October 20, 2020

Pirate island built by multi-millionaire family just outside Cambridge


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Pirates 1By Chris Havergal From Cambridge News

A multi-millionaire family has built an incredible Caribbean-style pirate island just a few miles from Cambridge – but council planners may make them walk the plank for failing to get planning permission for it.

Challis Island, created in a lake in a former gravel quarry, includes a beach, lagoon, waterfall and even a mock pub.

The Bahamas-style ‘Challis Island’ has been built in a remote location in Landbeach by the Dickerson family, which ran the Donarbon waste processing firm before selling it three years ago.

It is located on a lake created by gravel extraction in the 1970s, and the island was created from scratch, including a stream, lagoon and waterfall.

It boasts five buildings made with oak and Douglas fir frames, plus thatched and wooden roof tiles, to give the feel of an abandoned 18th-century colonial outpost.

The buildings include the Black Doubloon, a one-and-a-half storey fully functioning pub in the style of a colonial tavern, and the Coffer’s Cabin, a guest house which is built in the style of a military commander’s office.

There is also a thatched beach hut called the Lubbers Locker, a sun deck called Dead Man’s Deck which is designed to look like the ruins of a military hospital, and Gibbet Gate, which mimics an abandoned battlemented entrance of a former garrison.

The island was built at Lakeside View by the Master Wishmakers, a Kettering-based company, but the family have been forced to apply for retrospective permission to keep the structures because this was not granted in advance of construction.

The request is being considered by South Cambridgeshire District Council.

James Challis, the namesake of the island and a member of the Dickerson family, said the project was a memorial to his late grandfather John Dickerson, who built the family business up over several decades.

Mr Challis, from Sutton, said: “After the land had been restored, our family took it on privately and used it as their own personal recreation area and we worked on encouraging wildlife to the site.

“The lake had been left for so many years that it suffered greatly from a build-up of silt that encouraged weeds to grow and starved the oxygen out the water to such a degree that when the lake was drained, only nine small fish were found.”

Mr Challis helped to create the ‘history’ of Challis Island, which says it survived repeated French and Spanish attacks before being abandoned because of lack of reinforcements and supplies from ‘King George’, leading to an invasion of pirates.

Mr Challis said the family hopes the site will benefit greatly from its new dual purpose and will be enjoyed by future generations for many years to come.

He added: “We hope that John Dickerson, who made it all possible, will be remembered through it.”

The Master Wishmakers said Mr Challis “simply loves all things pirate”.

Claiming its “Caribbean island oasis” sent all who visited it “swashbuckling back in time”, the company said: “We pride ourselves on our attention to detail and this is why we have worked with only the best scenic artists to add those final touches that really make Challis Island the most spectacular pirate adventure since the 18th century.”

John Dickerson, who ran the family business from 1960 until his retirement, died in 1999. Documents submitted to the district council said Mr Dickerson loved Lakeside View, which is off the A10, and “wished for it to remain with the family and for it to be his memorial”.

The application said: “The site continues to be solely used by the family and is not intended to be open to the public as this is the family’s personal space that is financed by Mrs Dickerson’s funds from the sale of the company.”

The family bought the site in 1948, when the company was run by John Dickerson’s father Maurice Dickerson.

It was then used for sand and gravel extraction, and Donarbon was formed in 1969 as a skip hire business and to landfill the void left by quarrying at Landbeach.

Following John Dickerson’s death, Donarbon remained in family control in the hands of his sons-in-law, Robert Challis and Mark Davenport, who won the contract to handle Cambridgeshire’s waste.

The company was sold to AmeyCespa in September 2010, but John Dickerson’s widow – who is in her 80s and lives in central Cambridge – retained Lakeside View, which had previously been known as Hayacre Farm.

She enrolled Mr Challis, who previously worked as group IT manager for the family company, to run the site.

The district council said a 21-day consultation on the retrospective planning application started today.

All Photographs by Geoff Robinson Photography

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