Retired Hitchin teacher builds 'Furmula 1'-inspired obstacle course for squirrels
PUBLISHED: 16:39 14 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:39 14 August 2019
A man from Hitchin has found a fun way to test our furry friends' agility and intelligence.
When you first ask yourself: How do I stop squirrels from stealing nuts from my bird feeder? Your first instinct probably isn't to build a Grand Prix themed obstacle course.
But for retired teacher Steve Barley, the self-professed eccentric Englishman, obstacle courses and squirrels have been a natural combination for years.
Having grown frustrated with the failed efforts of his 'squirrel-proof' bird feeders, Steve wanted to make the squirrels earn their nutty breakfast.
In 2010, Steve and his son built their first obstacle course in their garden in Lavender Way from an old ironing board and disused wood.
From there, the size and complexity of the courses has only increased over the past nine years - leading Steve's wife to insist that this hobby is "getting out of hand!"
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In Steve's garden, squirrels have been drilled into action with assault courses, had their movie knowledge tested with Titanic and Indiana Jones inspired challenges and navigated Becher's Brook and Canal Turn in a Grand National extravaganza.
Steve commentates over all of the courses he creates - providing humorous puns to accompany every twist and turn.
He says building the courses, getting the right footage and putting it all together can take months of preparation and "some very early mornings!"
There may be light at the end of the tunnel for both Steve and the squirrels. His unique idea has already racked up more than 2.8 million total views on YouTube.
Speaking on his hobby, Steve said: "All the squirrels I film are totally wild and they're an absolute joy to watch as they scamper, jump and swing to complete each course.
"I never build anything that could harm them as I love them too much. They do the challeges because they want to and it only takes them about to two weeks to learn how to overcome the sections.
"I intend to build more elaborate obstacle courses, as longas the squirrels want to do them and people find them entertaining. That is, unless my wife wants her washing line back!"