Another disappointing summer comes to a close and after those long evening rides the prospect of a long, cold and dark winter doesn’t seem so appealing. Kiss good-bye to long evening rides and cruising in shorts. The season of ice, rain and darkness is upon us.
A couple of years ago, a small group of Exeter riders were faced with that same old predicament, without the funds or time to continuously travel over an hour to the nearest indoor park.
“It was the beginning of the winter when we were street riding around Exeter. We had heard about this massive warehouse that was empty so we thought we would try to find it,” says 24-year-old, Radio Bikes team rider, Jamie Skinner. The plan was to transform the wasteland into a private and most importantly sheltered skate park. It was pretty clear that the warehouse hadn’t seen any action for quite some time, so a major clean-up operation was set in place.
18-year-old Harry Mills Wakley was another one of the scallywags that could be found down at the warehouse any given day of the week, “At the start there was nothing in there and gypsies had been stripping all the copper wire and leaving human faeces. We spent ages cleaning it up to make it a more pleasant place to ride,” explains Harry. “From then on the scene down there got stronger and stronger, the whole crew was always tidying, painting and building ramps. We spent loads of cold winter days riding there and sometimes with a crew of 30 riders there.”
Hours in the warehouse stacked up that winter, and the warehouse was occupied nearly every-day; building and building ramps. Nestled away in a forgotten corner of busy industrial estate in Exeter ‘The Cheesecake Factory’ was born.
There were enough left over tables and chairs from the once busy warehouse to set up, but the riders soon out grew their resources, sending them further afield to in search of materials.
“A few of us would meet up late every few weeks to get wood to build more ramps. Sneaking into building sites, stealing crates; we took anything we could get our hands on,” says Jamie. But like any good but unprotected spot, word got out and the warehouse became as busy as the other parks in the area, and the only option for evening riders. “It started to get real good and people were coming down, destroying what we had made, so we decided to make the place secure so only we could ride it, we boarded up all the doors and windows and put our own lock on it!”
Eventually, like everything good in this world, the Cheesecake Factory’s life was a short one. New owners took on the warehouse and the contents of the new indoor park were stripped.
“I really can’t believe we managed to keep that set up for nearly 2 years with no problems,” says Jamie, reminiscent on the golden days. “But all good things come to an end. It definitely helped the scene in Exeter stay strong over the winters.”