TEENAGE vandals who rampaged through the Hope Nature Centre at Southwick Country Park have wreaked more than £1,000 of damage.

Three young yobs were spotted near the 15-acre complex on Sunday evening.

Early on Monday, police were called out after motorists reported three Dexter cows from the centre wandering on the busy A361 Frome Road – they had escaped through damaged fencing.

Dave Gillingham, commercial manager of Fairfield Farm College, which runs the centre, condemned the vandalism.

He said: “As well as damage caused around the park, they also put the lives of three Dexter cows at risk by damaging our perimeter fence and letting them out on to the Country Park.

“We are pleased that the animals were returned to the park without injury. They must have driven the cows several hundred metres towards the park exit. They would not have walked all that way without encouragement.

“They have broken our picnic benches, ripped off route maps from our boards, sprayed graffiti, and thrown Covid-19 signs and bins into the bushes.

“There is litter everywhere, as well as the remains of a fire and beer cans which they threw away as they went around their rampage.”

The centre and its cafe are run as a charity and attracts thousands of visitors. It caters for students from the college with learning difficulties who gain the workplace skills they need to find employment.

The centre employs 50 staff and is home to more than 120 animals, including cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, alpacas, guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, geese and budgerigars.

Mr Gillingham added: “We pride ourselves on being a community facility but as a charity our budget for repairs is small.

“Our finances are currently under huge pressure due to the lengthy closure and subsequent restrictions on re-opening due to COVID-19.

“Needless and unnecessary costs takes funding away from our core task. We now find ourselves in a sad position where we have got to fund the repairs of our animal park.

“We have a number of wildlife cameras and also CCTV within the animal park, and we are co-operating with the police to try and ascertain who was responsible for this unnecessary act of vandalism.”

Police said: “Our investigations are also continuing into these incidents as well as additional police patrols in this area.”

If you know who may be responsible for the damage, please call Trowbridge Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.