TWO visitors to Crowborough were forced to spend a cold night in their car after a car park was locked while they were enjoying a town beauty spot.
Amateur filmmaker Lewis Behan called for Crowborough Town Council to rethink its out-of-hours response after he and pal Simon Chandler found themselves stranded on Sunday.
The 24-year-olds had driven to Crowborough Country Park from Rochester to film in the woods off Osbourne Road. But when they returned to their car they found the exit had been locked.
Astonished, Mr Behan said: "It closed at 3.30pm. It's ridiculous."
The winter lock-in time is posted on a small sign 7ft high on the entrance gate but is not marked in the car park itself.
Mr Behan said: "We got there at 2pm and didn't see the tiny sign. We got back to the car at 5pm and couldn't get out."
Over the course of several hours, he and Mr Chandler attempted to contact landowner Crowborough Town Council, and also Wealden District Council, East Sussex County Council and Sussex Police.
No-one came to free them so, with no money for food or a room, the pair bunkered down in Mr Chandler's Ford Focus, with £3,000 of camera equipment taking up valuable space in the back seats and boot.
Mr Behan added: "I understand they have to lock up but whoever did must have seen the car there. They didn't need to come shouting into the woods but why not put a note on there saying 'call this number when you get back?'"
Mr Behan and his friends often film spoof scenes from video games such as Metal Gear Solid. The woods and The Ghyll in Crowborough made it an ideal location, he said.
"But they really need a new sign," he added.
"Every single car park I've seen before has an emergency number. When I called the town council it went through to their answerphone which said it was out-of-hours.
"I rang the non-emergency number for the police to see if they knew someone we could contact. But they said they couldn't get someone as it wasn't life or death.
"I didn't want to call 999 and waste people's time but I was getting very annoyed."
Temperatures had dropped to single figures before they were released at 8am on Monday.
"This person turned up and said 'oh, were you locked in?'" said Mr Behan.
"What if I was an old lady stuck here or Simon, who works in Erith, had be at work early?"
Town council environment committee member Councillor David Shaw sympathised with Mr Behan's plight.
"It's a shame he wasn't local as they tend to walk or know the times," he said.
"At Wolfe Recreation Ground the hockey and cricket club guys have to move their cars if they stay late.
"Bigger signs, an emergency number or perhaps leaving a key with the people living in the houses next door are things for us to think about."