VANDALS have burned a bundle of letters children have written to woodland fairies in a nature reserve.
Volunteer community ranger Ashley Warner discovered the vandalism at the National Trust Curbridge Nature Reserve on Tuesday evening.
Three wooden decorated boxes, including a box used as a ‘wishing tree post box’ for letters to an anonymous ‘fairy queen’ and a box for her replies, were ripped from the tree and left broken apart.
Ashley, who has patrolled the woods for five years, said: ‘I walk through the woods with my dog most nights, and I came across the fairy queen’s replies scattered across the floor.
‘I was shocked to see the damage – nothing like this has happened before.
‘I’ve repaired the boxes best I can, but the reply box will need to be replaced.’
Ashley found an ‘A4 sized’ patch of burned ground covered in ash next to the scattered letters.
The tradition of decorating the tree goes back to the late 1980s, when a door knob was attached to a part of the tree.
The fairy boxes appeared 20 years ago, with the wishing tree post office becoming a feature of the tree in the last 10 years.
Dad-of-two Ashley said: ‘Children write letters to the fairies in one box and the queen of the fairies leaves her replies in the other box.
‘The queen will take the letters every other week, and write personalised replies.
‘The number of letters varies – in September last year we had 20 to 30 letters.
‘Children ask the fairies questions like ‘do you live here all the time.’
‘Others are like a letter to Santa, asking for toys or nice things.’
The National Trust is planting 6,000 new trees to extend the existing woodland at Curbridge Nature Reserve, which falls across the boundary between Fareham Borough Council and Winchester City Council.
Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council and councillor for the area next to the woods, said it ‘absolutely beggars belief’ that ‘yobs’ would trash a site much loved by children.
He said: ‘Many families from the Burridge area take their children to the woods.
‘It’s a popular and special place.’