VANDALS ruined a community art project in Abbey Meads created during lockdown by more than 100 volunteers – then used pieces of it to smash up play equipment.

Hundreds of colourful stones carefully painted by neighbours, both young and old, formed a rock snake which decorated the outskirts of the Heaton Close play area.

Witnesses who saw youths throwing some of the stones into the recreation space on June 29, filmed the people causing the damage and reported it to Haydon Wick Parish Council, who then collected the rocks for safekeeping.

Kirsty Dalrymple came up with the idea for the creative project in May because her children Orson and Artie enjoyed painting rocks and hiding them for others to find. She wanted to do something similar on a grander scale.

She did not think the rock snake would last a week, let alone eight, but was shocked by its sudden destruction after seeing so many people collaborate on the project.

Kirsty said: “I was gutted and disappointed that it had happened. Everyone is angry about this, the whole parish is upset, it’s a real shame and has put a downer on everything.

“Worse was the fact that my children couldn’t understand why some people would destroy something that was so fun and that so many people liked, they were very sad when they found out.

“As the creator of this rock snake, I just wanted to spread a bit of joy and never thought it would become as big as it did or bring so many people from the community together, it was everybody’s project.

“Every time I went to have a look, there was always someone there admiring it, talking to me about it or adding to it.

She said: “It brought a smile to the faces of many people of all ages on their daily commute or daily exercise, it became part of their routine.

“It was historic, a nice way to remember how people spent this strange time, and we had hoped to have it cemented in place - or find somewhere else suitable if the borough council said that would not be allowed.

“I’m very pleased that the council managed to salvage most of the rocks and hopefully soon they will be cemented in a permanent location as a reminder of everyone’s community spirit during the Covid-19 lockdown,” she added.

Haydon Wick parish councillor Richard Hailstone said the area had been a hotspot for vandalism over the last year and there were plans to install CCTV which were delayed by the lockdown.

He said: “One of our operatives was doing the rounds and emptying the bins when he noticed the damage to a toy house for toddlers.

“People living nearby had alerted us and taken photos so hopefully whoever did this is caught.

“Children loved decorating the rocks - the more people saw it, the more they added to it, so I feel sad for them because they had seen it grow and evolve.

“The snake stretched the whole length of the path by the playground in a straight line then eventually had to be curved and zig-zagged so that all the stones would fit.”

The vandalism has been reported to police along with the witness footage.

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “We are investigating an incident of criminal damage where stones were thrown at the play area in Heaton Close, Swindon. It happened on Monday evening, June 29, and we are carrying out enquiries.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Wiltshire Police on 101. Alternatively they can call Crimestoppers and leave information anonymously on 0800 555111.