The officer grimly surveyed the rough and open terrain carefully through his field glasses watching for those dangerous tell-tale signs. Suddenly he froze, his binoculars fixed on the far distance.

“Jonesey! Quick!” he gasped to his comrade as he offered over the binoculars, “Look!”

Jonesy grabbed the field glasses and peered off into the distance and was instantly transfixed by what he saw.


“Go! Go! Go!” ordered Jonesy and the pair grabbed their equipment, leapt into the specially prepared 4X4 and gunned the motor. With a roar the vehicle leapt forward. The officers were forced to hang on despite their tightly fitted car racing harnesses.

As they neared the target they could see there were five of them hunkered down behind the structure.

With a screech of brakes and a shower of shale the 4X4 ground to a halt scant yards from the offenders.

The officers leapt from their vehicle clipboards in hand and rounded on the five unsuspecting picnickers. Thrusting a copy of the local byelaws under the noses of the parents they asked “are you aware that your windbreak is an illegal semi- permanent structure on Bristol’s Clifton Downs? You could get a £500 fine!”

Sounds comedic doesn’t it? But that in essence is what happened to Jon and Claire Hackett when out picnicking in a public place with their two daughters Sophie 11 and Emily 8 accompanied by a family friend from Spain, Erika 11. By their accounts it was a windy day so nothing wrong in erecting a windbreak surely? Not a good advert for the tourism industry in the area either.

Under the byelaws section ‘Erection of Structures’, Article 5 says , “No person shall on the Downs, without the consent of the Downs Committee, erect any post, rail, fence, pole, tent, booth, stand, building or other structure.” But where do you draw the line? How is a groundsheet defined? What about a deck-chair? And heaven forbid you think about building that sand-castle.

Maybe attack is the best form of defence from this sort of jobsworth activity. If you’re thinking of going to the downs for a picnic why not submit a request in triplicate a week beforehand to erect a windbreak and tent? Now thousands of those coming in would concentrate the mind somewhat.

Anyway, at least council bosses have apologised for their over-zealous staff and said they would be told to be more flexible in future.

Now, why do we employ such energetically exacting people in parks? Maybe we need to get them into the financial system as compliance regulators to oversee the banks.

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