A RETIRED businessman today offered a reward for the arrest and conviction of a vandal who chopped down trees in a 350-year-old garden.
Peter Birkin, 80, discovered the destruction at Owthorpe's 17th-Century restoration wetland and wildlife project on Thursday.
He said he was horrified to see that 35 of the garden's poplar trees had been hacked down. Benches and fences in the garden had also been vandalised
The garden is an important historical site in Notts – it once belonged to the Civil War soldier Colonel John Hutchinson.
Mr Birkin, from Cropwell Bishop, has worked to restore and cultivate the historic tourist attraction for the past 20 years.
He said: "I was very upset when I discovered the vandalism. It is a wicked thing to have done.
"No one here understands why someone would commit such an act of wanton vandalism.
"We have put years of time and effort into the garden and now the orchard has been ruined overnight.
"We will have to cut all the stumps down and burn them. It is a horrible sight."
Most of the trees in the orchard which were vandalised have sponsors, including former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and former MP for Sherwood Paddy Tipping.
Mr Birkin added: "The orchard and gardens have attracted a lot of attention over the years as they lie on a medieval ridge.
"We received lottery funding in 2002 to begin our restoration work and, nearly ten years on, we were finally happy with the way the site looked. The vandalism is very upsetting for everyone who has put time and effort into the garden."
The project even received a letter of appreciation from Prince Philip which Mr Birkin said was a welcome reward.
Mr Birkin said the most upsetting part of the vandalism for him was the destruction of a monkey puzzle tree which his grandson had given him.
He added: "I have been so thrilled with the support and dedication we have had from people doing community service in the garden.
''Something like this happening out the blue has tinged that success with sadness," he added.
Anyone with any information about the crime should contact Nottinghamshire Police on 0300 3009999.