A SHOCKED school community is reeling after 70 mature trees were cut down in their grounds over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Teachers returned to Lepton C of E Junior, Infant and Nursery School in Station Road after their break to discover the felled trees.
All the endangered black poplar trees, planted seven years ago as part of an environmental initiative, have been sawn off at the base.
But initial inquiries by the school in the community have provided no clues as to what happened.
No-one has seen or heard anything.
Headteacher Trevor Fox said: "It is devastating.
"I have no idea how this will affect the children when they return after their holiday.
"Someone has thought long and hard about doing this - the trees which were about eight to 10ft tall have all been deliberately sawn down. It must have taken some time to do."
Children at the school paid £1 each to plant one of the black poplar saplings as part of the environmental plan for the school.
About 100 of the saplings were planted. The species was chosen specifically to help improve drainage on the school's football field.
The project also included a wildlife area and nature reserve.
Mr Fox has notified the police about the incident.
* The black poplar is the rarest native timber tree in Britain.
* Its botanical name is Populus nigra var.betulifolia.
* Its wood was originally used for barns and agricultural products.
* A survey by botanist Edgar Milne-Redhead for the Botanical Society of the British Isles in 1973 found only about 1,000 trees.
* Trees often grow close to water in lowland areas and often alone, rather than in thickets.
* Mature trees can be up to 30 metres high and 20 metres wide.
* Male trees provide deep red catkins before leaves about the end of March. Female trees produce lime green catkins.