Saplings taken from hedgerow marking jubilee
VANDALS have stolen dozens of saplings planted as part of a community park project in Clevedon.
Thieves sneaked in to Glebe Field, which sits next to St Andrew's Church in Old Church Road, on a number of occasions during the past week and stole around 40 different saplings planted by volunteers to form a new hedgerow.
Hundreds of different saplings, including oak, rowan, silver birch and blackthorn, were given to volunteers from the Glebe Field Project by the Woodland Trust as part of a drive to plant millions of new trees across the UK to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee.
The 420 saplings, which are between 20 and 30cms tall, have been planted as a hedgerow along the Poet's Walk side of the field and propped up with stakes and fitted with defenders to keep rabbits and other animals away.
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The first thefts were discovered last Wednesday when between ten and 15 trees were stolen.
Further thefts of the trees were discovered on Friday morning and then later on Friday evening, with volunteers estimating around 40 have been taken all together.
The field, which was previously used to graze donkeys, has been taken back over by members of St Andrew's Church to turn into a community facility.
Plans for the scheme include putting a pathway through the field, installing a nature trail, benches and a nuttery as well as planting trees and a new hedgerow.
The scheme to develop the 1.4-acre site is expected to cost in the region of £8,000 and fundraising has already started.
Project co-ordinator Eric Holdsworth, said: "We first discovered that some of the trees had been stolen on last Wednesday.
"Whoever is responsible took them from the end of the field where there are two paths so it was easy for them to make a quick getaway.
"The idea was to make a natural hedge that would attract wildlife and some of the saplings had already started to sprout green shoots.
"They are not very big plants and are about a year old and only between 20cms and 30cms tall.
"We cannot replace them until the next planting season which is in the autumn. It is so demoralising as the project has a lot of community support and at our twice weekly work parties we regularly attract around ten or 15 volunteers.
"The theft is a real setback for us, but we are not going to let it spoil our plans for the field."
Mr Holdsworth has reported the theft to police and is also appealing to local people to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity at the field.
Consideration is also being given to installing a CCTV camera at the site in an attempt to thwart further thefts, or catch the culprits.
Mr Holdsworth added: "By the local community keeping their eyes and ears open it may help prevent further thefts. We have had a lot of help so far with the project but are always keen to hear from people who want to get involved, either by giving some of their free time or donating materials or money."
Anyone who wants to get involved with the project can call Eric Holdsworth on 01275 874709.