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Lackford Lakes targeted by vandals

A popular nature reserve has been forced to close its gates overnight after being targeted by vandals.

Lackford Lakes has suffered a spate of damage in recent weeks including to a bird hide and picnic tables, an attempted break-in at the visitor centre and litter strewn around the car park.

St Edmundsbury Sailing and Canoeing Association (SESCA), based at the Suffolk Wildlife Trust site, has been affected after boats were released into the lake and equipment damaged last Tuesday night and Bury St Edmunds Sea Cadets said one of their boats was vandalised.

Lackford Lakes. Picture by Mark Westley
Lackford Lakes. Picture by Mark Westley

As a result of the incidents, the trust has closed the reserve and car park from 5pm until 8am.

Hawk Honey, visitor officer at Lackford Lakes, said: “Since Boris eased the lockdown there’s been an increase in people coming to the reserve. Unfortunately in the evenings we’ve been noticing behaviour that has caused damage.

“There’s always going to be that minority in society that have nothing better to do. It’s a very sad sign of our times that people look at the beautiful place that Lackford Lakes is and enjoy that and others feel they have to vent destruction on things. It’s very sad.

“We’re Suffolk’s leading wildlife charity. We depend on our members to keep going and to spend on repairing things doesn’t help the situation.

“It’s costing money and time. Our reserve team manage all the reserves in West Suffolk. They’ve really got a lot of work. It’s man hours there and equipment/materials we have to use to repair.

“We’ve suffered a great loss (due to lockdown) because the visitor centre has been closed, the cafe and all that has been shut.

“It has hit us badly unfortunately financially.”

He said the vandals have also been causing a ‘threat to wildlife’ by trespassing into areas which are usually closed off to the public.

Commodore Norman Savigar, of SESCA, said they were alerted to the vandalism last Tuesday night after a fire that had been started at the site was spotted.

The fire did not cause any damage but three boats stored at the facility were targeted.

In a further incident on Wednesday at about 7pm, a committee member saw a group of about 15 youths at the site and music was heard.

Mr Savigar said: “I called the police and within 10 minutes I had a police presence. I came down to give them entry and we did a check. We found some further interference but no material damage. We disturbed them early enough before they got to cause any damage.

“It’s very disappointing because this is a community facility which is run pretty much as a charity and we’ve found people who are most probably from the local area causing wilful damage.

“We’re most grateful for the promptness of the police support, the advice they’ve given us and they’ve stepped up their evening patrols.”

Ollie Townsend, commanding officer of Bury St Edmunds Sea Cadets, said there were two incidents with the first during lockdown when an attempt was made to drag one of their boats onto the bank damaging the rudder, paint work and cover.

In the second incident, another of their boats was among those released into the lake.

Sub Lieutenant Townsend said: "We're disappointed as obviously the boats are there for the cadets to use.

"All the staff are volunteers so the staff then have to go down and deal with it. It's disappointing people feel the need to do it really."

A Suffolk Police spokeswoman said they had received a report of damage at Lackford Lakes between May 10 to 26. Call 101 quoting reference 37/28901/20.

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