apple trees planted as part of the Forest for Calstock have been sabotaged in what the local parish council has described as ‘a wanton act of vandalism’.

Calstock Parish Council said they were ‘saddened’ at the callous attack on the young apple trees in St Ann’s Chapel sometime over the past month.

All 12 of the young trees had their trunks cut, and the stems were then placed back inside the tree guards to hide the vandalism.

Those looking after the trees had thought initially that the trees’ recent failure to thrive was down to a lack of water. However, on closer inspection it turned out that they had all been deliberately damaged.

The apple trees are part of a parish-wide Forest for Calstock initiative which saw volunteers in St Ann’s Chapel, Calstock and Albaston come together to plant 1,300 trees on land owned by the parish council to help offset carbon emissions and do something positive for the environment.

The majority of the funding was raised through the generosity of the public who donated to a crowdfunding project set up through the Forest for Cornwall project, which is aiming to cover 8,000 hectares of land – the equivalent of 15,000 football pictches – across the county with trees.

In Calstock, this was added to money secured through grants. Volunteers spent hours of time in a cold and drizzly week last December planting the trees.

One of the coordinators of the project, Neil Pope, explained that he was alerted to the fact that the trees, on the edge of the football pitch in St Ann’s Chapel, appeared to be failing to thrive. ‘I started watering them but then nothing happened and so I investigated a bit further,’ he said.

Taking off the tree guards, he was shocked to discover that the trees had in fact been sabotaged.‘The main stem on all 12 trees has been cut and then the cut piece replaced into the tube giving the impression that the tree was still intact and the leaves hiding the cuts. Some of the stems are 12mm thick and must have been cut with secateurs or similar as the cuts are clean, not broken off.’

He added: ‘We are going to wait now and see if they recover. I think long-term the trees will still grow, but they won’t be as tall. The primary stem has been cut with a pair of secateurs or something extremely sharp.

‘It hasn’t just been snapped off by someone. And the annoying thing is they put the trunks back into the guards to make it look like they hadn’t done it. It is very frustrating for all of the volunteers who planted the trees.

Stuart Wood from the Forest for Cornwall gave up his time to help with the project.

He said he was ‘absolutely devastated to hear of this vandalism to the apple trees, after so much of everyone’s time and effort to create a legacy for future generations’.

The matter has been reported to the police who will follow up any leads.