September 16 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Mindless yobs vandalised a nature reserve’s 18th century walled garden and set fire to a carved wooden bench during a late night onslaught.
Staff at Bedfords Park, Havering-atte-Bower, claimed they were “very, very lucky” to escape serious damage following the incident.
The bench, a new structure near the entrance of the park, was thought to be deliberately set alight by the vandals, who navigated a 3.5 metre fence to break into the secluded Georgian garden.
While inside they entered a polytunnel where they smoked rolled-up cigarettes, lit candles and used an electrical heater.
The criminal behaviour must have got the better of one or more of the culprits, as vomit and faeces were also left for the staff to find the next day.
Kirsty Mcardle, project manager for the garden, which is currently being restored by charity Clear Village, said: “They are probably opportunists, there’s work going on at the moment and they probably saw the fence and thought ‘what is that?’
“They threw the electrical heater outside onto a pile of plastic. When I saw that I thought ‘these are idiots’ - imagine what could have happened to the polytunnel if they had set fire to it.”
The garden was a symbol of horticultural innovation in its heyday and operated as a nursery and food-growing site from the 1770s until it was forced to close in 1999.
Current site work has left a hole in a gate of the fence, which project manager Kirsty Mcardle believes was used as the entry point.
“There was no malicious damage,” said Kirsty, “we were very lucky. Police say they might be able to trace their DNA from the cigarette butts and a message that was left, which said “your fairytale is s***, which referred to something on our website we think.”
A Council Spokesperson said: “It’s a terrible shame when things like this happen. Those who do this kind of thing clearly don’t care that they’re spoiling the park for others as well as wasting taxpayer money. We won’t tolerate people vandalising public property. Police are investigating and Council staff have stepped up patrols as a result.”
The attack comes just weeks after Central Park, a children’s playground in Harold Hill, was destroyed by arsonists.