VANDALS have wreaked havoc at a popular picnic spot.
And it is a double blow to volunteers from a local community group who had worked hard to create the two Milnsbridge projects.
Members of Milnsbridge Enhancement Group (MEG) are now facing the prospect of major repairs to a dry-stone riverside seat in the village after it was knocked down and the rocks scattered into the River Colne.
And they have to decide how to replace two picnic benches in a woodland clearing next to Britannia Road.
The supposed vandal-proof benches have been reduced to a pile of ashes by arsonists.
Using grant money from landfill tax the group transformed the wooded spot between Britannia Road and the River Colne from an overgrown wasteland to a pleasant green space used by families, dog walkers and anglers alike.
A footpath and steps were built to link the river bank and road, and MEG volunteers ‘adopted’ the area, carrying out regular clean-ups to remove litter and fly-tipped waste.
It was after one of those clean-ups that group members walking past the site spotted the aftermath of the vandals’ attack.
Dr Polly McGrail, who chairs the of Milnsbridge Enhancement Group, expressed her disappointment at the vandalism.
She said: "I don’t understand why anyone would want to destroy our picnic benches.
"They are obviously there for the benefit of local people.
"We set them in an attractive position, overlooking the weir, so that families could picnic peacefully whilst listening to the sound of water.
"Why would anyone want to spoil this pleasure?
"I’m also astonished that no-one noticed the vandalism. If they were set on fire there must have been a significant blaze."
Dr McGrail added, "Wanton damage like this deserves punishment.
"The perpetrators should give something back to the community by paying for and erecting more benches.
"Then they would take pride in and value local resources instead of treating them with contempt."
The riverside seat was provided by MEG in 2003 and has been subject to minor vandalism on several previous occasions.
Now the whole dry-stone walling back of the seat has been destroyed, apparently by people using the steep bank behind it as a slide down from Somerfield car park.
The group plan to repair the seat once more in May.
However the volunteers have no money available to replace the burnt picnic benches.