Community team defiant to continue activities after Hobbit House is burned down in suspected arson attack

A community group left “devastated” by a suspected arson attack has said it is determined to carry on as inquiries continue into the blaze.

Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 10:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 11:43 am
A firefighter on the scene of the blaze after Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service was called to West Boldon Lodge to put out the blaze.

The hut was built by a team of regular volunteers who work with the charity Groundwork South and North Tyneside, which runs the centre, with support from corporate volunteers.

It took a year to complete and was celebrated as a major addition to the project, creating a sheltered space so visitors could still enjoy the woodland during bad weather.

Volunteers from Costain Limited helped to construct the roof this summer, with regular Groundwork volunteers adding the final touches since then.

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Additional fencing is now being put in place to make the woodland, off Newcastle Road, more secure in the wake of the fire.

Groundwork has called on people to show their support as it looks to rebuild the hut and is appealing for materials.

Tom Mower, education programme lead, said “We are truly devastated that the feature, which represents enormous amounts of hard work by our dedicated volunteers, has been damaged in this way.

“I would like to reassure our visitors that all scheduled events will still be going ahead as planned.

The aftermath of the blaze at West Boldon Lodge. Photo by Tyne and Wear and Rescue Service.

“Fortunately, the hobbit house is located away from the main site and all of our other play features including a music area, pirate ship and mud kitchen have been untouched, so families can continue to visit the centre and our regular forest playschool families can still come and enjoy The Realm woodland this Thursday and Friday.

“In addition, we have installed a new parachute shelter so campfires can continue even in the wind and rain and we’re planning to purchase a bell tent which will give us a more flexible sheltered space for future

use and can be taken inside for security overnight.

“Safety is of paramount importance to our team and we will be rolling out a major security upgrade which includes the installation of improved perimeter fencing.”

The team has urged anyone with information about the fire to get in touch with investigators, who are looking into the circumstances of the blaze.

Tom added: “West Boldon Lodge is a unique site and we take pride in our facility and its role within the local community.

“I would therefore urge anybody with any information regarding this incident to contact FireStoppers.”

Groundworks has said it hopes people will help its recovery by joining its regular conservation volunteer group, which will next meet on Wednesday, October 16, from 10am to 3pm.

People who would like to donate materials for the hut or fencing or back the bell tent campaign is asked to call the centre on (0191) 536 4873 or westboldonlodge@groundwork.org.uk.

Anyone with any information about the fire is asked to contact FireStoppers on 0800 169 5558 or visit www.firestoppersreport.co.uk and information can be passed on anonymously.