AN artist has been left devastated and homeless after his caravan was destroyed in a blaze.

Mitchell McLean, 52, lost three years of work in the fire at his home, near Abberton Reservoir.

Mr McLean and his springer spaniel Bess were out at the time and have had to stay with friends until he finds a new home.

He said: “I went away to Mersea to do some shopping. I made a fire in the wood burner and closed the door.

“Then I had a phone call from the people who own the land.

They said: ‘Your place is on fire’.

“When I was driving back I could see the smoke on the hill. I got there and the whole place was ablaze.

“I had only been out for half an hour.”

Two fire engines from Colchester arrived on the scene minutes later and spent two hours putting out the fire.

Mr McLean said: “I was devastated to see it going, but I was so relieved I had taken Bess out with me.”

He had been living in the caravan, in Glebe Lane, Abberton, for a year before the fire broke out last Thursday afternoon.

For the past three years Mr McLean has been working on a project, Wild-Lights, to promote the wildlife and history of Pitchbury Wood, in Great Horkesley.

Mr McLean, a concept designer, hopes to turn the wood into an “environmental museum”, creating light sculptures and trails, and hosting musicians, dance and art.

He added: “Nothing is left – nothing whatsoever.

“All my collection of books, three laptops and printers, clothes – everything’s gone.”

Mr McLean said a co-worker on the project had copies of a lot of his work files and they will pursue it as and when funding becomes available.

He added: “It only happened a week ago, so it’s hard to evaluate.

“I’ve worked on a lot of different things and have had a lot of setbacks, but I am a person who gets up again and to me, it’s part of the design process.”

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said the fire was an accident and caused by furniture being too close to a heat source.