A real-life castaway who has spent 26 years building a remote home from driftwood has been told his shack is illegal.
David Burgess, 63, has used the flotsam and jetsam which has been washed up on the coastline in rural Somerset to create the beachfront hut.
The remoteness of the location has meant that only a handful of people, until now, knew of its existence. It is an hour’s walk from the nearest road, down a treacherous path.
Mr Burgess sleeps on a mattress of dried leaves and has fashioned window frames and even a staircase out of driftwood.
But despite all his hard work officials at Exmoor National Park claim it owns the site and have told Mr Burgess that he is breaking the law.
A defiant Mr Burgess says he has no intention of giving up his Robinson Crusoe existence.
He began building his home in 1985 when he discovered the tumbledown remains of a bark-drying cottage in Embelle Wood near Porlock, Somerset.
Mr Burgess said: ‘When I first saw it, it just had walls and spaces for the windows. I thought it would have been nice to stay in and I’ve collected driftwood over the years to put it right.
‘It is an old ruined cottage which was begun in 1812 but was never completed. I am not doing any harm and I pick up rubbish.
‘We belong to the land, the land doesn’t belong to us. I don’t think I’m squatting.’
Mr Burgess built up the walls with timber and created a roof from green tarpaulin.
He has fashioned hammock chairs from fishing nets salvaged from the Bristol Channel and cooks outside over firewood.
The sheltered spot is four miles from the nearest village and shop, which Mr Burgess visits periodically to stock up on food.
He cannot grow his own at the site because wild deer would eat it, so he survives on tinned and dried food.
He lives in the property throughout the year but if the weather gets too harsh during the winter months he retreats to stay with friends.
However the management of Exmoor National Park has said that the woodland and its buildings have been in its ownership since 1974.
Mr Burgess initially disputed this and applied to the Land Registry for ownership of the land - infuriating the National Park.
It said in a statement: ‘We deplore the selfish action being taken by one individual in seeking to take ownership of this building, therefore denying access to the wider public.
‘We have submitted our evidence to the Land Registry and await their decision on this matter.
‘The building in question is of historic interest which, before it was altered by Mr Burgess, had gaps in the sides suggesting it could have been the remains of a tan bark drying house or lime burner’s building.
‘It forms part of a complex of structures and tracks including a limekiln and the remains of two other buildings.’
However, Mr Burgess has now withdrawn his claim to ownership and Exmoor officials say they are considering ways he can ‘continue to enjoy the area’.
The statement continued: ‘We now understand that Mr Burgess plans to withdraw his claim of private ownership on the building and should he do so then we would be happy to discuss with him some arrangement whereby he could continue to enjoy the area.
‘What we deplored was that he was seeking ownership.’
It remains to be seen whether Mr Burgess will continue to live in the home he spent so long building.