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Man who slept in tent on Hampstead Heath for 7 years reveals life of hidden homeless

PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 May 2012 | UPDATED: 17:33 11 May 2012

Gordon, who spent seven years sleeping rough, is now helping a Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen by walking from John O'Groats to Land's End. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Gordon, who spent seven years sleeping rough, is now helping a Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen by walking from John O'Groats to Land's End. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A man who spent seven years sleeping rough in a tent on Hampstead Heath will walk from John O'Groats to Land's End to reveal the plight of the hidden homeless.

Hidden from the world by a thicket of shrubs, Gordon spent every day among the birds and foxes, packing up each morning to walk for hours to a soup kitchen for something to eat before heading back at dusk.

“I was well hidden,” explained the 56 year-old in a thick Glaswegian accent. “I hid a lot of branches and bushes around me, then nature took over.

“Some people knew I was there, but I kept myself to myself. I didn’t get much hassle.

“I’m not bitter at all, I enjoyed it. The birds would all fly around my tent and I would feed the foxes. I look back at that time as the best time.”

Last Christmas Gordon moved in with a volunteer he met at the soup kitchen in Muswell Hill Baptist Church, where he had been a regular face since 2005.

In a gesture to repay the generosity he had received at the centre in Dukes Avenue, Gordon is embarking on an epic walk from John O’Groats to Lands End.

The money raised will go towards keeping the soup kitchen, which serves dozens of people five days a week, open and well stocked.

Martin Stone, who runs the kitchen, said: “Nourishment and sharing food is a fundamental part of man. This place if for everybody and anybody and I think that is very important.

“Around 90 per cent of our guests are depressed, psychotic, schizophrenic, or they have come out of prison. Coming here is the one thing that happens in their day.

“We are good at labelling people but very poor at looking after them.”

Gordon’s 874-mile trip reflects his own journey.

As a young man he left Glasgow 30 years ago and moved to London to work as a brick layer.

He then travelled to Israel, Iran and Pakistan, but after returning to England found it difficult to get a job and drifted into alcoholism and homelessness.

“I worked on different building sites but ended up on the street,” he said. “I couldn’t find work, so I lived off my money for a while.

“I started finding that you needed this and that certificate to get onto a building site. Then the money was gone.”

He finally kicked alcohol in 1995 and is proud that he has never claimed state benefits.

“If you want to be supported you would have to go somewhere for a couple of nights in a hostel,” Gordon explained. “I didn’t want to do that because of the drink and drugs and all the rest of it. I wanted to stay independent.”

The former builder sets off on his two month trek in June.

He will pitch his tent in fields along the way.

“The word tramp originally comes from to tramp around, and travel - so it makes sense,” he said laughing.

To support Gordon and donate to the soup kitchen, visit www.justgiving.com/GoGordon

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