A school that was at the heart of Morpeth’s award-winning Bloom bid has seen its outdoor area shattered by vandals.
Children and teachers at Abbeyfields First School were devastated to see their beloved bird hide smashed to pieces after they returned from their Easter holidays.
Vandals entered the youngsters’ Forest School area in the Abbots Way grounds, removed a hefty log from the fire pit and used it to smash up the hide. They also tried to set it on fire.
A resident alerted the school caretaker after spotting the damage and staff were called in. They immediately contacted the police, who are investigating.
Headteacher Sandra Ford said: “It is just all very upsetting. The Forest School has been going for years and the children love it. They have been absolutely devastated at seeing what has happened to the hide and my staff were in tears about it.
“This was pure vandalism. Whoever did it got a great big log and used it as a battering ram to damage the hide. At first we thought we might be able to fix it, but there was ash underneath where they had tried to set it on fire and it was so unsafe that we have to pull it down. It is absolutely wrecked.
“The area is out of bounds until we manage to get everything cleared and make it safe.”
The Forest School was set up at Abbeyfields to encourage pupils to learn more about the natural world and develop a range of skills closely associated with the curriculum in fun and unusual ways.
It was a key part of children’s environmental work, and last year the school achieved a Gold award in Northumbria In Bloom for the second year running and claimed the Land of the Prince Bishops Trophy for Best School entry overall.
Britain In Bloom judges raved about the school as part of their assessment for the national contest, in which Morpeth took the Best Town title.
The school had been planning an open day this week when guests from various agencies were invited along to see the award-winning project, but it has now been cancelled.
Parents are organising a sponsored bird-watch to try to raise funds for a replacement hide after learning it was not covered by insurance.
Mrs Ford said: “The parents have been very supportive and two in particular are organising some fund-raising. They are going to do a sponsored bird-watch to raise some money to replace the hide, but we are worried about putting it back up. We are worried about replacing it, only for it to be pulled down again, but we have to keep trying.
“We have to rely on donations because we can’t afford things like this. They are extra luxury items that most schools are struggling to provide themselves. We have found that our insurance doesn’t cover the hide so unfortunately, once again, we are relying on the kindness of others.”
The Forest School vandalism is believed to have happened just days before an arson attack at the town’s Carlisle Park, where safety flooring and fencing was set ablaze, and Mrs Ford has called on the community to stay vigilant to such crimes.
“It is a bit strange that these things have happened so closely together so I would ask the community to be aware and try to make sure that everyone is a bit more vigilant,” she said.
“We all need to know that these things are happening and we have to be careful.”
She added: “We are very happy for local people to come into the school grounds and use the field to play football, and they are very welcome to sit on our logs, but not to damage anything.
“We are having to consider extra security measures now, which is not something we ever thought we would have to do.”
The damage was caused sometime between 2.30pm on Friday, April 4 and 9am on Thursday, April 10.
Anyone with information about it is asked to contact police on 101, ext 69191, quoting log number 314 10/04/14. Alternatively, they can ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.