THOUSANDS of pounds worth of gardening equipment was stolen from allotments in Tonge Moor.

Thieves struck at the 40-plot site off Nesbit Street, near Tonge Moor Road.

They broke into a secure 30ft steel shipping container, using wheelbarrows which were found abandoned nearby to transfer between £3,000 and £4,000 worth of machinery to a waiting vehicle.

Stolen was a Ryobi RBC-52SB two stroke strimmer and brush cutter, hand-held Mantis tiller, three 2.4 KVA generators, a large wheeled cultivator, petrol chainsaw, electric chainsaw, industrial tree shredder, Flymo electric lawnmower, electric arc welder and two-burner gas barbecue.

Members of the Tonge Moor Road Allotment Society, which has about 25 members, described the break-in — overnight between Friday and Saturday —as “awful”.

Chairman Derek Wood said: “Everything that we use is gone. We have gone from being very well-equipped, to not having anything at all. We are not happy, but there is not a lot we can do about it.

“We have no idea how they broke into our lock-up – we thought we had made it as secure as we could.

“They certainly knew what they were looking for, because anything of any value which was working has gone.”

The thieves broke through a gate onto a private road behind Tonge Moor Cricket Club and St Andrew’s Methodist Church which leads to the allotments.

They also pulled bars from the windows of a small portacabin which is used as the society’s meeting room, stealing £3 in petty cash, and took another £33 from a third container.

Members of the allotment group said they have dealt with low-level vandalism at the site before, but never a targeted burglary.

The society had built up its equipment collection over a number of years, purchasing machinery when they received small grants from bodies including Bolton Council.

Previously the group used its strimmer to keep the private road tidy and well-maintained, but now say this will be impossible.

Mr Wood added: “We are not sure if we will even replace the equipment, in case the burglars come back.

“We are quite a thriving little community down here, and we do what we can.

“In the past we bought equipment here and there when we could and we had the money. But we do not have a lot of funds – we are totally reliant on grants and on what we put into it.”

Police now plan to examine CCTV footage provided by Tonge Moor Cricket Club, in the hope this can help them identify the burglars.

Anyone who has information on the theft or the resale of any of the items should call police on 101.

Benefactors who can help replace the stolen items should contact Tui Benjamin at The Bolton News on 01204 537254.