of that people in Crawley could see in the millennium twice in the space of an hour!

The April Fools' story that got the most reaction was about Crawley Town being taken over by a Russian billionaire. Former Crawley Observer deputy editor Jim Scott said: "I think it got the most reaction as Reds fans got their hopes up!"

Nice smelling dog poo (from the Worthing Herald)

Dog welfare charity Dogs Trust has announced a revolutionary diet with a plan to make stinky dog emissions may be a thing of the past.

A spokesman for the charity, which has a rehoming centre in Shoreham, said: "We care for over 16,000 dogs a year across our 17 re-homing centres, and that means a lot of poop scooping.

"We've been working with boffins behind the scenes devising the ultimate dog diet to minimise stinky emissios and make our kennel staff's job a bit more pleasant.

"Incredibly we've found a diet that not only minimises the smell but even makes poop fragrant."

Dogs Trust is patenting the winning formula and cannot yet reveal full details of the diet.

The spokesperson added: "If we can market the formula it will also be a great way of fundraising for us."

Long Man - and woman - of Wilmington

There have been many stories on the Long Man of Wilmington, but one April Fool's Day the Sussex Express fooled readers by reporting that the Long Man would be getting a female partner.

Training Seagulls and a Beachy Head Airport

The Eastbourne Herald has caught out readers in the past with some inventive April Fool's stories.

In 2016 they reported an environmental enthusiast from Eastbourne had spent the past 12 months training a small flock of seagulls to pick up litter from the beach.

Love Clean Streets founder Ian Blackburn said, “Seeing the seagulls on the seafront tearing open rubbish bags on the promenade last summer was infuriating me.

“They would use their beaks to rip open the bags in such a vigorous way that they almost looked like monsters.”

“I had an idea that if I could train them to pick up the rubbish and be rewarded with food, everyone would be happier.”

Readers were invited down to the ebach to watch them on April Fool's Day.

They also reported an airport was to built at Beachy Head.

What is the best April Fool's Day joke you have been fooled by? Comment on our Facebook page.