Farmer who allowed travellers onto land for Christian festival stunned

EXCLUSIVE: Farmer who allowed travellers onto his land for Christian festival was stunned when 200 caravans turned up as fearful locals refuse to leave their homes – but arrivals claim they’ll leave site cleaner than Glastonbury

  • Colin Woodley had been prepared for 100 vehicles to arrive for the event
  • Around 200 caravans descended for a week of festivities in Curdridge, Hants

The farmer whose land became the site of a huge traveller encampment today said he was shocked when double the number of caravans he expected turned up.

Colin Woodley, whose family owns the field in a leafy Hampshire village, had been prepared for 100 vehicles to arrive for a Romany Church event.

But he was surprised when around 200 caravans descended for a week of festivities.

Travellers started setting up camp in the quiet village of Curdridge, Hants, on Sunday afternoon, before the majority arrived on Monday.

And yet more vehicles turned up to the site last night with ‘four or five people per caravan’.

Some locals have speculated that describing it as a festival for the Light and Life Missionary Church was simply a ‘ruse’ to get access to the land, and that the travellers may also be having a wedding.

The farmer was surprised when around 200 caravans descended for a week of festivities

A colourful marquee is the centrepiece of the event which will last until this coming Friday

Mr Woodley, who has lived in the village all his life, and whose father Bob owns the land said: ‘It was a bit more people than I expected.

READ MORE: Travellers descend on Hampshire village for week-long Christian festival 

‘I thought it would be about 100 caravans but now there’s nearly 200.

‘I’ve never hired out the land before, but they’re no trouble.

‘There’s been no change since they first arrived, I’ve got no problem.

‘It’s mostly been music and religious sermons.’

While some local residents today complained about the increase in traffic caused by the festival, others said there had been no noise problems. Some were said to be too scared to leave their homes.

Retiree Charles Smith, who has lived in his £700,000 detached house on a lane nearby for 30 years, said he had heard there had been a few ‘road accidents’ involving the travellers since they started arriving.

He added: ‘It’s been quite busy with traffic.

The guests at the festival have bundled their rubbish together in a pile and vowed to remove it

One traveller said: ‘All of our rubbish has been bagged up. A skip was supposed to come today and collect it but it broke down.’

‘I think there were a few road accidents earlier in the week, but nothing serious. No one was injured, they were just little bumps.

‘It’s okay with me, it’s not been a problem.

‘It’s not been excessive noise at all, just happy noise.

‘There haven’t been any break-ins around here or anything like that.

‘We’re pretty close to it here and we don’t have any complaints.’

A traveller from the festival, who did not wish to be named, today denied a wedding was taking place, and said the gathering was to ‘celebrate the life of Jesus’.

The man, in his 40s, said: ‘Everybody is welcome here. This is a religious festival – we’re here to celebrate the life of Jesus.

‘There are around 150 caravans here and about four or five people per caravan.

‘All of our rubbish has been bagged up. A skip was supposed to come today and collect it but it broke down.

Colin Woodley, whose family owns the field in a leafy Hampshire village, had been prepared for 100 vehicles to arrive for a Romany Church event

The site had seen increased traffic and some noise but neighbours said it was not a big deal

‘There won’t even be a single fag butt here when we leave, we’ll all be out there picking everything up.

‘All the caravans will be gone by Saturday.’

A woman in her 40s travelling with him said: ‘When we’ve left, compare it to what Glastonbury festival looks like.

‘Nobody complains about the way that will look.’

A local resident in her 70s, who has lived in a house nearby for 30 years, said she had no problem with the gathering but it had worried one of her neighbours so much she didn’t want to leave her home.

She said: ‘The excess traffic has been an issue. Last night there was quite a stream of traffic coming in.

‘I haven’t heard any music and I’m close by. A neighbour of mine said she heard some singing and it was lovely.

‘There is some noise but it’s not rowdy. They seem to be law abiding.

‘One of our neighbours is worried by it and she doesn’t want to leave home.’

Phillip Poole, 55, who has been a farmer in the area for more than 20 years and owns land opposite, revealed many locals wished Mr Woodley had not taken money to host the event.

He said: ‘They’re leaving all the locals alone which is good, but a lot of people are still worried.

‘It’s been a bit of an influx over the last few days.

‘The music goes on until about 10.30pm but that’s fine, it’s not too loud.

‘There has been a bit of traffic, people are coming from miles around just to see it. Someone told me they’d travelled 20 miles just to have a look.

‘It’s a different scale to what I think was expected, they’re a bit more than the scouts who sometimes stay around here.

‘I think people wish the landowner hadn’t agreed to it. People will do funny things for money.’

A woman in her 60s who lives directly opposite the site and did not want to be named said: ‘We’re not too bothered really, I’ve got no problem.

‘We’ve not been affected by any noise.’

Winchester City councillors, alongside Curdridge Parish Council, sent out a letter earlier this week to villagers informing them that ‘over 200’ caravans had convened but they had been ‘unaware’ of the activity until it started being reported on social media.

Following an ‘informal emergency meeting’ on Monday evening, the letter states: ‘The event has been organised by the ‘Light and Life Missionary Church’, with the landowner’s permission.

‘We understand this to be an annual event held at various sites around the UK and usually lasts around one week.’

The parish council expects the gathering to finish by Friday, where most ‘participants’ are expected to leave, but may may see a ‘a small group remain during Saturday to help manage the cleaning of the site’.

A Winchester City Council representative said the church leader had told them there would be two religious services held each day in the encampment.

The letter also warned of other potential traveller camps nearby ‘travelling in the shadow’ of the religious event and that they could seek to ‘capitalise on it for personal gain’.

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