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‘Soul destroying’ - Farmer speaks out after losing £40,000 of straw in arson attack

PUBLISHED: 09:43 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:53 20 December 2018

Alex Beard, who lost £40,000 worth of straw in an arson attack. Picture: Alex Beard

Alex Beard, who lost £40,000 worth of straw in an arson attack. Picture: Alex Beard

Archant

A farmer who lost £40,000 worth of straw in an arson attack has said it was “soul destroying” to watch his hard work go up in flames.

Dramatic footage of the fire in Watton. Picture: James BettsDramatic footage of the fire in Watton. Picture: James Betts

Alex Beard, 34, runs the farm on Watton Airfield which lost 600 tonnes of straw in the attack.

He said the farm was “lucky” not to lose more in the blaze which happened on Saturday, December 8.

Speaking about the attack itself, he said: “My first reaction when I heard was to jump in the motor and get up there and try and do what I could.

“But by the time I had got there it was on the small stacks and I went to get some equipment to move the bigger stacks but by they time I got back it was around all of it and the fireman wouldn’t let me near it.

The large straw stack fire at Watton Airfield. Picture: Courtesy of Jade FrostThe large straw stack fire at Watton Airfield. Picture: Courtesy of Jade Frost

“We were quite lucky that night that the nearby pig tents were empty as we would have had to get them out quickly.”

For Mr Beard, powerlessly watching the hours of work he and his colleagues put in to building up the stacks was incredibly hard.

He said: “It was soul destroying really. No-one knows better than me and the chaps that work for me the hours we spent getting the straw there, sometimes working until midnight.

“I just had to stand there while not being able to do anything.”

Norfolk Police are treating the fire as an arson and said they have identified some of the suspects who will be dealt with in “due course” after ongoing enquiries are finished.

Mr Beard estimated the cost of the lost straw to be around £40,000, a figure he hopes will be covered by his insurance.

However, it is not just the financial cost of the straw that has hit hard.

Mr Beard said: “What these people don’t understand is the cost involved in getting the straw there in the first place and the hours in the summmer spent working on it and to lose it just from that.

“We use it for bedding down livestock all year round, and now we have to sort it again and luckily we are insured but obviously it is still not good.

“Whoever did it don’t think about the consequences of them messing around. Something small can suddenly turn into a big disaster.”

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