CHRIST Church’s newly opened garden of reflection in Old Town has been the target of a spate of thefts since the end of March – with £100 of shrubs and plants ripped from the ground.

The church spent £15,000 to transform the site of the garden, for many years a rubbish and burning area for the burial ground, into a place of peace and reflection those visiting the community centre and grounds.

A couple of potted shrubs placed in the garden before being planted were first noticed missing in the middle of March.

Once they were all buried into the ground, volunteers and staff hoped whoever was responsible would be deterred from stealing more plants.

Yet two weeks ago community centre project manager Stephen Grosvenor and Ian Handy, a parishioner charged with creating the garden, noticed five large shrubs had been dug up.

“Over £100 of plants and shrubs was stolen in a matter of days,” said Mr Handy, 76, of Old Town.

“When the plants were assembled in the garden in March a couple disappeared and since then more have disappeared after being planted.

“When you put a lot of effort in and people come and do something like that it’s very frustrating. It was all done on a volunteer basis.”

As the Adver visited the garden yesterday afternoon another plant had just been snatched and a freshly dug hole left in its place.

Stephen Grosvenor, 59, added: “We are frustrated and angry. We did this for the community and there are some people who don’t see it as a worthy thing. It was a tip before and it was brought back to life.

“Casually lifting a pot in the garden is one thing but we didn’t expect them to dig them out. We are locking the gate at night at the moment, which is against the point of the garden. So now it’s open during church opening hours from 8.30am to 5pm.”

The garden was designed by Rachel Titcombe, who won the church’s garden design competition last year.

Rev Simon Stevenette appealed for the community to donate funds to replace the plants and said he was going to report it to police.

“We are cross about it,” said the 51-year-old. “Our money was given for the purpose of the garden and the church only exists on donations. The garden was just about finished. It took a lot of work. It was our resurrection story.

“There is such good will in Swindon people and any support we can get would be greatly appreciated to finish off the job and help replace the plants.”

To make a donation towards benches and new plants or volunteer to look after the garden contact Christ Church via