Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Vandals leave havoc on Mill Meadows

VANDALS brought down a tree branch, uprooted a memorial bench and left litter in Mill Meadows.

VANDALS brought down a tree branch, uprooted a memorial bench and left litter in Mill Meadows.

The willow branch hit a boat belonging to a holiday couple at 7am on Tuesday. It also blocked the towpath which is regularly used by dog walkers, runners and visitors to the town.

Henley Town Council’s parks team were called out at about 8am after the damage was reported by a passer-by.

They arrived to find that a memorial bench, which was screwed into a concrete base overlooking the river, had been pulled up and moved.

Empty cans of beer and a bottle of Pimm’s and Prosecco were scattered on the grass along with other rubbish. Members of the parks team coned off an area around the tree and called out a tree surgeon to make it safe.

The couple on the boat, who asked not to be named, live in Maidenhead, and had moored up the Walrus at about midnight. They heard teenagers shouting and swearing during the night and they were woken up by the sound of the branch falling. The woman said: “There were a lot of teenagers in the park when we arrived at midnight. I shone my torch on them but I couldn’t see how many there were because it was dark.

“We heard the tree creaking all night but I thought the sound was coming from the kids. I know one jumped into the Thames because I heard a scream, I bet it was cold. Then there was this almighty crash at 7am. It was a bit of a shock.”

Her partner said they were lucky that the boat was undamaged. “Our first reaction was that we had been hit by another boat,” he said. “We decided to move the boat as soon as possible and there was a branch just about hanging off.”

Town councillor Sam Evans had been out walking her dog Humphrey when she noticed the damage.

She said: “The residents and visitors of Henley are incredibly lucky to have Mill and Marsh Meadows to enjoy. It is so disappointing that some individuals believe that it is okay to unhinge and damage a bench, to leave bottles and other rubbish lying around and pull large tree branches down.

“It is potentially very dangerous and they are nothing better than common thieves because they are stealing our council tax money to pay for the repairs and ensure that the tree is safe for all.”

Gareth Bartle, the parks services manager, said vandalism was the most likely cause of the branch being broken. “The cracked willow was looked at as part of a survey of the trees on Mill Meadows last year and there were no problems with it,” he said.

“The rubbish is quite bad. There has clearly been a party with the beer cans and wine bottles. It would normally take the parks staff three and a half hours to clean Mill and Marsh meadows.”

The vandalism was condemned by Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak. He said: “It is really shocking that a beautiful part of Henley is messed about like this.”

The incident has been reported to the police.

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