An Okehampton outdoor school is appealing to vandals who have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to their site to stop immediately and set their actions right.

The Forest School in Moyses Lane was vandalised on the evening of Thursday, April 6 — this being the fourth time the site has been targeted in recent months and second time in the space of two weeks, with another, less severe, incident occurring the week before on Monday, March 27. 

The most recent incident to date has been the most extreme, with property damaged and stolen, trees being cut into and felled entirely and special buildings made for the site being completely destroyed. 

In addition to the cost of the damage, the callous actions have caused the site to have shut temporarily, causing a loss of earnings and the requirement of additional staffing costs in order to clean up the extensive damage and mess left behind.

Staff discovered the vandalism last Friday morning and immediately reported it to local police.

Debbie Miller, deputy leader for the forest school, said: ‘The firepit and its surrounds have been burned out and will need to be rebuilt. 

‘There has been damage to buildings and our play treehouse has been completely destroyed. Vandals broke into the first aid shed, they hacked off the lock and punched a hole in the door, pulled out the contents of first aid boxes and smashed them up along with other equipment, including a fire extinguisher which will cost £250 alone to replace. 

’They smashed through the roof of a shed and kicked the door in, hacked at trees and sawed off branches of other small sapling trees. Holes have been made in two different tarpaulins we have and spray cans of WD40 from the shed, along with sawdust, hay and brooms were all burned.’

When the damage was discovered by staff members last Friday morning, they were then forced to cancel classes which were scheduled for that day. The school is now reopen, however with certain areas no longer in use due to the damage caused.

The five perpatrators were caught by a camera which was set up in the woods to record wildlife, and this footage has  been passed onto the police. As a result of the incident, the school will now be putting CCTV in place which will livestream the areas covered and send alerts when people are observed in the area out of hours. 

Debbie said: ‘So much work goes into developing this site. Even the chopping down of trees that have been here several years — you can’t just replace these. Obviously, we want this to stop. I understand kids having fun is one thing, however wanton destruction and mindless vandalism is the issue here.

‘We take huge pride in the work we do and the services we provide, and have poured our hearts into forest school for ten years. Our woodland should be a place of safety and natural beauty, there to facilitate and inspire a sense of belonging, responsibility and connectedness. To see this is a complete kick in the nuts and real concern for our local community that we feel very much a part of. 

‘I would like those who have done this to come and spend time with us and set their actions right. We work with children and want to reach out to those who have done this to show them how their actions have had serious repercussions for so many. We believe this would be the best outcome as I don’t want people to get a criminal record.

‘The police have done an amazing job so far, I’m confident we can work with them for a favourable outcome but I understand things are never going to be quick.’

If you have any information regarding this incident or know who is responsible, contact police by dialling 101, quoting crime reference number 50230079151.