THE CAVE stretches back only a few feet into the sandstone slab that underlies Nottingham Castle, but to Jo and Tas and their three dogs it is a home of sorts.
They are often joined by other rough sleepers who bed down only yards from the tourist trail to the castle gates and the statue of Robin Hood.
The bowels of Nottingham are criss-crossed by a warren of man- made caves, many of which were used as dwellings and cellars in medieval times and later as air-raid shelters. Now they have become known as a communal alternative to street doorways, and about half of the 30 to 40 people who sleep rough in the castle area now live in the caves. The city council, concerned at the "health hazard" and the effect on tourism, has already blocked some of the caves with metal grilles and intends to close off all of them soon. But the inhabitants say they will move on to other caves or climb over the grilles. One or two rough sleepers had used the caves in previous years but it was not until this summer, when about 30 began to sleep in two caves under the castle gatehouse, that the council took action. The caves were hosed down, to clear the litter that had accumulated outside, and blocked off, with many of the inhabitants losing their belongings in the process. "We don't want Nottingham to turn into a cave-dwelling city," said the council leader, Graham Chapman. "It is insanitary and it could become a health hazard. We have worked very hard to provide hostels and there is no necessity for people to live in caves." His comments are disputed by Tas and Jo, who say they do live cleanly and take out their rubbish and whose cardboard "carpet" was removed by the council last week. …