MINDLESS yobs have been setting fires in a protected woodland, while flouting lockdown rules.

One of the trees, under a protection order, has been badly damaged at Page Woods in Bowers Gifford.

The woods is still open to the public despite the lockdown.

Rose Griffin, 69, chair of the Page Woods Trust, which runs the woodland, said she’s saddened to see the damage.

She said: “I feel sad that people can do this much damage. I feel cross and upset that the trust and community has done so much work to keep the woods nice and then some people come and do this.

“This is not the kind of behaviour we want in our community.

“I find it incomprehensible that people could do this sort of thing.”

Ms Griffin shared images on social media of the badly vandalised tree, adding that the tree has been damaged before and may not survive being targeted again.

She said: “The trees in the woods are under protection order and such damage could land someone a fine of £1,500.

“The woods is still open to the public but we’ve asked visitors to follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

“I think this is especially bad that people have done this with everything else going on with the coronavirus.”

Ms Griffin said members of the community also cannot believe the mindless vandalism has happened.

The Page Woods Trust bought the woodland area of Page Road in 2018 for £33,000.

The charity received various grants and worked on fundraising efforts to collect the cash.

Andrew Ansell, Labour councillor for Pitsea South East also blasted the vandals.

He said: “It is very disappointing to see this is going on in our community and I really hope this is investigated to the fullest and those responsible feel the full force of the law.

“It’s very concerning people want to take part in such vandalism and damage an asset that should be preserved for the community.”

Anyone with any information should call Essex Police on 101.

This story first appeared in the Echo.

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