Staff at the Forest of Marston Vale say they are “horrified” after thieves uprooted and stole a tree planted by HRH The Princess Royal just a few days ago.
Princess Anne planted the tree earlier this week (30 July) to commemorate the Forest’s accreditation to The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy and unveiled a plaque in the charity’s new Forest Shelter.
An impassioned post on their Facebook page said: “To say that we’re upset is the biggest understatement of the year.”
Staff say problems with the tree started when someone uprooted the tree yesterday (31 July) and dumped it in one of the ponds overnight.
It was replanted in the hope it would survive, but when they arrived at the centre this morning they found it had been removed again and is nowhere to be seen.
There is also evidence that someone had also tried to pull up a nearby oak tree, which was planted to celebrate their volunteers receiving the Queens Award.
The plaques for both trees have also been stolen.
Their post asked: “Why would anyone do this? Why do some people have to ruin and destroy? It just doesn’t make sense.”
James Russell, Forest Director, added: “Tuesday’s visit from HRH The Princess Royal was a huge honour and fantastic recognition of everything the Charity’s staff, volunteers and local communities have put in to creating the Forest of Marston Vale.
“Over the last 20 years, we’ve worked together to plant millions of trees, increasing tree cover from 3% to over 15%, and we’re delighted that the Forest is now part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.
“After such a great day of celebration, we were truly horrified to discover that someone has vandalised the tree planted by Her Royal Highness and stolen the plaques celebrating both the Royal visit and the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service awarded to our amazing volunteers.
“It’s a despicable act of mindless vandalism and theft, and one which is a huge insult to the many thousands of local people who’ve helped us achieve all we have over the last two decades, so we’re naturally working with Bedfordshire Police to bring those responsible to justice.
“But we won’t let such criminal behaviour distract us from continuing to work positively with local communities – we’re very proud of what we’ve all achieved together so far, and we’ll continue to engage people in planting trees to transform the landscape and make the Forest of Marston Vale a thriving place to live, work and play.”
Bedfordshire Police confirmed they are investigating the incident and ask anyone who may have information to contact them on 101 or via their online reporting tool quoting 40/44198/19.
Inspector Nick Masters added: “It’s very disappointing to hear about this act of vandalism, and I hope it doesn’t put a dampener on what was an exciting and successful day for the Forest of Marston Vale, its staff and volunteers.
“We will continue to support them in maintaining an area that’s safe and can be enjoyed by all Bedfordshire’s residents, and we will continue to engage with the staff at the centre.”
The Forest of Marston Vale on the Bedford Borough/Central Bedfordshire border is an evolving forest created by the Countryside Agency and the Forestry Commission.
It was founded in partnership with the former Bedfordshire County Council, former Mid Bedfordshire District Council, and Bedford Borough Council.