Arsonists torch Aylsham allotment sheds

A heartbroken pensioner says he has lost the will and means to carry on gardening his allotment after seeing countless hours work and hundreds of pounds worth of equipment reduced to ash by arsonists.

Vandals torched and completely destroyed four sheds on allotments off Cromer Road, Aylsham, by dousing them in petrol stored inside for garden machinery.

Dismayed allotment holders discovered the damage at the weekend, when the ashes were still warm. They believe the arsonists struck overnight on Thursday, October 13.

Crops, fruit trees and grape vines were roasted, expensive equipment charred beyond repair, greenhouse glass cracked, water butts reduced to distorted molten lumps and many tools are missing, believed stolen.

Two of the sheds belonged to Arnold Teague, 73, who has rented his allotment from Aylsham Town Council for the past seven years, walking to it from his sheltered flat in the town's Maingay House, about three quarters of a mile away, several times a week.

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Mr Teague, a retired engineer, had spent months designing an elaborate, decorative water-catchment system involving a trellis, grape vine, bird house and a total of four collection barrels, because there is no water supply at the allotment site.

He had also built up a collection of hand tools over many years of gardening.

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'I've lost it all,' he said. 'My first reaction was shock and horror. There's nothing left to show for all my work. It was my main interest.'

Allotment holders say that because the site is isolated, they are unable to get insurance.

A young married couple, who didn't want to be identified, said they had invested two years of hard work and over �1,000 in their allotment which they viewed as a lifetime project. Their losses include �90 worth of water barrels, a rotavator, strimmer and lawnmower.

The husband said: 'We're devastated. It's hard to understand. Thieving is one thing but burning everything to the ground is another.'

Aylsham Town Council chairman Eileen Springall and town clerk Mo Anderson-Dungar visited the site on Tuesday.

Mrs Anderson-Dungar said they were discussing a number of options with the allotment holders to try and help them.

One was the possibility of forming an allotments association. This would give the holders the status of a voluntary organisation which would then be eligible for grant aid from the town council.

Those holders at the meeting had also said that they would be willing to pay a higher rental for their plots in return for a sturdy gate to deter trespassers.

And the council is also talking to the National Trust, which owns the land, to see whether thorny boundary hedges could be planted and access blocked to the allotments from the Weavers Way footpath which runs parallel.

Meanwhile Mrs Anderson-Dungar appealed for anyone with spare hand tools to drop them in to the council's offices on Market Place so that they could be shared among the affected tenants to help them make a fresh start.

Anyone with information about the attacks should contact Norfolk police on 0845 456 4567 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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