A FAMILY were left distraught after their walk through a beauty spot was interrupted by an elderly man wearing a wedding dress who informed them they were encroaching on an area reserved for sexual encounters.

The mum, who asked to remain anonymous, was strolling in Hilly Fields, Colchester, in mid-morning with her four children aged between four and 18 when the bizarrely dressed pensioner came into the open area.

She said: “As we came into the wide open field, an elderly man of about 70 or 80 years of age with a very thick beard emerged from the bushes.

“He was wearing a huge white wedding dress.

“Much to our shock, he reprimanded us for being in a gay area, telling us ‘did we know this area was reserved for the gay community and we should not be there.’

“He told us he was there, seeking sexual encounters in the woodlands.

“I am absolutely shocked by this blatant and disgusting behaviour.

“We would never have expected such lewd sexual behaviour in a park in Colchester.

“My children are shocked by this behaviour and were so upset we headed home.”

She added: “I have never encountered such a shocking and bizarre spectacle and am now having to explain to my children about the inappropriate use of this area.

“The park should be for everyone.”

The man told the family Hilly Fields is listed on a website promoting areas for outdoor liaisons and is actually described as the “best cruising area in East Anglia and the Essex area for safety and the availability of talents.

It also warns anyone looking to partake in lewd activities to stick to the wooded areas as ‘general users don’t get into the islands of tree canopy covered woodlands dotted around the park.’

Would-be users are also warned about muggers posing as people looking for male company, the fact school children often use the area as a cut through on their way home and about potential parking fines for leaving cars in inappropriate places.

The 80-acre nature reserve between Cymbeline Way, Sheepen Road and Sussex Road is designated as a local wildlife site and a scheduled ancient monument.