Community garden run by disabled people at Staunton Country Park damaged in 'sickening' vandalism

A COMMUNITY orchard run by volunteers with disabilities has suffered ‘brutal’ and ‘sickening’ damage as vandals broke into the walled garden.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 6:15 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 6:17 pm

The volunteers - as well as their supportive staff - were left in tears after their garden and orchard at Staunton Country Park was targeted in a ‘devastating’ attack on Monday night.

Broken bottles were left smashed on the ground, a wheelbarrow was thrown onto a table of plants, and tools, plants, earth, and rubbish have been left strewn across the floor.

The plastic cover of the polytunnel, designed to house the plants, has been torn beyond repair. It is only a year old and the structure will now have to be recovered.

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Managing director, Debbie Lyall at Staunton Country Park. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Boxes of plants have been dragged across the grass, and there is suspected damage to a nearby hedge.

Storey Garden is run by Right to Work, a community-interest company run by eight members of staff providing daily work opportunities for more than 120 individuals with learning disabilities.

Right to Work welcomes between 30 and 40 people every day.

Debbie Lyall, managing director of Right to Work, said: ‘We are trying to create a community garden and orchard.

The damaged polytunnel at Staunton Country Park. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘What we’re trying to do here is grow plants and vegetables so that we can sell beautiful plants to the community.

‘It’s just devastating, this just steps us back. It’s sickening to see it.’

It is thought that vandals broke into the community garden by climbing over a gate or the wall that runs around the site.

The land for the garden and orchard is leased from Portsmouth City Council, and work is done in partnership with Staunton Country Park.

Ptaunton supported volunteers in the damaged polytunnel at Staunton Country Park. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Barbie Walker, senior job coach at Right to Work, said: ‘We have worked so hard to get these planted. It’s so brutal. You can see that they’ve tried to steal plants.

‘We’re trying to create a community orchard which would be of use to the whole community.

‘It’s the most upsetting for the volunteers.’

The Storey Garden at Staunton Country Park. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Debbie added: ‘We have kept the volunteers out of it, but those who have seen it have been in tears. Generally people with learning disabilities find it hard to comprehend why someone would do something like this. They just don’t understand why.

‘The volunteers want to get straight back in and get on with it.’

Money raised through fundraising is used to create the community garden and orchard.

Debbie said: ‘This is truly devastating, our teams work so hard and have such pride in what they do it’s shocking that people can be so selfish, creating needless damage and upset.

‘We are a not for profit community interest company and simply don’t hold cash reserves that enable us to repair and replace items, this will set back the project and cause untold anxiety within our vulnerable teams.’

Debbie says that Right to Work is planning to raise funds to get CCTV fitted.

Inside the damaged polytunnel at Staunton Country Park. Picture: Habibur Rahman

She added: ‘We were due to be having a grand opening, but this will probably set it back.

‘This year has been difficult enough.’

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The Storey Garden at Staunton Country Park, Havant has been vandalised. Picture: Habibur Rahman