PENSIONERS who brought £40,000 worth of new play equipment to a Northumberland village are being forced to clean up after louts who left it strewn with litter, beer cans and graffiti at the weekend.
The team of volunteers from Shilbottle’s Playbuilder Committee – who are nearly all over 60 – discovered the damage to the Welfare Park on Sunday morning, following what is believed to have been a overnight party by teenagers.
It has cast a shadow over their efforts to revive the former mining community’s fortunes, which has so far included the building of a new £1million village hall and a substantial investment in games facilities for youngsters. New swings and a large wooden climbing frame were only recently unveiled as part of a major package of improvements, with more ground-works to follow this year.
But wood chippings laid as a safety surface were left scattered across the park and neighbouring skateboard area, while blocks of stone intended for new seating were smashed.
Extensive graffiti was also scratched into the surface of the skate-park with a rock, most of it in barely legible English, including a large slogan which reads ‘airoplanes’ [sic]. Others included crudely drawn pictures of male genitalia.
A picnic bench was also targeted with red marker pen and the entire area was left awash with rubbish, ranging from bottles, sweet wrappers and drinks cartons to crushed beer cans.
The damage comes exactly a year since the last outbreak of vandalism at the park, leading to a police crackdown and multiple arrests of local youths.
Seventy-year-old Margaret Farrar, who is one of the volunteers, was out clearing up the mess on Monday.
She said: “When I came away from here on Sunday morning, I could have cried with despair. All we want to do is create a park which the village can be proud of. We have spent nearly £40,000 on new equipment for children to enjoy because we want to live in a decent community. I don’t have words for what has happened.”
Parish councillor Elisabeth Haddow, who has been a driving force for new facilities in the village, said: “We have worked extremely hard for this money. We’ve given these facilities to the young people of the village on a plate and they don’t reciprocate. They have to learn that they have to take some responsibility. If kids are roaming in the early hours of the morning, the parents should be held accountable.
Sergeant Neville Wharrier said that police were looking into the matter and trying to identify who was involved.
He also hit out at those responsible.
“It is the young people from the village destroying their own village, which I can’t get my head around,” he said. “A lot of work has been done by local people to provide these facilities and those responsible are sticking two fingers up.”
Anyone with any information should contact the neighbourhood policing team on 03456 043043 ext 61381 or email firstname.lastname@example.org